"Good Morning Earlington:
Service Stations, Barber Shops, and Beauty Salons"
I was "conversing" via e-mail with an old friend and schoolmate who was comparing our world today with that of his when he was a teenager. He strongly believes we have paid too high a price for the "progress" we have made over the years. He mentioned the full service gas stations of Babe Buchanan and Jimmy Robertson and the local boys they hired as attendants, such as Billy Ray Griffin, Carmen Almon, Ray Brown, and Bubby Adams. My friend remembered, "You didn’t even have to get out of your car to pay your 25cents/gal. You got your windshield washed, your oil checked and your tires aired." And I remember you always got a "Thank you, and come again." I have heard that we often tell our age by whether we say "service station" or "gas station." The "service" part has certainly gone by the wayside. Nevertheless, my friend and I enjoyed waxing nostalgic—ironically while playing Instant Messenger-- agreeing the ‘50’s were happier, simpler times. Perhaps we believe this because these were the idyllic years of our youth.
Later I spoke to others who had some of the same thoughts of the ‘20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. For example, I spoke Spillman Cobb who remembered "Skipper" Rudd. Spillman said in the late ‘20s on a Saturday evening he and his sister would accompany his dad to Rudd’s Barber Shop in the old Victory Building. At that time his dad paid 35cents for his haircut and 15 cents each for the kids. A "shave and a haircut" was 75 cents, and the shave was given with a straight-razor followed by a head message with lilac tonic. The tonic was multi- purposed—it was invigorating, smelled good, and killed lice. As many men did not have straight-razors or were afraid to use them, they grew beards which were the "style" of the era. In this case, the style grew from necessity as most did not have the money for a shave twice a week at a barber shop.
During this era females also had their coifs bobbed by the local barber rather than visiting a beautician—one reason being beauticians were few and far between. In the ‘20’s Rudd’s Barber Shop was located on East Main in the Victory Building where later the post office occupied. To the left of the Victory "stairway" was the St. Bernard/West Kentucky Meat Market (where Spillman Cobb along with Dallas Bowles’ father worked as meat cutters). Above the Market was the EMBA Offices and the St. Bernard doctor’s offices where Mary Grace Cloern worked until 1929 for $1 a day. During these early years, Mr. Rudd had what was called a "one chair" shop complete with spittoon and oiled floors. Later after Herb Thompson joined him, the shop became "two chair." Other early barbers were Lem Dunning’s on N. Railroad and Adali Brinkley’s (Rosa Lee’s dad) on S. Railroad.
Across the street from Rudd’s was the old EMBA Hall which later was converted into the Earl Theater and now Trover Clinic. However, between the Theater and the Clinic times a beauty shop(Louise Cothran’s) and later a barber shop (Rev. John Paul Jones’s) were housed in the left side of the building. In the early 50’s when my mom operated her beauty shop here, I remember that her hair cuts were 75 cents, her shampoos & sets were $1 and her perms $5 and $7.50. When her sets increased to $1.25, she said some ladies told her they thought that was "outrageous." This was toward the end of the era of "heat waves" when electric rollers were attached to machines hanging from the ceiling above the ladies’ heads. Frankye Carroll told me that often hair would break at the roots after 4-8 minutes of electrical current, especially if clients gave false information concerning the condition of their hair. I often wondered how women could have escaped if a shop had caught fire with their hair attached to the machines—machines which too often caused burn scars on scalps.
Margie Durham remembers paying $1 for a heat wave perm at Mrs. Zula Heltsey’s shop over Harding’s Cleaners on S. Railroad in the late ‘40s. Buck Lamb says his mother May operated a shop over Whitford’s "Dime Store" on N. Railroad in the late ‘40s. Mrs. Heltsey is the first beautician I have been able to pin point in Earlington along with Mrs.Floy Bryum (Mrs. Carlos on Farren Ave.). Between 1935 and ’45 I found no reference to any beauticians. However, in the following 20 years Earlington housed these beauticians -- Mrs. Idella Qualls (who first worked for Mrs. Heltsey then at 109 Westside in her mom’s Mrs. Westerfield home), Margie Durham’s (‘56) and JoAnn Rainwater’s (Wilson Street), May Lamb’s, Marie Faulk’s in’62 (Westside Avenue), Frankye Carroll’s, Christine Cloern’s (Robinson Street), Katheryn Waller’s, and Mrs. Clara Smith’s.
Since the ‘50s many other shops and have come and gone as, sadly, Earlington is not the booming community of thriving businesses it once was. Many of us cling to the dream that it will be again, but it seems to be destined to become a residential community. The 25 and 75 cents haircuts seem a thing of the past and, hopefully, "heat waves" and spittoons will never again catch on. I think I can safely prophesy that styles acquired by placing a bowl on one’s head and cutting off any hair that straggled from beneath the bowl is also in the past. But, the alternative is that we add a great deal more to the 25 cents and be happy that our stylists are well trained in modern styles.
Ann Gipson 12-14-2001