Fort Ostell Museum staff member Sharon Chapman relaxes with an old favourite MacLean’s magazine while modelling an original 1950’s and 1960’s Zenith hairdryer in the comfort of the amazing display room. Photo courtesy of Fort Ostell Museum

Reflections: Remembering those early Barber and Beauty Shops of Ponoka

Back to a time when a shave and a hair cut could have cost you two-bits

By Mike Rainone for the News

There was a rapid invasion of new pioneer families into this district at the turn of the 19th century and after attending to the arduous tasks of establishing their new homes, farms, schools, churches, stores, and choosing their livelihoods these hardy and resilient new citizens would also manage to take a little time to enjoy some socializing as well as attending to some of their more personal needs, including grooming, and a little early fashion flair.

There is no doubt that in those humble beginnings of our busy Town of Ponoka and surrounding districts there were no fancy Barber Shops or Beauty Salons, so folks and families would pitch in and assist each other with their regular ‘cut, clip, and curl’ sessions at each other’s homes.

It must have been a delightful get-together when the ladies young and old would gather together to do each other’s hair, becoming instant wizards of scissors, comb, and brush as well as masters of arranging a vast assortment of pins, clips, bretts, ribbons, curlers, braids, pony-tails, hot rollers, poofs, baubles, and all the rest.

After sitting back to enjoy tea and home-made cookies while admiring their handiwork, they would then likely have to withstand the shuffles and squeals of the children while attempting to trim their healthy locks, and then maybe it would be dear old dad’s turn to get clipped.

Like many children who were born and raised in that colorful era, I vividly remember being sat down in a chair in the kitchen and told to sit still when my father placed a pot on the top of my head while my mother trimmed around the edges, and if that didn’t work they just shaved it all off, because it always grew back.

These age-old family clean-up traditions also included being allowed to watch dad shave and getting a big blob of lotion on your nose, as well as the wet and wonderful ‘Saturday night bath’, all of which lasted for decades, and will never be forgotten through the generations.

Our colorful local history of ‘clip joints’ and beauty shops

With the steady growth and progress of the then Village of Ponoka and surrounding districts many new businesses, workers, and professionals moved into the bustling area, these including doctors, dentists, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and countless others.

According to the Ponoka Herald, a Mr. Jennings opened our communities first Barber’s Salon on August 24, 1900 and immediately declared himself as a master of the quick smooth hot towel, shave, and haircut, all for a dime.

Along the way many other usually jovial barbers would move into town and put out their colorful barber’s pole, these including John Hurtz, Charlie and Al Farnum, Jack Dower, Roy Kilpatrick, Hershel Kyler, Al Nicholas, Art Perkins, Jack Richmond, Bob Holmes, George Harris, Ore Ireland, Mr. Weisser, Jim Miller, and countless others.

Most of them had their own unique skills of plying their trade, as well as possessing a basket full of jokes and all the local gossip to keep their customers informed and happy.

Some of these popular barbers also had other businesses running out of their popular shops, including Mike Prediger from his Chipman Avenue Newsstand, Jack Dower in the Leland Hotel, Monte Klein next to the Capital Theatre, Ern McLaren at the first His and Hers Barber Shop in the Pool Hall, and on and on over the years.

Of course, we must never forget the ladies of our fine town and district, and when we go all the way back to the 1920’s — it was fondly known as the ‘Flapper Era’ — where the braver women boldly began to shorten their dresses and bobbed their hair.

This of course required the special skills of Beauty Parlors, and in 1926 Miss Ella Edin would open up her first shop on Railway Street. Eventually marcelling with a hot iron at a time when permanents were unheard of was introduced, but quickly caught on as a major parlour operation that came at a whooping price of $15.

It wasn’t long before the hairdressing business and all sorts of in-shop perks, styles, and fashion flings became very popular for ladies of all ages in and around the community.

Over those early years a number of Beauty Salons opened all over town, and some of the congenial new owners and staff included: Mr. and Mrs. Don Sweet, Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Nicholas, Mrs. Art Perkins, Amy Erickson, Mrs. Lemon, Mrs. Art Barnes, Alice Caughlin, Miss May York at the Kut and Kurl, Mrs. Landry at the Orchid Beauty Shop, Mrs. Donna Shaw, the first His and Hers Beauty Parlor and Barber Shop in the new Ponoka Plaza, and on and on in a delightful flurry of hair spray, cuts, amazing colors, and all sorts of fancy modern accessories.

Browsing through my archives I found a list of some of the most popular hair styles and cuts for men and women over the past century, many of which likely don’t exist anymore, while others are still in fashion, and most will be fondly remembered by us seniors.

They included: the afro, beehive, bangs, beach waves, cornrows, bowl cut, blow out, crown braid, double buns, feather cut, burr, conk, ducks butt, facelift, bob cut, bouffant crew and brush cut, spiked, slicked back, big and bleached, only to mention a few! Certainly methods and prices have changed in the hectic business of barbers and beauticians over the years, but we must always appreciate their unique skills, patience, and day to day amazing ability to perform on our aging and delicate locks once a month, while standing on their feet for long hours while also being able to carry on a friendly conversation on just about any subject.

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