The summer of ’76

by Julie Frayn on January 6, 2013 in  Bric-a-brac

1976 was the year I got my first paying job. I was all of thirteen, skittish and shy. Not ready to face the world at all. My mother arranged for me to work in the salon where she had her hair done. I’ll never forget the owner, Mrs. Wilma Flitton. Like Fred’s wife, only real and not a redhead. She was oh-so-kind to everyone who entered her establishment in the Mayfair Shopping Centre. She called the salon “Mayfair Lady.” Get it? I didn’t. Not back then.

I spent two months sweeping up trimmed hair, refilling the hairdressers’ shelves with glass vials of Fermodyl, washing combs and brushes and rollers and washing and drying load after load of dye-stained towels.

After a month I graduated to more responsibility. The kind that fuels a teen’s nightmares.

I washed old ladies’ hair.

One day a really old woman came in for her weekly wash, rinse and set. I went about washing her hair only to discover after the first shampoo that something was seriously wrong. I recall looking aghast at Yoki, my Mom’s hairdresser. Huge scales dislodged from the woman’s scalp and were stuck in her hair.

“You’re too gentle,” Yoki told me as she pushed me aside and took over. She scrubbed that old lady’s head with a fever. Out came all the scaly flakes. When it was over, the lady patted Yoki’s arm and thanked her, then cut me to the core with a steely glare.

That was the day I learned how to properly wash my hair. And that I wasn’t cut out to wash anyone else’s.

My hands were never the same after that summer. I pulled sheets of dead skin from my fingers, like the worst sunburn – but without the sun. But it was all worth it because of the boy next door.

One door down from the salon was a fast food joint with the best home-cut greasy fries on the planet, and a butterscotch shake that blew Dairy Queen out of the water. I got the same thing every day, spent a full hour’s wages just so I could talk to him.

“Fries and a butterscotch shake please.”

“Here you go.”


That was the extent of the talking. Same thing every shift. Damn the shyness that held me back. But he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen with long dark lashes and a heart string pulling scruff of mustache that only a fourteen year old boy can pull off. And only a thirteen year old girl can find attractive.

But he wasn’t the best thing I got out of that summer. No, the best thing was a free perm. On my last day of work at the end of summer break, Moira permed my hair. I played with the lovely loose curls all the way home on the bus. For the first time my long locks didn’t hang straight as the prairie highway.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best thing. Because years later, those soft curls sparked an ‘80s love fest with the kinky perm that didn’t end until the mid-‘90s. The proof is in the pictures. . .










































{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn January 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Lovely… I can still smell Mayfair Lady. I didn’t realize your fingers suffered but that makes sense. No photos of the 1976 perm? 😉


Julie January 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I couldn’t find any of that one. Must have been before you had a camera permanently attached to your hand :)

Carolyn January 8, 2013 at 10:43 am

Hah… must have been. 😉

Rossandra January 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I take it you didn’t go on to great fame as a hair stylist then?


Julie January 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Hah! No… I can barely brush mine.

Mitch January 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm

And here I thought I was the “perm queen”! Nope, you win that title hands down. I stopped perming by 1990. My first job wasn’t until Grade 10 and it was at Golden Acre Garden Centre. Helped unload trucks and helped the cashiers. Fun times!


Julie January 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm

I quit when I got pregnant with Charlie in ’93. Still have the same ‘do, just no kinks 😀

Sheila Pierson January 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

This is great and brought back lots of perm memories for me, too! I went through a very similar phase. I can safely say that I haven’t had a perm now in over 10 years. We don’t all get scales on our heads like that, do we? That gives me the creeps… lol


Julie January 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I sure hope we don’t Sheila! I wondered later in life (because I relive that moment at the oddest times) if she suffered from psoriasis. But not sure. Let’s assume the rest of us will be just fine. Maybe that old lady didn’t perm her hair enough. Haha.

J Timothy Quirk January 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Well I can’t say I ever had a perm…but I really enjoyed the walk through the memory of the first job! I might something about mine and track back to your blog, would that be ok?


Julie January 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Trying to imagine you with a perm. Nope, can’t do it. :) Would love you to track back to my blog, feel free to do that any time you like, Joe!

J Timothy Quirk January 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

When I say I love 80’s hair, I’m really saying, I love the 80’s when I had hair !

Julie January 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Hah! That’s hilarious. :)

st January 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm

great tale! And I think how I had my first job at 13 (I think that same year — I’m about to turn 50?) at a local vegetable market, working behind the cheese counter. I was very proud, but it was a long time before I wanted to eat cheese again, kind of like washing someone else’s hair?


Julie January 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Me too, Sandra! 50 very soon, gulp. I think the next ‘other’ persons hair I washed was my daughter’s in 1992 when I bathed her for the first time. That cured me! :)

Sean P. Farley January 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Don’t you mean the “poof” is in the pictures?? :) Excellent post, Julie. Ah, the joys of nostalgia. Of course I was a tiny one-year old in 1976, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have fond memories of perms and poofy hair. I was, after all, a child of the 80s. 😉


Julie January 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

ROFL. Poof – you crack me up. I was a young adult of the ’80s – into all the music and fashion and poofy permed hair, but old enough to drink! 😀

Jase Rosenburg (Resurrected Writer) January 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Great post! Love these nostalgic posts!


Julie January 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Thanks, Jase. Maybe if I blog my life I won’t forget any of it. :)

Mike Schulenberg January 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Sadly I have not a single perm memory of my own to share, but I enjoyed your post all the same. Kinda took me back to the days of my own youth for a bit, although the stuff that happened was all different, of course :)


Julie January 8, 2013 at 7:26 am

Good that your stuff was different. Being we aren’t the same person and all :D. Glad you enjoyed!

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