Old fashioned electric perm marchine
Back in 1952 when I was soon to graduate from Britannia High School in Vancouver, there was a popular hair style called the ‘poodle cut’. It was a short hair cut, permed into a soft curly style resembling a poodle’s pom-pom. A lot of my classmates were having their hair styled this way for our grad, and I wanted to be like them.
It happened that my Mom and little sister both came down with scarlet fever and were quarantined as they did in those days and I had to go and stay with a family friend, a very kind old lady named Mrs. Grey. I told Mrs. Grey how much I wanted a poodle cut. So one day she gave me some money and told me to go up to Commercial Drive and make a hair appointment.
Up to this time, my Mom always cut and permed my hair. So it was quite a thrill for this teenager to have an appointment at a real beauty salon. I felt somewhat daunted when I saw the electric perm machine, something left over from the ’30’s, a kind of weird thing like you‘d see in a mad scientist‘s lab. But I was determined to get my ‘poodle cut‘. The woman cut my hair, then rolled it up in the perm rollers. The perm machine worked on electricity. As I sat under it, I could feel it sear my scalp and I smelled burning hair. When the procedure was finished and the rollers were removed, to my horror I looked as if I had been zapped by 220 volts of lightening! My hair was frizzed like a Hottentots. You couldn’t even get a comb through it. What a frizzy mess! I was in tears. I wouldn’t go out without a kerchief on for days and even missed school because I was so embarrassed. How could I face my class-mates looking like such a freak? I didn’t realize I was pre-dating the Afro hair style of the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
My "poodle cut" after Mom had cut off most of the frizz!
Fortunately, my Mom soon recovered enough for me to return home. She immediately set to work on my ruined mop with her clippers. She had to cut off most of my hair. Even then it was still tight and frizzy. When I returned to school, the older guy that I had a crush on started calling me Puppy Dog. He’d pat me on the head every time I passed him in the hall. At least he was paying attention to me. After all, I did look like a poodle!