Gimme a Head with Hair!


There were a lot of things from the 50’s and 60’s that I would just like to forget. 

Like …. hair.

How you had to wash your hair and set it with rollers and sit under a plastic hood attached to your portable hair dryer.   And how you couldn’t move around for like an hour while your hair dried and no one else in the same room could do ANYTHING because of the noise.  And how before the portable hairdryers, we went to bed with rollers in our hair!  I cannot even count the number of times I woke up with a headache, a stiff neck, or worse yet, little red marks all over my forehead from the roller indentations… And remember when you had bangs and you put cotton balls under the bangs and then used scotch tape to tape the bottom of your fringe flat? The result you were hoping for was poufy bangs..  but how many times did you wake up with a temporary scar in the shape of the scotch tape right in the middle of your forehead?   And those little curls on the side of our heads (like curly sideburns) we taped those too so you might end up with a crisscross scotch tape scar.

   Even before that, when I was just a little kid, my mom would wash my hair and put pin curls all over my head, held with bobby pins.   Had to sleep in those, too and of course if one of the curls fell out (which they often did) then you had curls all over your head except for that one straggly piece!   And no way to repair it!  It just kind of hung there. Then when your hair was dry, the pins came out and your mom brushed and brushed until it looked like some kind of style.


me in the bathtub with…. pincurls!



     I would also like to forget using Wildroot Cream Oil on my hair so it would be more manageable.  I hated the smell of that stuff.    It kept your hair in place because it had lanolin in it and it just kind of glued it into submission.   

In college we rolled our long “Hang 10”  hair on orange juice cans to give it body with a little curve.  Hang 10 hair was at least 10 inches long and we read about it in Teen Magazine so it was what you had to do.  Then when the hippie look arrived, we either didn’t wash our hair at all or braided it or ironed it!  Yes, we brushed and smoothed out our hair on an ironing board and ironed it straight.   

you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

This was in direct opposition to the style that I had when I was about 13.  It was called the poodle cut.   Very very short hair with a very tight perm.   Tiny little curls all over my head and you could brush and brush but the curls would not go away and your hair took FOREVER to grow long enough for you to look in the mirror again.  At least it was done in a beauty shop.  Even though it was my best friend’s grandma’s beauty shop and we all ended up looking alike! 

me in the orange dress with my poodle haircut! ugh

Worse than the beauty shops was the fact that  my mom would give me “home permanents”.   They were by Toni and the ones for little girls were called Tonettes.

  Little tiny plastic rollers were rolled VERY TIGHTLY all over your head all going the same direction … THEN a permanent lotion was soaked into each roller and it smelled horrible  like chemicals because that’s what it was.  You had to hold a towel over your eyes so the chemicals didn’t get into your eyes and make you go BLIND.  After each curl was soaked with chemicals, you would place a plastic cap over the top of everything so the chemicals could soak even further into your brain and wait like 30 minutes…. the longest 30 minutes in the world.   Then you rinsed it with warm water, blotted it with a towel, and put a creamy white neutralizer on each curl, again holding the towel so it wouldn’t get in your eyes.  This part was bearable because you knew the end was near.   After a few minutes of neutralizing, another rinse, then take each plastic curl out  (ahhhh relief) and then rinse again after the rollers were out.   THEN you were ready to set your hair in pin curls or rollers or whatever torture your mother decided was best at the time. 

I tell you … your scalp was sore for days afterwards.  And you just hoped that the permanent wave “took” so you wouldn’t have to do it again—at least for awhile.

Yeah… hair was way more difficult back then. 









About Life in the 50's and beyond...

Welcome to Life in the 50's and 60's and beyond .... where I write about my childhood memories, music of the 60's and about life in the country. I am a mother, grandmother, farmer's wife, business owner, and retired teacher.
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17 Responses to Gimme a Head with Hair!

  1. lucewriter says:

    Yup, you captured it. Great great post!!! Thanks for sending me over to read it!


  2. Sounds like my sister and I…We did all of the above… Have you ever used a “Flowbee”… My son has always cut his hair and we had one…Hooked to a vacuum cleaner…cuts and sucks hair into it…Actually …it worked great…and I think they still make them…


  3. grandmalin says:

    Loved this post – I remember all those things! I think I have permanent dents in my head from sleeping on rollers. lol


  4. Marcella Rousseau says:

    I had the same hair dryer. I hated getting permanents. I hated the smell. I still have my rollers. I still have my heated rollers, remember those? I still have my heated/mist curler wand. I have cut my own hair since my 20’s. Now I’m such an expert at it that I cut it in layers. It’s never looked so good – it became naturally wavy as I aged. It was straight as a stick all my life! I still have the album “Hair” and I saw the play in NYC. Hair was all they wore! ; – )


    • I wonder if there is a hair museum somewhere where we can donate our artifacts! Heated rollers were an improvement but still too much work for me. I cut my own hair sometimes but always have to go to a pro for a repair job eventually.


      • Marcella Rousseau says:

        I found a great hair-cutting video at the library. I learned the technique. What takes this beautician 15 minutes to do, I have to do over the period of 2 or 3 days until I get it as good as I can. Still, it’s worth it in the savings and I don’t have to complain about how short it is or how the beautician missed a spot! My son learned from me and so he cuts his own hair too. I bought him a hair-cutting kit for Christmas. It helps to have good scissors.


  5. free penny press says:

    I always wanted one of those hair dryers.. My Mom kept my hair cut short :-(.. I was talking to a friend recently how I used to go with my Mom to the salon when she would pick up her “wiglets” and they would be all styled, smelling like Aqua Net on those Styrofoam heads.. Loved this post, took me back down memory lane 🙂


  6. Hair is no cakewalk now, either. I struggle most days, trying not o look like something between Sasquatch and Bozo the clown.. Darned curly hair.


  7. OMIGOD. I remember that hideous pink hairdryer so well! My sister and I both had very thick, very straight hair, and after our mother scrubbed our scalps off in the kitchen sink, we’d have to sit for HOURS under that ridiculous thing, waiting for our hair to dry. And my mother gave me a Toni. Once only, because I think even she realized that a person with as much hair as I had was not a great perm candidate.

    I can’t decide whether to thank you or blame you for stirring up these awful primordial memories. 🙂


  8. What a realy fabulous nostalgic post. I could smell the coffee in my mom’s kitchen as she and her gal pals gathered “To do each others hair”.
    I apparently was exempt. I have worn my hair long and almost the same style all my life.
    Such an interesting person I am. I have cut it three times in my adult life, and each time donated 1foot long braids to Locks Of Love for childrens wigs..

    During the growing out stage… i then can relate to all this. It’s why i wear my haor long I suppose. Just not someone who likes to fuss or be fussed over,
    Wash it m dry it, brush it, and nightly braiding. Thats it for this girl.


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