Shared Moments: Day 42 written by Maureen Kershaw

Dear all,

Day 42 – To continue on the subject of hair,  I think mostly my hair as a child was washed in Fairy household soap. The large green block cleaned just about everything, it was wonderfully soft and as it reached the end of its life, Mum would soak it in boiling water along with other bits of Fairy until it could be moulded into another block. We progressed to Silvikrin which, along with one or two others, came in a small plastic cube.

Fast forward to the 60s and hairdressing shops had become salons. A friend reminded me  of Muriel Smith’s which I didn’t visit, nor Geoffrey Oakes but two school friends went to the latter for our pre-show hairdos. We were to see Cliff and The Shadows at the Odeon and had the obligatory shampoo and set.

Beryl and Kathy went to Geoffrey Oakes and myself to  an upstairs place opposite the Red Bus Station. Beryl and I both had the same style for the occasion ‘the cottage loaf’ and I was not impressed that hers turned out better. Maybe it was the salon – hers on The Headrow, mine cheaper, round the corner on  Vicar Lane. The teenage comics of the day included ‘Jackie’ which I think was the one which gave a new hairstyle each week. Rollers of varying sizes were purchased  to follow the instructions, any straighter bits stuck down with sellotape.

The results as I recall were much the same each week and we could always tell who’d been at the sellotape by the tell-tale sign of mottles or stripes in our makeup, usually across the forehead. With the mid 60s came ‘Loops’ and a work of art. As with the bouffant look it took a lot of patience – and hairspray  to perfect.  If one was a bridesmaid the fashion was to have hair dressed in loops with individual daisies or rosebuds strategically clipped in. Oh we’ve all been there!

The poshest salon I went to was ‘Steiner’ in the Queen’s Hotel. I was in a play at the Civic Theatre and the role was of a middle aged spinster housekeeper. I thought it would be safer to go to Steiner in my lunch hour for suitable styling as the more modern salons may not have known how to tackle it. Besides should it be a disaster then I could run hurriedly across City Square, back to Quebec Street where I worked. The stylist on hearing my request that I needed to be transformed from a 20-something to ‘middle-aged’ said “It’s no problem. you’ve got an old face anyway”! I was mortified, the first and last time for Steiner but I did dine out on the story for a long time afterwards.

Names of such establishments started changing with the years. Tassy’s on Briggate and Essanelle, Schofields. I went there in the 80s and it’s where I had my ears pierced. My Mum was horrified and was convinced the procedure would damage my hearing. One had their hair styled by an Andre or Portia rather than Stanley or Joyce of yesteryear.

Hair rollers have changed over the years, who remembers heated rollers we boiled in a pan? Then came electric rollers, usually referred to as ‘Carmens’. Mine were Boots own brand but I still called them Carmens. Then there were the sponge ones which were OK but I must have replaced them three times before realising that by immersing them in water, they would restore their shape.

I never put colour on my hair in my youth, or ‘rinsed’ it as we called it back then. However at age 15 I went with my sister to her local salon, Stanley Allen on Burley Hill for ‘flashes’ (In our hair not flashes from Stanley). These days of course they are high/lowlights but this was 1965. Simone was my stylist and always wore Scholl sandals, most hairdressers did and I bought some from Grattan’s catalogue.

My work colleague Brenda and I used to go to the Mecca in the County Arcade at lunchtimes  as the Leeds United players went after their morning training. They always seemed to date hairdressers so we would change upstairs on the bus from Kirkstall to town into nylon overalls and Scholl sandals. Our pockets would have a row of hair clips and steel tail combs. We’d dance to the sounds of the 60s in front of the players, trying not to show we knew who they were – then go back to work. We never got anywhere but it was great fun!  I was able to re-enact this on stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse two years ago in ‘Searching for the Heart of Leeds’ and BAFTA winning Writer Mark Catley said I made his job easy as I wrote the scene myself.

My major disaster with hair was ‘flashes’ – in reverse. A little shop on North Lane, Headingley, long gone unsurprisingly. It was 1973 and I came out blonde with dark flashes. I was horrified. That night I was singing with a double quartet at the Parkway Hotel and had to do something quickly so bought some purple concoction to put on after shampooing , and although it toned down slightly it was still neither “nowt nor summat”. At least it toned with our lilac evening dresses.

The following morning I travelled by train to  a ‘Gershwin’ BBC recording at Preston Guildhall. Two things stick in my mind, besides the wonderful music of Gershwin; compere Pete Murray tripped and fell onstage and I got wolf whistles on Preston station. Do blondes really have more fun, I asked myself? My hair was like straw and needed much Vitapointe which was a task in itself, trying to use the correct amount. Too much and it looked Brylcreemed. Oh the memory! Shortly afterwards I started wearing wigs. Surprised? No.

By Maureen Kershaw

Wonderful Maureen, this brought a smile to my face, thank you again……until next time