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Owner of City's First Beauty Shop Recalls Hair Styles of Years Ago

This article appeared in the Citizen-Journal's 75th anniversary issue, February 1972

“Call it being vain or whatever, but most women have always wanted to look their best, and especially to keep their hair done,” remarked 83-year old Mrs. G. A. Percifield, who retired a few years ago after some 40 years as a hair stylist and beauty shop owner in Arlington.

Recalling incidents that stand out in her mind after having opened the first local beauty shop in 1920, Mrs. Percifield said, “Even in the thirties, those terrible depression days, we had customers who might take in washing and ironing to help the family out, but they had a standing appointment each week to have their hair done.”

She opened her shop here in 1920 not long after she and her late husband came to Arlington. The location was in Knapp’s Department Store on Main Street.

“If you wanted to see everybody in town (the women, that is) and catch up on the latest woman talk, you came to our shop. It was really the gathering place.”

Those were the days when women started cutting their hair. After wearing long hair all their lives, it was a big step to decide to have it “bobbed,” but it was the stylish thing to do.

Mrs. Percifield said some of the women would sit and cry as the long hair fell to the floor and others would be scared to death of what their husbands would say. After the cutting process, the Marcel was the “in” hair style, which meant waving the hair starting at the front and going all around the head. (Marcelling is a hair styling technique in which hot curling tongs are used to induce a curl into the hair).

“But the hardest thing for women to get used to was the permanent wave machine,” Mrs. Percifield stated. “Permanents followed short hair and Marcels.” The procedure for a permanent wave meant putting the patron under a huge machine the size of a wagon wheel and hooking her hair up to 36 electric curlers. “Many women were frightened under the machine, especially at first, and we had to stand and hold on to some of them. Besides that, it was tiresome as some permanents took half a day from start to finish.”

In those days, women paid 50 cents for haircuts, 50 cents for a shampoo and set, 50 cents for a manicure, and $1.00 for a facial. Permanents started at $2.50.

As Arlington grew, Mrs. Percifield had larger and more modern shops and at one time she employed eight or ten operators. She recalled the huge business she did during the days that Arlington Downs race track was in full swing here. “We’d be snowed under until right before time for the races to start, and then everybody would take off for the track.”

Mrs. Percifield was born in Bosque County and married in 1911 in Stephenville. Her late husband was supervisor of several states for Western Union.

“I just liked to fix hair and I started out cutting and setting my neighbors’ hair just to be neighborly.” She recalls that in those days she used her regular sewing scissors to cut hair and she had a pair of hand clippers. After she and her husband moved to Arlington, she went to beauty school in Dallas.

Her retirement days are not as active as she would like because of an arthritic condition. “I don’t know how I would manage if old Arlington friends were not so kind to me. They haven’t forgotten me and they come by or call regularly.”

I’ve been around people all my life in my profession and I’ve found the majority to be good and want to help their neighbor.