Ah, the days of Toni home perms

Toni Home Permanent frontAs you can see from tonight’s photo, a bottle of Sani-White (for keeping your tot’s white baby shoes spotless, don’t you know – featured in yesterday’s post) was not the only vintage product I picked up recently just so I’d have a fun thing to share with you good people. Tonight we feature: the Toni home perm!

Oh boy, were those the days. The days when women used to feel it was necessary to wear their hair in a tall pouffy mass. Here’s a fun video, a 1961 British TV ad, that gives you a sense of that particular aesthetic. To my mind, the woman in it looks a heck of a lot better with the “flat” hair that the ad decries than with the oversized puff she ends up with, but you can judge for yourself:

So women would go to the hairdresser a couple of times a year for a “permanent wave” (which everybody shortened to “perm”) and then back once a week for a pouffy refresher. (My sister, Melanie, and I would tease our mum that the weekly ‘do should be called a “temp.”)

But hairdressers cost money, and when I was growing up at the Manse in Queensborough, money was scarce around our house. And in many other people’s homes too. As a result, many women in Queensborough, and all around the world, tried out Toni home perms.

People, I have no idea how a home perm might come together. Having never had a perm of any sort, home or salon, I really don’t know anything about the process or the tools. But I do remember our regular babysitter at the time, a wonderful person named Janice Rollins, coming to the Manse to do a Toni home perm on my mum. How often it happened I do not know. Really the only thing about the Toni home perm that has stuck with me indelibly through all the years, and doubtless will until I die, is this: the incredibly awful smell.

What the heck was that smell, anyway?

11 thoughts on “Ah, the days of Toni home perms

  1. Oh, I can still smell those home perm solutions (thanks for the reminder! ): My mother used to give perms to friends, or one of them would give a perm to my mother — sometimes at their house, sometimes at ours. And if we had been told that a perm was scheduled for the afternoon, and if we had forgotten about it, well we certainly knew about it when we got home from school. “Don’t wind the rods too tight now.” “Be sure to dab any dribbles.” The most important phrase that they forgot was, “Don’t forget to open the windows.” That stuff smelled A-W-F-U-L. I’ll spell it again, just for effect (in case I haven’t made my point sufficiently): A-W-F-U-L.

    But every now and then, there was nothing like a real professional perm, so off to Getha’s or Gladys’s, and we would be spared from the fumes at home.

    Now, do you remember when they starting giving razor cuts??

    • Razor cuts – as in, inspired by Vidal Sassoon, Sash? You must enlighten me on this subject. Also, were Getha’s and Gladys’s salons in Madoc? I have to confess I don’t remember them. I DO, however, recall my mum getting her hair done by a stylist named Nancy who had a salon upstairs in the St. Lawrence Street building that housed (and still does) a laundromat, and was just beside the Cash and Carry. And I also recall (fondly) the movie magazines (Liz and Dick!) that were there in the salon – the only time I ever got a chance to read such fascinating stuff.

      • I can’t remember if Vidal had anything to do with the razor cuts when they became popular in Madoc, but it’s probable. Seeing as a new fashion/fad was coming around, I think salons anywhere would have been quick to get in on it.

        And I am almost certain that Getha was Getha Burns. It’s what rings a bell with me, but I could be wrong. However, checking the internet brought me to the site for the Madoc Lakeview Cemetery. I see that a Getha Elliot was married to James Burns. Getha passed away in 1993. So, I could be right with the surname (and how often do we hear the name, Getha?) Really, that’s what seems to be sticking in my mind. I can’t remember where her salon was, exactly, but something tells me that she worked from home, around Rollins Street. I know my mother had her hair done by her a couple of times and I must say, Getha gave her the bouffant treatment (which my mother promptly combed down.)

        I remember the salon in along where the laundromat is, on St. Lawrence East, just a few steps from the four corners. Gladys DeMille had a salon in Madoc, and I think that was the location, but I also seem to recall another stylist, although I cannot remember her name. So, I’m not sure if Gladys had the salon near the laundromat or if it was owned by someone else.

        And what about the former barber shop and hair salon that was across from Kincaid’s? Do you remember that? The barber shop was in the front, with windows facing Kincaid’s, and then down a hall, there was the ladies’ salon, with those huge bee-hive hair dryers. I can still see the people who owned it, but now my memory is failing as I can’t recall their names. Jerry (Geraldine) somebody ? Maybe other readers will know.

        And wasn’t there a product called Tonette?

        Yes, those old Hollywood movie mags — Liz & Eddie, Liz & Dick, Dick & Liz … the world was crazy about Elizabeth Taylor, thanks to Cleopatra and the affairs that surrounded it.

  2. And another one! There was a barber shop in the space beside the laundromat and where CJ’s diner now is. This was around 1967 or so. I can’t remember if the barbershop/salon across from Kincaid’s was still operating then or if it had closed. The people who ran it would have been approaching retirement age.

    Thank goodness for Google Maps. It’s so easy to check a street view, although I wish I had actual photographs from the day.

    And speaking of CJ’s, maybe I mentioned in another post that it used to be a dry cleaner, again around 1967 or so.

    Did I ever mention the “haunted” place on Durham street, right along where Brett’s used to have their business? Oh, what a time that was.

      • It’s funny how we can not remember something, and then a while later, it comes to us. Last night, I could not remember the name of the people who owned the hair salon/barber shop across from Kincaid’s. This morning, it hit me: Courneyea. While I struggled to remember the name of the barber (and I was certain that the name of his wife in the ladies’ salon was Geri, possibly Geraldine), I was thinking Harry for the gentleman. So, I snooped around the cemetery sites for Madoc and in Sacred Heart, I’ve found a Harry Courneyea who was married to Geraldine Lahey. Harry died in 1969. I’m almost sure these are the owners of that business. I wonder if any other readers might know.

        Oh, the “haunted” story is silly, basically about a bunch of school kids who went to investigate a “haunted” building (again, across from Kincaid’s). Silly as it was, I still remember it like it happened yesterday.

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