Grandmother Marie was never too busy to see to my hair. When I was in eighth grade she decided I needed more curl and gave me a machine wave.
The machine had a thread-wrapped chord which plugged into the electrical outlet on the wall. Wires with clamps hung down until it was time to attach them to the steel rods where Grandmother had rolled my hair. She used a rat-tailed comb to pull each strand through a slit in a pad which had been built up with sheep’s wool and covered with rubber to make it thick. Even at that it wasn’t enough to keep my ears, my scalp, and the skin on back of my neck from getting burned. I can almost feel it and smell the singed hair now. After she attached the clamps I sat still until my hair heated up enough to make the curl permanent. That was when she removed the clamps, rods, and pads and sent me off to play.
I don’t know how many machine waves I got, maybe only one, but I seem to recall most of the details still. It was as bad as going to the dentist to have my tooth drilled without numbing. Anyone my age would recall that sore trial.
When Grandmother wasn’t looking, I tried to get my old hair back by washing out the heat wave, but alas, I was stuck with frizzy hair and no redress except for it to grow out. When I went back to school, my teacher, a WW2 veteran like my dad called me frizzy head in front of the whole class and I was so embarrassed that if I could have I would have flown right out the window. Now, however, I realize that he may have been getting a bit of well-deserved revenge for all the times I disrupted his teaching by deliberately asking him questions about his war experiences. Fortunately, the classmates were all good friends, so my shaming only went so far and I was back to my bouncy self again.
I can’t complain about grandmother giving me a permanent wave, because when I grew up and became a hair-dresser I gave perms and got them too. Grandmother asked me to give her one each time I went to visit her, which wasn’t too often because I lived in California and she lived in Colorado. I didn’t mind a bit, but I was glad that science had moved along enough by then that perms, while smelly, were hardly painful at all.
From the time permanent waves were invented they grew in popularity until straight hair became the rage in the 70s.Our daughter never had to have one in fact she straightened out the wave in her hair every morning with a regular curling iron. Some girls laid their heads on the ironing board and ironed their hair straight or asked someone to do it for them. Fashion can be fun, but sometimes it can be somewhat of a trial as well. One thing we’ll always know is that it will never remain static.
Here’s someone else who had the same experiences I did.