Hair was always a great part of my life as a kid. Not sure how my first perm came about, but I know my mum used to perm my grans hair as well a few friends.. I suppose it was just a matter of time before I was next in the chair. Dad was always away, so me and mum spent a lot of time together. I was there for most of the home perm sessions with the neighbours. Some I was more interested in than others. Uncle Terry was a regular visitor and was always keen to get away from this sort of ladies hair stuff, so he used to go into the back garden and have a smoke & I usually tagged along and he was responsible for my very early smoking habit.
A few years into junior school it was announced that our school would be closing. And we were all to be sent to different schools in the area depending on where we lived. My mum saw this as the opportunity to change my image. I suppose she was thinking that it would reduce the impact of my new hair on my friends at the new school.
For a time beforehand she hinted that my hair would look nice a bit curly. I had my 8th birthday party two weeks before term ended for the summer holidays. This is when I was given my first home perm. In the bathroom appeared a box, on which it said “Toni Perm for medium to strong curls”. These were usually kept in a kitchen cupboard so I knew something was imminent. Mum used the mixture of rods gathered over years of perming and kept them in a old biscuit tin. Lots of different colours sizes and lengths. They were all of a similar type with the plastic arm fastener. Some of the Toni perm kits came with a selection of rods in the box, usually far fewer than a full head would need but it all added to the collection. My box was no exception. There was a white pack of ten assorted spin curlers in there.
Saturday morning during the summer holidays was tv time banana splits etc was the best thing on saturday tv. Mum had gone to the hairdressers to have her hair set. She got back about 11am and made an early lunch. I saw Mum reading the perm kit instruction leaflet. I saw the drawings of women in the perm rods and she pointed to one and said I think this one would be best for your hair. And said she would do my hair this afternoon.
I had barely finished my lunch when she called me to the bathroom and washed my hair. I was left to towel dry it off while she went down stairs. I went into the kitchen where the biscuit tin was open and mum was sorting through the plastic curlers. Putting them in piles by colour. I was not nervous nor excited, just curious as to what my hair would be like. I had seen this done lots of times but had not taken any notice of the end results. So I did not know what to expect. She put an old tea towel loosely around my shoulders and combed my hair for a while before putting the first rod on the top of my head. I touched it with my hand and was told to stop that or they will fall out.
After much combing,tugging and wrapping, mum announced that the last curler was going in now. Before she could say anything else I ran up to the bathroom to see myself in the curlers. Looked nothing like mums other home perms and nothing like the diagram she pointed at in the booklet but I had lots of little curlers in my hair. I grabbed the Toni box and went down stairs. Mum found more old tea towels and put two round my neck tucking them in well and told me to put my head over the kitchen sink. I peared over the sink, her hand covered my eyes. I could smell the perm lotion long before I felt any on my scalp. The smell was much stronger than I thought it would be. The plastic cap was pulled over the curlers and a towel was wrapped round my head turban style. The timer was set for 25 mins and I was allowed to do my own thing. I wandered round for a bit saw how stupid I looked in the bathroom mirror and watched some cricket on the television. Mum was not happy that I made the whole house smell of perm lotion and said next time all done in the kitchen. Next time I thought.
The bell rang on the timer and mum came in the living room and took the towel off my head and the plastic bag. I held onto the stinking towels while she checked the curls. She loosened about six before saying it had not taken. I had no idea what that meant so she looked at the instructions it said 25 mins for medium curls and 35 mins for firm curls. She bagged and toweled me again and put 10 mins on the timer. A few innings later the full 35 mins were up. I had had enough now and went to find her. She checked again and was not happy, she could not understand what had gone wrong. She took me to the sink and rinsed off the perm. She foamed up the neutraliser and sponged all the curlers over and over and I stood at the sink. She said lets see exactly what has taken. From what she was saying nothing had happened.
Mum took out the rods and put them in the sink, she put more neutrealiser on and rubbed it into my hair. A towel went round my head we went to the bathroom and she gave me a shampoo.
I was gagging to see my new hair. I toweled my hair and looked in the mirror. There was some very loose curls in my hair. It looked ok. Mum insisted it had not taken like it should. So it was left to dry. As it did mum kept fluffing round it. She was not sure how to comb it so she came up with the idea of using a kitchen fork.
I liked my new hairdo. Mum phoned her hairdresser, Ian. He thought my hair must be resistant and if I went to the shop on Tuesday he would have a look at it.
Over the next few days I knew what mum was taking about. My hair was curlier on the top but very little at the back or sides of my hair. Tuesday came and it was raining heavily, Mum drove us down to the salon to have my hair checked out and for her shampoo and set. Ian trimmed up the ends of my hair and said I had very resistant hair. He asked if mum had a dryer at home. Yes she had a ronson escort. Thats it, he said, leave the hair for a few weeks, try it again but used the dryer to process the curls and half the time on the instructions. If that does not work it would be ok to keep the solution on till the curls are formed. It will just take longer to do than normal.
Mum left my hair for over a month before having another attempt.
I was sent for a trim and Ian her hairdresser said “good luck” when I was leaving.
A few hours later my curlers were back in. I checked in the bathroom mirror and mum had put a lot more in, the first drawing on the instructions. She was keen for this to work. So was I, I was at the new school in less that two weeks.
My stinking curlers were bagged and I put the dryer strap over my shoulder and sat on the kitchen stool. Mum said switch it on to the second setting. I turned the orange dial to 2 and the bag filling with air was put over my head. It blew up large and she tightened the string to keep it in place. I could not hear a thing for the noise of the air. Mum set the timer for 18 mins and the dryer heated up very quickly. I had nothing to do but just sit there. Found it a bit boring. I took hold of the timer and eventually time was up. I called for mum who came in and switched off the dryer. I could hear again. That was quick she said are you sure that was 18 mins. I said it must have been 20 by the time you came in. She checked a couple of the curlers and said that looks better. I was neutralised and ran upstairs to give my self a shampoo and had the first look at my curls.
Yes my hair was curly all over. It had worked. Mum came up and was relieved when she saw the result. My hair was forked into a little curly style and mum said it could have been just a bit curlier, but it looked enough for me.
As my hair dried she need not have worried and the curls just got tighter and as I forked it more, became fuller.
I was happy, mum was happy and my two best mates laughed at my new hair. Can't have everything.
My Toni perm was my new hairstyle. New school came and I was the only one there from my old school. All thought almost nothing of my permed hair. Just took it as normal for me.
The perm was such a success that it set a pattern for my hair to be permed for the next 3 years.
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