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Saturday, May 24, 2008

FREE SPIRIT

BRITANNIA HIGH SCHOOL


Last weekend it was the 100th anniversary of the high school I used to attend (and where I still sometimes go to take Spanish classes). There was a lunch on the afternoon of Friday May 16 for my grad class, the class of '52. We meet every year for lunch and each month some of the women also go for lunch so we've kept in touch -- a grand bunch of people who I always enjoy seeing again.

That evening there was a reunion for all years at the school and the classrooms were designated to the grad class years. They had beer and wine sales in the hallways where once us kids used to congregate in between classes. You could go from room to room finding other old school chums. So it was a lot of fun. The following night there was a gala at the Agradome with various well-known bands including the Dal Richards orchestra which has been playing around town for as many years as we grads can remember. A real touch of nostalgia. Of course there were rock bands and others for the sake of the young present-day students. There was also a lot of entertainment at the school that day but I didn't attend.

In all it was a wonderful reunion weekend. We were each given a beautiful book commemorating the school's venerable age with lots of mementos in it to remind us of our long-ago school days.
SCHOOL HALLWAY

Recently I indulged in some high school memory writing for a new project and display that is at the Royal B.C. Museum. The other weekend when my friend and I were in Victoria for our freebie weekend at the Spinnaker's Brew Pub and guest house, we also had media passes for the museum "Free Spirit" presentation. It's all about the people of B.C. and their history. There were many objects on display reminding you of the past and one of these was this hideous electric hair perm machine that was in use up to the mid '50's. I noticed there weren't any stories submitted to go along with it, but I had one. So I wrote it and submitted it, and you can now see it on-line on http://freespiritbc.com/peoplehistory/stories/ -- under "School Days"
But because this is all about my high school and the reunion, I thought I'd post it here too.

A BAD HAIR DAY (1952)

Back in 1952 when I was soon to graduate from Britannia High School in Vancouver, there was a popular hair style called the ‘poodle cut’. It was a short hair cut, permed into a soft curly style resembling a poodle’s pom-pom. A lot of my classmates were having their hair styled this way for our grad, and I wanted to be like them.

It happened that my Mom and little sister both came down with scarlet fever and were quarantined as they did in those days and I had to go and stay with a family friend, a very kind old lady named Mrs. Grey. I told Mrs. Grey how much I wanted a poodle cut. So one day she gave me some money and told me to go up to Commercial Drive and make a hair appointment.

Up to this time, my Mom always cut and permed my hair. So it was quite a thrill for this teenager to have an appointment at a real beauty salon. I felt somewhat daunted when I saw the electric perm machine, something left over from the ’30’s, a kind of weird thing like you‘d see in a mad scientist‘s lab. But I was determined to get my ‘poodle cut‘. The woman cut my hair, then rolled it up in the perm rollers. The perm machine worked on electricity. As I sat under it, I could feel it sear my scalp and I smelled burning hair. When the procedure was finished and the rollers were removed, to my horror I looked as if I had been zapped by 220 volts of lightening! My hair was frizzed like a Hottentots. You couldn’t even get a comb through it. What a frizzy mess! I was in tears. I wouldn’t go out without a kerchief on for days and even missed school because I was so embarrassed. How could I face my class-mates looking like such a freak? I didn’t realize I was pre-dating the Afro hair style of the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

Fortunately, my Mom soon recovered enough for me to return home. She immediately set to work on my ruined mop with her clippers. She had to cut off most of my hair. Even then it was still tight and frizzy. When I returned to school, the older guy that I had a crush on started calling me Puppy Dog. He’d pat me on the head every time I passed him in the hall. At least he was paying attention to me. After all, I did look like a poodle!


This is me after Mom cut off most of the frizzy perm.
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8 comments:

dayya said...

Mom to the rescue! Lovely photo, Wynn. d:)

Meghan said...

"I didn’t realize I was pre-dating the Afro hair style of the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s."

You're a woman ahead of your time!! I like the picture a lot. :D

I have to admit I wouldn't go back to my old high school for all the money in the world, but that's just me...

Sam said...

That's a gorgeous school - wow! And love the story of the hair cut. Who hasn't had a disaster hair adventure? Mine was when I tried to dye my hair (I was 16) and it turned pink! Punk before my time!
LOL

Marie said...

Nice story and photos, Wynn.

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