Vera Rice's Beauty Salon

 

 Vera's Beauty Salon is one of the oldest businesses still running in Cardigan. Vera doesn't recall when she opened her business, but remembers that it was around 1954 or 1955. She started out working in the salon of a Mrs. Beers in Montague when she was ten or eleven, and she would help out whenever Mrs. Beers was busy around the parlor. When she was 18, she went away to Charlottetown to take the Hairdresser’s Course. She later married Cecil Rice on November 10, 1948. She started her own salon, raising 8 children in the home that she still lives in, often working evenings and weekends to build up her business. In the early years of the salon, it would not be unheard of for clients to arrive at 7:30 in the morning, or for Vera to be starting a perm at midnight.

She remembers in the early years of doing perms there was a machine that looked similar to a modern day dryer that had clamps to attach to the head and this machine would heat the hair to make the perm. It had to be done very carefully because it would heat up quite hot, and if it was placed too close the scalp could burn. One time when Vera worked in Montague a woman who had Epilepsy took a seizure in this machine and started convulsing and had to be quickly unhooked from the clamps. Later came what Vera calls "Cold Waves" which was a perm that required no heat. She liked doing these better than the machine with the clamps. She recalls that in the early years women’s hair was often dyed with fabric dye, and one time using blue dye was a real big thing. Around when she was ten or twelve dying was just starting to enter the market.

When she first started out, Vera used only two kinds of shampoo - one with conditioner and one without. Her supplies used to come in on the train from Moncton and had to be picked up at the Cardigan Station. Now, there is a rack full of different shampoos, styling products, hair accessories, makeup, nail polish, and more in her front waiting room. Vera and her husband Cecil prepared the shop for business on their own, and it later expanded to almost double its size, encompassing most of the front of their two story house.

In the early years, a hairdresser was a friend and confidant, now often thought of as an olden-days therapist. Vera recalls having to listen well to her clients and cater to the public. She probably knows more about the women of Cardigan then anyone, but keeps it to herself because it was part of her job. In the early years, she put in a lot of hours in the salon, often working every evening and day except Saturday and Wednesday - all stores in Cardigan closed early on Wednesdays. No one would ever question if Vera was a hard worker; she built a business that is still running today and raised eight children while doing it.

Vera tells the story of giving birth to her daughter Katherine; she was in the salon cutting hair when she went into labor with her, and Edith Campbell had to finish cutting hair of the woman she was attending while Vera went to the hospital.

Her salon was never off limits to her children, grandchildren, or great-grandchild, and they could often be found coming and going to the shop or watching her cut hair. Theresa remembers how she loved to come out and see her mother cut hair when she was a child, and she started her own career by cutting her brothers' and sisters' hair as children. When Theresa was around ten, she remembers her mother having a broken leg and being unable to do the teachers' hair for a convention, so she stood on a chair and did the womens' hair.

She has had a few employees over the years, such as Linda Cain, Sylvia Ramsay, Dianne, and students that recieved on-the-job training from her on occasion. Her daughter Theresa started working at the salon in 1976, and her daughter Katherine has worked there since 1986. None of her grandchildren have expressed interest in the trade yet, but her great grandchild Tovie was playing in the Beauty shop the day we interviewed Vera, so you never know if the tradition will be continued!

Sometimes, Vera will even go to clients' houses to cut hair for some of the older women who are unable to come to the salon. Vera, never having driven in her life, always gets someone to drive her. Along with her 8 children, she has 20 grandchildren, and - so far - just one great grandchild. She also had a housekeeper to help some of the time but not in the early years of her business. Her two daughters have since taken over the business, but Vera, at 83, still has some clients and can still be found in the Beauty Parlor booking appointments, sweeping up the floor, washing towels, and shampooing hair for the girls.

 

 

Pictures of Vera Rice's Business: 

 

Above: A sneak peak at the inside of Vera Rice's Beauty Salon

 

Above: a look at the outside of Vera Rice's Beauty Salon

Click here to listen to an audio clip of Vera Rice's interview

 

Written By Betty-Anne Acorn from the memories of Vera Rice and Theresa Kerwin
 

In Partnership with