William Collier: Synopsis of a Memoir, Pt. 5 - Back in Seattle

September 09, 2015

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After I completed my tour of duty in Fairbanks, Alaska and returned to the “lower 48” I began my inquiry into cosmetology training. There were other elements that occurred during this time period, which indirectly influenced my enrollment decision. At this time it is my intention to share those most relevant to my career in the hair industry.


I was living in Seattle and wanted to attend the most desirable cosmetology training option available. After my initial research it became clear that my choices were limited. Mr. Lee’s Beauty School, located on Second Avenue, a block or so from “Pike Place Market” downtown Seattle, was the most desirable. It was during my research at this time that I became aware that Gene Juarez, one of Seattle’s most notable hairdressers, completed his initial cosmetology training at Mr. Lee’s Beauty School. A friend had her hair cut by Gene just prior to my enrollment in the training; the haircut was very progressive, a distinct departure from the traditional “hair-do” that dominated the 1950’s and early Sixties. The cut allowed the hair to participate in the finished look relieved of the paralysis of hair spray. A geometrical design distinctly beyond any style I had noticed at the time. The geometric concept connected up with my lawn mowing experience and was truly an “ah ha” moment. Gene went on to achieve major success, a leader in the industry. Gene Juarez had a definite influence on my career, which I will share in detail as the story unfolds.

I made an appointment at Mr. Lee's for an interview, to discuss the extent of the requirements and determine if cosmetology was a realistic career choice. My last regimented experience being the U.S Army, completely male dominated, created a startling contrast to the world I was about to enter. It would be my first challenge in the “great unknown”. A path encumbered by cultural interpretation somewhat in the thinking that the earth was flat. “Men” do not choose women’s hair styling as a profession. I was about to embark on what might have just been the “Twilight Zone”. All the cultural influence I had inadvertently accumulated was about to go out the window. Every element of my being that defined me as I knew myself was about to be challenged. I was now officially in a process that would affect the direction of my entire life.

As I entered the reception area at Mr. Lee’s Beauty School I noticed the spaciousness allowing a seating capacity to accommodate eight to ten people. The reception desk was large, slightly curved to invite more than one person access. This was hair design not interior design. The overall feeling was busy but not crazy; I was greeted by a student that was part of a training program that gave students the opportunity to experience answering the phone, booking appointments, and greeting customers. This person was a young woman, I would have guessed just out of high school, pleasant with a genuinely sincere manner. I gave her my name and referred to my appointment with Mr. Carl. There seemed to be some instant certainty that she had scored some information that would elevate her status at the lunch break, if only for a moment. She left the reception area to inform Mr. Carl his appointment had arrived. By now I began to feel a bit conspicuous, it was the beginning of the reality that I was in “no man’s land”. Paradox is the only word that comes close to describing what was about to occur...


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