William Collier: Synopsis of a Memoir, Pt. 8 - Beauty School Begins...

September 30, 2015

As I entered the training center on my first day I was feeling my swag; clean shaven, white shirt and tie, neatly pressed dark slacks and dark polished shoes. Oops, I almost left out the infamous double breasted white smock with gold buttons which became my signature garment. My guess would be the impressions ran from “Who the f**k does he think he is” to “Oh my god really?”, with a few “Ooh la la’s”.  I was on point --  from day one to my last day I did not deviate from my commitment to looking professional. Honestly, I had very little knowledge of what the appearance standard for men in the profession was,  I just did my own thing. Many of the students were not serious about being there. This was reflected by their attendance, as well as their appearance. There were some that were partying hard, causing them to show up late with their hair a disaster and their uniforms looking like they were slept in. You can imagine the contrast my presence created; I was absolutely serious about being there.

The first few days were a bit confusing and tedious. As a newbie you had certain requirements that were quite mundane. The dispensary was a duty I particularly disliked. It was small, approximately 4’ by 8’ and packed to the max, with hair products all being used daily by the intermediate and senior students. In the beginning you were being acquainted with the dispensing process by another student, one that was about to complete their preliminary training and not yet taking customers. Now, you have two people in this confined area, one who knows zero and is constantly doing that, “I am in the way” dance, with a confirmation from the student training you with “Excuse me”, in a tone barely above tolerance. If that person happened to be part of the “Who the f**k do you think you are” group , my double breasted white smock with gold buttons wasn’t particularly glamorous. As a matter of fact, given the number of fluids being dispensed, the white smock became a target and suddenly the dance would change to “dodge ball”. Haha, not really.

The pecking order, such as it was, began to expose itself in a very unsuspecting manner. Although the dispensary was small, it was a part of a flow that could not be avoided. Almost every student had to approach this area daily to obtain products to complete the service for their customer. Not only did this give you an opportunity to get acquainted with most of the students, their personalities, manners and attitudes came into play --  Like it or not. I may not have met the approval of some of the students when I walked in the door, however having just left the armed services I had experienced much about getting along with people. A bit of tolerance and sincerity are most always an equalizer. It was true then and remains true to this day, “You will not please everyone”. As time passed and it became clear that I was fully committed to learning all aspects of the beauty industry, I began to earn the respect of most of the other students.

beauty school in the 1960s For the first month I was on my own, my interactions with the other students were respectful and cordial. However, I was not a part of the rebellious group that was more or less the majority. The group had an informal alliance, to stick together at all costs. Most of their behavior was harmless; committed to each other and attending to the overall theme they had created as young people tend to do. The maintenance required to satisfy your position in the group was overwhelming. Grabbing a smoke on a break or at lunch seemed like a unanimous obligation, along with seeing who had the most outrageous story to tell. All of which appeared counterproductive. There were two or three gay men in the school who were very serious about the training. They seemed comfortable with all the students and were very talented. Then there were maybe five or six women that were older and serious about their future. I guess I was closer to being apart of that group, until one day another duck out of water enrolled. Mr. Lloyd. We gravitated to each other like magnets. My time in that training took on a new life. Lloyd was about 6’2”, quite trim, with a big smile. He was sincere in every way, with an outstanding sense of humor. We were like two kids in a candy store. That’s all I will say about that. Lloyd and I are great friends to this day.

On the music scene...The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were of great influence during this time.


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