As any self-respecting child born in my generation I was born as bald as a billiard ball and whatever hair showed up eventually was literally translucent and – horror of horrors – it was straight as a poker. I think my Mother took it personally and she spent most of my childhood trying to remedy the situation. As soon as it reached a length of maybe two inches when I was about two, she shaved it off hoping it would come in strong and curly. It took another while before there were enough little wisps that she could start putting it up in rags. It was a fairly common practice at the time. It was war time so people had to make do with whatever was at hand. So before bed time my hair would be wetted down and she would take a small section of hair and a 6” long strip of rag off an old sheet. Then she would roll the section of hair around the piece of rag til she came to the scalp and then she would tie a knot in the rag – and – presto – instant curlers. I would go to bed looking like an old mop, complaining all the while about how uncomfortable I was. It turned out like rather frizzy looking hay, but at least it wasn’t straight. – One other reason that curly hair was so desirable was the fact that the Danish royal princess who was born a little while after I was – had beautiful curly blond hair. – However, she too had to wear the obligatory big bow on top of her head or a big cannelloni-like hair curl on top.
As time went on, the quest for curls carried on. My Grandmother, Mormor, was as obsessed with curls as my Mother was, and when I when to visit them she had her own method which consisted of braiding each little section of wet hair before bed at the farm, I would have a head of maybe a dozen or so tiny braids sticking up all over my head. This method didn’t really produce curly hair, it was a little more like having stuck my finger in the electric socket. My hair was zigzagged up to within half an inch which was dead straight – but at least it achieved some volume to anchor the big bow.
As I got older I was taken to the official local hairdresser. I don’t recall any salons for hair dressing. Some enterprising woman would have a bedroom set up as a shop and it was there we went for the real curly hair! Home permanents did not become popular till sometime in the 50s when we started getting things from North America. My first permanent waves as they were called were obtained from a very nice Fru Schnorr. She had invested in an electric curling machine. It was a large cabinet with thousands of wires and connectors. The hair would be rolled up on tight rollers that seemed to stretch the roots of the hair to get that last mm along onto the roller and then some foul smelling liquid was brushed on; I can still smell it to this day. – Then came the real torture – huge metal clips that were so heavy that they had to be put on in a certain order so your head wouldn’t tip over. They were hot and they were attached by electric wire to a big machine with all sorts of lights and switches. I actually never heard of any mishaps, but I cannot imagine my daughters in law subjecting my granddaughters to this. But now I actually had curls that lasted for about 6 months. – Mother was happy.