Archive for Friday, October 17, 2008

Eudora beautician celebrates 50 years in the business, making friends

Sunday open house to mark occasion

October 17, 2008

David Oakes

The mood in Sharon Burns-Bohm’s Eudora salon Alley Cuts resembles the living room of a close friend or family member. People arrive well in advance of their appointments to chat as others just drop by for a few minutes of conversation and then leave.

The amiable atmosphere is the residue of Burns-Bohm’s 50 years in hairdressing, with more than 40 of them spent in Alley Cuts. She will celebrate the event with an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Coffee Talk, 724 Main St., Eudora.

“The biggest thing I’ve heard people say is ‘50 years — she can’t be that old,’” said Kathleen Brown, who stopped by to bring a basket she had decorated for Sunday’s celebration.

Indeed, Burns-Bohm doesn’t resemble a woman who is 68-years-old. Her brown eyes highlight the vitality in her face, and her brown hair only now is beginning to go gray — a point that Brown notes with amazement and jealousy.

“Maybe it’s because I have enjoyed it so much,” Burns-Bohm replied. “People have been so great, and it amounts to working with an extended family.”

Mary Lou Davis, the executive director of the Kansas Board of Cosmetology said it wasn’t uncommon to have a beautician licensed for 50 or more years, but the fact that Burns-Bohm has been practicing the whole time was admirable.

“It’s commendable to have someone who’s maintained a profession that long, but I think it’s doubly commendable that she’s maintained a facility for nearly forty years,” Davis said.

Burns-Bohm, who was born and raised in Baldwin, is a bit surprised at her longevity, as well.

“I thought I’d be dead by now because when you’re young 68 sounds so old,” she said.

She went into cosmetology after high school because she didn’t have enough money to go to college yet she wanted to have training in some sort of vocation.

After becoming certified in December 1958, her first job was in Lawrence at the Cut and Curl at 845 New Hampshire Street. She then worked for a few other salons before opening Alley Cuts in the basement of her home so she could stay home with her children.

Her husband, Elwood Burns, who passed away about 16 years ago, built the salon in the finished basement of the house. The salon was booked for two years solid soon after it opened in 1966.

Many of Burns-Bohm’s customers began coming to her out of convenience but they continued to see her because of the quick friendships that were formed.

Carl Rochester, who said he’d been a customer for about 30 years, jokingly claimed a reason other than friendship.

“I keep coming back because of the candy dish,” he said.

Whether he’s joking or not, Burns-Bohm said she went to the store that day to buy more candy because Rochester had an appointment.

“I truly love cutting hair, but I really love the people,” she said.

But she has not always worked with customers who can reciprocate friendship. One of her first experiences cutting hair was at a mortuary.

After a client passed away, the family asked her to do the woman’s hair. Burns-Bohm said her mind played tricks on her while styling the woman’s hair.

“I thought she was still alive, I just knew she was — I could see the sheet move up and down,” she said. “I knew the demons where after me when I left ,and I ran so fast in that parking lot out to my car. Your mind can make you see so many crazy things.”

The experience would make one think she would never do it again, but it’s still something she does for people when requested and as recently as about five years ago even considered learning how to become a mortician.

“I suppose it’s the last nice thing that you can do for a person,” she said.

During her 50 years as a hairdresser, Burns-Bohm has seen styles come and go. She stays current by attending classes yearly and always enjoys the challenge, although sometimes the biggest challenge was when a customer asks for a style that isn’t possible.

“It could be that of course you know how to do it, but their hair wasn’t made for it,” Burns-Bohm said. “There are people that want things that their hair just isn’t capable of doing. It’s like me wanting to look like Raquel Welch — it just isn’t going to happen.”

As Kathleen Brown leaves to move on with her day, she reflected upon the bygone days spent with friends at Alley Cuts.

“It was a fun place to come, and we had a lot of good times,” Brown said.

“And we still do,” Burns-Bohm added.

— Eudora News reporter David Oakes can be reach at (785) 542-2747.


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