Williamsburg hairdresser retires after more than 6 decades
WILLIAMSBURG, Mass. (AP) — Since she started at John Everett’s in Northampton in 1951, Lillian Warner has been hairdressing. And for most of her career, Warner, 87, has practiced her trade out of the salon that’s located in the home on Valley View Road in Williamsburg that she built with her first husband.
But on Friday, Warner gave her last professional haircut at her salon: She will leave Williamsburg by the end of June to move to Colorado to be closer to her three children.
“They’ve wanted me to come for years,” Warner said.
She also has eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, none of whom have followed her into the hairdressing business.
Warner grew up in Hatfield on a poultry farm and attended Northampton High School. She then went to school to become a hairdresser and did her two-year apprenticeship at John Everett’s. She soon chose to go into business for herself.
“You can do better if you’re working for yourself,” she said.
To start the business, she rented a space in downtown Williamsburg in 1954 and borrowed money from her father, a loan that she paid back.
“He was very happy about it,” she said of her decision to go into business herself.
In 1958, she relocated to the salon in her home, and since then much has stayed the same, including blow-dryer chairs that remain from when she first started.
“They hold up,” she said.
There are also many hair curlers, which she said some older people still prefer.
Warner has survived all three of her husbands, all of whom served in World War II.
She said that she met her first husband square dancing and that he was from Williamsburg, which was how she came to move to the community.
He died in 1980, and Warner said she felt grateful for having her business then.
“I was lucky to be here,” she said.
She also noted that having her business at home meant she just had to walk through the door to go to work.
“It was really wonderful,” she said.
Warner said she kept the demands of motherhood and work separate, hiring someone to watch her children when they were young and she had clients.
“I had definite hours,” she said. “And I never mixed the two.”
Warner also used to run a wig salon out of the space, where she would sell wigs and then cut and style them to her clients’ desires.
“Now they come pre-cut,” she said.
It was after her second husband died in 1999 that Warner took up the hobby of candlepin bowling.
“I wanted to get out of the house,” she said.
Warner has competed in the senior league at Canal Bowling Lanes in Southampton, and she said she has bowled strings in the hundreds.
“Usually 90s,” she said.
She also said she’s going to miss candlepin bowling when she’s in Colorado.
Warner is a member of the First Congregational Church of Williamsburg, where she and her first husband got married, a member of the Elks and a former longstanding member of the Grange. It was at the Elks that she met her third husband, whom she married in Las Vegas when she was 75 and he was 90.
Warner’s third husband died this January at the age of 101, and he told her to move out to Colorado to be near her children if he passed before her.
Asked what she liked about cutting hair, Warner said, “I liked seeing the people.”
Her only employee in her more than six decades in business was her sister-in-law, who worked part time for her for 30 to 40 years.
Asked what it takes to be a good hairdresser, Warner noted that people gossip a lot when they’re getting their hair done.
“You have to be very careful what you say and what you tell,” said Warner, who wasn’t one to cut and tell with clients.
“They knew if they told me that it was gonna stay where it was,” she said.
Warner added that there were times when she cut the hair of the client gossiping and then cut the hair of the person who’d been gossiped about.
Warner said she loves her neighbors and her street. But she also noted that her family now lives elsewhere and that many of her friends have died.
“My very best two friends are gone,” she said.
In the years before closing up the shop, Warner only worked on Fridays by appointment. However, when she cut hair full time, she would work five days a week.
Asked the advice she’d give to those interested in going into hairdressing, Warner said the best thing is to work for yourself and to do it from your home if you can.
“You don’t have that rent to pay,” she said. “It saves you a lot of money.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported Lillian Warner’s last name
Information from: Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Mass.), http://www.gazettenet.com