SUSAN Clarke has seen plenty of hairdos – and just as many hairdon’ts – in her time
“Let’s see...” she muses. “We’ve had bubble perms, beehives, bouffants, capcuts, undercuts, spikes, straightened. I’ve done them all. The list goes on and on.”
And so too, for the last 52 years, has Susan.
She’s been cutting, clipping, styling and shaping hair in Darnall since she was a 15-year-old slip of a thing with a pair of scissors and a fine eye for a startling new style called the bob.
That was 1960.
Now, in 2012, after running her own salon for the past 34 years, the 67-year-old is finally hanging up her scissors and calling it a day. She will pass Susan Clarke Hair Stylists, in Staniforth Road, on to her two members of staff.
“I’ve loved every moment of it,” she says. “Cutting hair was all I wanted to do from before I was a teenager.
“I love the creative side – but I must admit I always loved hearing what people had to tell me too.
“In this job you have to be a counsellor as well as a cutter. You have to listen to all kinds of troubles. Having a good ear is almost as important as having a good pair of scissors.”
She learned her trade at the suburb’s much-loved Doreen Crookes salon before buying her own business when she was in her early-30s.
“I was on the bus going into town shopping with my mum when we saw this place for sale,” says Susan, a mother-of-one and grandma-of-three of Parsley Hay Road, Handsworth. “It was a haberdashery then. I’d been thinking about setting up on my own and, as soon as mum pointed it out, I knew it would be perfect for a hairdressers.
“We went to the agents that afternoon. I remember getting home and my husband Brian asked if I’d bought anything. I said: ‘I think I’ve bought a business’.”
It signalled the start of some hard work for him.
The gas and plumbing engineer was charged with transforming the place from sewing shop to stylish salon (“he did it brilliantly – we’ve hardly changed it since”) before opening on New Year’s Day, 1978.
“We were busy then and we’ve been busy ever since,” says Susan.
In the intervening years she’s won awards, made friends, and, most importantly, never clipped the top off anyone’s ear.
“Don’t ask me for a best moment,” she says. “How could I pick one?”
Now she’s looking forward to retirement.
She was ill two years ago and decided then she wanted to prove she was fit enough to return to the salon so she could leave on her own terms. She’s made her point, she feels.
And so on Saturday she was leaving the shop for the last time.
Customers were in there for their cuts as normal.
Not one wanted a beehive or bouffant.