A reader named Gary Simpkins wanted a story on a retiring Rock Hill hairdresser named Arlene Albert. I said unless something makes her special, everybody retires. The customer for 35 years huddled with other loyal customers, then Simpkins shot me an immediate list of 10 items titled "Arlene: More than just a local hair stylist."
Things that make Albert, fourth generation hairdresser in her family, newsworthy.
I immediately rushed over to meet Albert at her Oakland Avenue salon and presented the list. Albert, with red hair flaming, addressed them all, while doing the hair of customer Ila Kimbrell, almost without taking a single breath.
I called her "Ms. Albert" and she said, "The name's Arlene. I'm single and don't have any children. My age is retirement age: There is no number to the age so don't ask. And Halloween is my last day. It's time."
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The list of why Albert is newsy is presented forthwith, with Arlene's comments:
1. Albert is a military veteran. Marine Corps.
"I joined to go out west and shoot pool and I did just that," Arlene said. "I can still shoot pool. Won the pool contest at the last family reunion. Forty-five first cousins, beat them all. I was a Marine recruiter in Charlotte during the Vietnam time, then went to cosmetology school on the GI Bill. Bought my house on the GI Bill."
2. Breast cancer survivor.
"Twenty-four years. Takes attitude, humor and courage," Arlene said.
3. Mentor to other stylists.
"I'll answer that one," stated Lisa Deyton, who bought Arlene's shop recently. "I started 28 years ago. Arlene was my teacher."
4. Small business owner. Arlene the Cosmetologist sounds even better than Joe the Plumber.
"The business was always JAMS Hair Designs," Arlene said. "Joann, Arlene, Marlene and Susan. I'm the Arlene. The rest worked with me. I have some customers, four generations. Treat people right, they come back."
Any business with the names Arlene and Marlene in it cheek-to-cheek is fine by me.
5. Teacher of continuing education to hairdressers.
"Been doing it for years. Last week, I was in Beaufort. Had a class of 188 people," Arlene said.
6. Award winner in contests.
"I'm the reigning state cosmetology champ in men's hair," Arlene said. "But they haven't had a contest in years. Means I'm still first. But I've won all the trophies I can win over the years. It is time to travel."
7. Professional associations, conventions, organizer of fashion shows and more.
"If we had it, I helped or set it up myself," Arlene said. "Officially, I'm a cosmetologist, says so on my taxes. Although I was always called from the beginning a hairdresser -- but never a beautician."
8. Pecan seller to benefit a favorite charity, the National Association for the Mentally Ill.
"Don't forget the onions," called out everybody in the shop.
"Yes, I sold plenty of Vidalias for charity, too," Arlene said. "Did plenty of hair for the Cancer Society, the 'Look Good, Feel Better' program, too. Happy to do it. People need to look good to feel good."
9. Hair and makeup aid to school drama and choral performances, and to the cosmetology teachers at the Applied Technology Center for high school students.
"If they need me after I retire, I'll be happy to help some more," Arlene said.
10. Hair styling to-go for those who can't go.
"Plenty of times I've done hair at hospitals and nursing homes," Arlene said. "Took plenty of customers to get wigs after cancer treatment."
"Don't forget the funerals," said Ila Kimbrell the customer. "I always said I hoped you would retire before you did my hair for my funeral."
"Yes, I've done a lot of hair in the coffin," said the wonderful Arlene Albert, cosmetologist, who then, finally, had said all she had to say.