Alberta Culture Days: Museum Barber and Beauty Shop displays

The Musee Morinville Museum has two displays recreating a barbershop and beauty salon as they would have been on Morinville’s main street in the past.

Long before people had social media to opine on the topics of the day, barbershops were places of social gathering for debates and gossip. In some instances, they were public forums for voicing public concerns and engaging citizens in discussions about contemporary issues.

It is still a symbol of the profession today. The iconic red, white and blue barber pole calls back to long ago when you didn’t just see your barber for a shave and a haircut. You popped in for some bloodletting and other medical procedures. The red symbolizes the blood, the white, the bandages used in the procedure. The blue is open to interpretation, with some seeing it as the blue veins and others as a cosmetic addition, making the pole fit the American flag.

One of the items on display has a more local origin. The classic barber chair in the exhibit originally belonged to Ovid Gosselin, who operated a barbershop in Morinville from the 1930s to the 1950s. The shop was taken over by his son Raymond who ran it from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Although items like shaving cups, shaving brushes and straight razors are making a return for many men, the prices of barber services, once seen in Morinville are long gone. Fifty-cent haircuts, 25-cent shaves and shampoos ranging from 50 to 60 cents will not be making a nostalgic comeback.

On the other side of the room is a replica of a Morinville beauty parlour.

Like barbershops, beauty parlours, which became popular in the early 20th century, were places for social gatherings as well.
Women could gather to catch up and socialize while having their hair done.

On display are many curling items, which in their time had to be heated up on a hot stove to make the magic happen.

An unusual item is a permanent wave machine donated by Ralph Krauskopf and used by his mother Bertha.

In the late 19th century, hairdressers learned they could apply chemicals and heat to a woman’s hair and create long-lasting curls and waves.

The first patent for a machine to help do the work was issued in the United States in 1928.

The permanent wave machine at the Morinville Museum consists of a series of wires that hang from a hood of rods. Metal curlers and chemicals were used and the electricity heated the rods, setting the hair.

Thankfully, today, getting a perm does not require you to be hooked up to something that looks like a medieval torture device.

The barbershop and beauty parlour at the Morinville Museum is a good trip into hairstyling’s past.

The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from noon until 5 p.m.

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