Now I was a licensed hairstylist and I needed a job. Some of my co-students started working immediately at the downtown shops where they gave cheap permanent waves without any styling, just kinky curls. I did not want to do that. I wanted to work in a fine styling salon like Mario's. I did not want to ask him for a job because I felt that this would put him on the spot. I had trouble finding work because, wherever I applied, they wanted experienced stylists. I told them that I had six months experience (I did not tell them that it was at the Academy) but even that did not help. Mario told me about free schools for tinting and permanent waving. I looked into it and found out that these were clinics of beauty product manufacturers. Every day people with problems with their hair color or permanent wave came into these clinics and experts in their field showed us how to resolve the customers' problems. This was done at no cost to the patron or to the hairdresser learning how to solve these problem cases. And so I started a new routine: in the mornings I walked for miles up and down the major streets of Manhattan, from one beauty salon to the other, applying for work, and in the afternoon I spent three to four hours, five days every week, at the various clinics. My favorite ones were the L'Oreal and Wella clinics for coloring and the Helene Curtis clinic for permanent waving.
Occasionally some shop would hire me, with disastrous results. My first "job" was in a high fashion salon where they did not yet use clips for setting hair. Clippies were just a new invention in 1945 and the old fashioned salons did not want to use them yet. It was below their dignity. In the Academy we had learned to set hair with hairpins but I was not very good at it. But I thought I could bluff my way through it. However, the salon decided to test me with a most difficult customer, an old lady with fine and thin hair. As a matter of fact, she had hardly any hair! I put on my bravest face and got to work. As I put the pins in her hair they kept falling out. I put more and more pins in and finally enough stayed in so that I could put her under the hair drier. By then my hands were sweating. I thought that at least for the next twenty minutes I could relax and calm my nerves but when I glanced in the direction of my customer I saw more and more hairpins falling out from under the drier. I kept on replacing them. Needless to say, that was my first and last customer in that shop.
In another shop I was hired as an assistant to be worked in as a hair stylists. It was a large and extremely busy place. Early in the day I was told to get some shampoo ready. They gave me a gallon of concentrated shampoo and showed me how much to use to dilute it. After I finished diluting one bottle of shampoo I dropped the whole gallon of shampoo concentrate on the floor. In those days these were glass gallon bottles! There was glass and thick oozing shampoo all over the place. I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the floor. And that was the end of that job.
The third shop which gave me a chance was an extremely high fashioned salon where a famous hair stylist had worked and he had just died. He had left his enormously wealthy clientele stranded and the owners were very anxious to replace him as soon as possible. I was his replacement. I even had an assistant who did the shampooing and even put the cape on the lady customer and just about everything else. After I did three or four customers the word must have gotten out because nobody showed up anymore. That took care of that job.
I went to the academy and asked if they knew of a shop which needed help and they sent me to the Gertz Department store beauty salon. That place was extremely busy. They paid the minimum wage of forty dollars per week. That plus the tips I received and my part time job in Harlem was enough to make ends meet if we were very frugal. On my day off I still went to the tint and permanent wave clinics. Already then I discussed with Anita the possibility of starting a savings routine! I thought that I was doing pretty well. With my background, this was quite good. So, before we spent any money we put every month five dollars aside in a bank which paid two percent interest accumulated daily. I thought I was rich! Within a year we had more than sixty dollars in our savings account! Wow! After a while I realized that this was not to be my career job, especially because we were expecting our second child within half a year. So, I started looking for a better opportunity.
For one whole year after graduating from the Academy of Cosmetology, I looked for a permanent job. In the meanwhile I had accumulated a large amount of practical knowledge in tinting and permanent waving, especially in solving problems in those fields. But my hair styling and cutting left a lot to be desired. Finally, sometime in the spring of 1956 I found a job right in our own neighborhood. It was in a shop with the best reputation in our area by the name of "Thomas and Victor." It was just the kind of beauty salon for which I was looking: a clean, modern, busy styling salon with high prices. Thomas and Victor were partners, both young and ambitious, and I was the third hairstylist. The girls were assistants and manicurists. I was so excited. This was a great opportunity with unlimited potential. Of course, things did not go without some problems. After my first haircut, Thomas, who was the better and busier of the two partners, called me to the back and told me that he would not let me work on customers until I learned the latest haircut. It was a masculine looking, short haircut called the "shingle." It was the then current fad. So, he sat me down on a straight chair in the back workroom, put a bottle upside down between my knees and told me to practice going up and down the neck of the bottle simultaneously with a comb and scissors, as done by a barber. After several hours I managed to do that smoothly. The next day he trusted me with a young lady who wanted the latest hairstyle. I did a pretty good job but he cleaned it up for me and showed me what it was supposed to look like. I really appreciated his patience and the fact that he gave me a chance. I became so proficient in that haircut that he soon gave me all the ladies who requested that style . When he learned that I was good at problem solving, he gave me all customers who had problems with their hair color or permanent waves. I soon started to build up a following and became very busy within a short time. Victor, who was not as good a hairstylist as Thomas, often had complaints about his permanent waves. Thomas gave these customers to me to straighten their hair out. I finally started to make some real money.
One day an airline hostess came into the shop and luckily Victor sent her to me. I started to set her hair in clippies( they did not use hairpins in our shop, I had made sure of that right away!) when she stopped me. She had just come in from Germany where they styled her hair completely with rollers. I had heard about this newest idea but I had never seen it done. I talked this over with my bosses and they agreed to get one set of rollers, just to try it out. The next time that same young lady came into the shop I surprised her with the rollers. I was the first one to use them in the area and it became an instant success. The hostess' supervisor called for a meeting of the stewardesses and told them that this was the look she wanted them to have. Before I knew what was going on I had many stewardesses asking to have me do their hair. I became a successful hairdresser with a steady following.
This came just in time because on September 15, 1955 our second child, Rochelle Lynn, was born. In the middle of the night Anita felt that it was the time to go to the hospital. But first she wanted a little party. She called her parents who lived around the corner. They were knocking on our door within minutes. Anita was calm and cool but I was a nervous wreck! After all, this was my first experience with the birth of a baby. Anita wanted some coffee and cake we had in the freezer. I kept pushing her to hurry up but she was just laughing and having a good time visiting. Finally we called a taxi and went to the hospital. Rochelle was born very soon after Anita was prepared in the delivery room. Rochelle came out smiling (maybe because of our midnight snack?) and never stopped doing that. I felt like a real big shot: I had a family with two children and a good job and we had a growing, albeit slowly growing, saving account.
I was now twenty-five years old. Rochelle was a really great addition to our family. She was such a happy and upbeat baby. Everyone said that she was as cute as a cookie and so she got her nickname "Cookie" which stuck with her for the rest of her early life. Because of our growing family, and also because now we could afford it better, we decided that it was time to move into a larger coop apartment. This worked out really well. Because we already were owners in the coop, we had preference on the waiting list and we were lucky that a two bedroom apartment became available soon. Looking back now I still get excited tracing the gradual growth and success of our family. We still could not afford any entertainment beyond a bus ride to Kissena Park and an occasional trip into Manhattan and the Central park zoo but it was a beginning and a continually improving situation. Anita was an angel throughout all of it. She worked so hard and her rewards were not great but she was always cheerful and never complained.
In 1956 I had a run-in with the IRS. Looking back at it now, it really was funny but at the time it happened we went through an anxious few weeks. In 1954 I had not made enough money for the long form of our tax return but in 1955 I was doing a little better. I made out my own tax form. It seemed simple enough except that I always have a little quirk in my Dutch brain which sometimes makes me interpret things incorrectly. So, when I read on the form that an amount for child care was tax deductible, I figured out how much it costs to take care of my two babies! Well, some time in 1956 I was called into the IRS where they questioned me how I could afford to pay for child care with the little money I was making. They said that I must be making more than I had declared. I already saw myself sitting in a jail cell. I told them I did not make more money than I had declared on our tax return but they said that everybody spends so an so much on entertainment and travel plus the child care costs plus money for food and that would total more than I had declared. I told the inspector about our "travel and entertainment" but he did not believe me. Not until he asked to whom I paid for the child care did I realize my mistake. We all had a good laugh but I still had to pay an extra seventy five dollars in taxes, I believe to pay for his time. I did not feel like fighting the IRS and I dutifully paid it. From that time I have been more careful .
Life was getting better. As I became more successful at work our financial situation improved somewhat. We bought new clothing and we started to expand our outings. Mark and Rochelle progressed nicely. They got along fine. Rochelle was born with a big grin on her face and she continued that way. She had lovely dimples. With a little touch to her lip she would smile broadly and show off her dimples. Anita often wanted to show this to friends and relatives. Sometimes Rochelle was asleep. Then Anita would gently touch her lips or cheeks and Rochelle would break out in a smile while still half asleep. We continued our favorite walk to the airport, now with one of us pushing the baby carriage and the other pushing a stroller. Mark was extremely bright. He recognized numbers at a very young age. He would point to an address and read the numbers aloud. Also he soon talked very well. He loved big words; he would point to a motor cycle and gleefully say "motokikle," one of his favorite words. He loved to go to the small neighborhood parks where he splashed around in the shallow wading pools while Rochelle was watching him from the carriage. She looked at everything very intensely probably to remember how to do it all later herself. And they both loved to swing for hours.
Things were going our way. In the summer of 1957 Anita and I had our first real vacation. Ettie and Pappa baby sat for us and we took off for a long weekend to the White Mountains. It felt as if the had world opened for us. Since we had met some five years earlier we had only been in New York, mostly in Queens, and I had spent time in the Army. Now we were breaking out of our boundary and we had some time all to ourselves. It felt great and I still appreciate our in-laws doing that for us.
We took a bus and stayed in a nice hotel in the Bear Mountains in upstate New York. We went for long nature walks. I, of course, took lots of pictures. One day they let us test drive a Chrysler car with the latest inventions: push button automatic shift and power steering. We were so impressed. We decided to check into the possibility of buying our first car! After we returned we went to a car showroom in our neighborhood and looked at the Plymouth cars on display. Almost every day we walked by there and looked longingly at the shining cars. In the fall of 1957 the new models came out and they advertised a car with the new power steering and push button shift. We had to go in and inquire. Of course, the salesman "got" us. Right then and there we ordered a 1957 Plymouth sedan and we ordered five seat belts, two in the front and three in the back. That was unusual in those days when people were not as safety conscious as they are today. I must have had a premonition because we soon would need all five seat belts. The car cost $1750.--. Of course, we did not have the money. No problem; the salesman instantly arranged a car loan for us to be paid off in three years. We did not know for sure that we could afford the payments but we went for it. That was one of the best decisions we had made. It changed our whole outlook on life. There was a little problem: I did not know how to drive! Fortunately, Anita did and she took the car home. I immediately made arrangement for driving lessons.
The next night I sat behind a steering wheel for the first time although in a driving school's car. It was my luck that it was pouring cats and dogs that night. Anita thought that I should cancel the lesson but I could not wait for my chance to drive a car. The instructor was excellent. First he made me sit in the car in the driver's seat. "How does that feel?" he asked. I was too excited to answer. He calmed me down and showed me all the knobs and buttons and then he told me to start the car and put it into gear. I was driving slowly. Wow! I was shaking! I was so proud as I inched a few yards along. It was so easy. Then he told me to stop and he said: "See all these cars on the road? In every car there is a potential killer and that is how I want you to drive!" The rest of my life I took his advice to heart. So, he told me to drive into a quiet side street and when I felt a little more confident he told me to turn into Queens Boulevard, the busiest street in Queens, with three lanes on each side plus two side lanes on each side. There was plenty of traffic and the streets were glistening and full of puddles and it was still raining. I hesitated but he encouraged me and before I knew it I was on the boulevard surrounded on all sides by cars. It took me just a few minutes to get the feeling of driving under these most difficult circumstances and then I felt very comfortable. That was the only lesson I had. After that I practiced parking and making U-turns in our own car. I immediately felt comfortable in the car. I loved driving and I still do. I give this instructor all the credit for my safe driving record. He taught me the right way to drive: defensively. After a short time I took my driving test which I passed with flying colors. This really changed my life. All of a sudden we were free like birds; we could go somewhere at a moment's notice, which we often did. We took day trips to upstate New York and to Connecticut. During the summer months we frequently went to Sunken Meadows, a beach and park on the North shore of Long Island. It was safe for the children and it was a lovely ride to the beach.
One of our favorite trips, and it became a yearly custom, was a week in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The first time we went we had no idea what to expect. We had no reservations and here we came with two little children and my wife pregnant with our third. The ride to the Poconos is very scenic, especially as one approaches the Delaware river. We took our time and we arrived late in the afternoon at Mount Pocono, a little town where we hoped to stay. We stopped off at a few places on the way but we did not like what we saw. We definitely did not want to spend a week with the children in a hotel. Just as we became desperate we saw an information booth of the local Chamber of Commerce. Were we ever lucky! They directed us to the Brown family. We had to get off the main highway, follow a narrow country road through a gorgeous forest for a few miles and there we saw the place. The main house was a large old wooden building. Mrs. Brown pointed to an idyllic cabin sat back in the forest which was to be our home every year for a week for many years. It had been a barn but they had rebuilt it and now it was a well equipped modern cabin with a large living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. It was ideal for us. It was spacious, light and comfortable and reasonable. That was important because I had just started to have a steady income and still could not afford anything luxurious.
The first night we could hardly sleep: it was so quiet and dark. All you heard was the sound of the wind in the trees. Once in a while we heard animals rummaging around the cabin and once, looking quietly from our bedroom window, we saw a large deer walking by. This was all new and exciting for us. We were "city folks" and this was a different world. It was excellent for the children. During the day they could run around as much as they wanted. We went on lovely trips to gorgeous waterfalls and forests. Many times we went to a lake to let the children swim and we had a picnic on the beach. One of the highlights was our trip to Bushkill falls. After entering the park gate we had to hike a long way over narrow trails and boardwalks following a wild creek through the most beautiful forest I had ever seen. It was a long and arduous hike, especially for Anita who was now late in her pregnancy. She did not complain and enjoyed the outing thoroughly. Our reward came when we arrived at the end of the trail, a steep roaring waterfall. We rested there for a while after which we returned slowly but surely to our car and our cabin. Needless to say, I have a lot of slides and movies of these excursions.
This was also the time when I became serious about painting. I had taken some classes in a high school and even at a school of art. In the Poconos I did my first painting from nature when I painted a picture of our cabin with the forest as the background. Since then I painted some twenty paintings, many of these ocean and other water scenes. To my great surprise, I actually sold one. Others I gave away and we have several of these hanging in our house. I was inspired to do this by uncle Maurice who was an excellent painter. My last work I did just after we moved to Phoenix, in 1966. It was a painting of Anita lighting the Hanukka candles on the last night of that festival. It was quite good but I lost interest in the hobby and I have never painted since. Some day I hope to get back to that again.
We were very proud to own such a nice car but we were brought up in the old fashioned way and so we were very unhappy to make our monthly payments. As I told you before, we had started saving from the very first time I made a little money. During those few years we had accumulated a few thousand dollars and we decided to dip into that fund and to pay off our car. The bank was quite surprised but we were very happy to get this behind us. We decided from then on not ever to have a debt again and we stuck to that decision the rest of our lives, except for a mortgage on a house.
When things go that well something has to go wrong and it did. I became very busy and successful at Thomas and Victor's. That became a problem for Victor. He never was as popular as Thomas and now I was catching up with him. Some of his customers asked me to do the permanent waves and hair coloring. This became embarrassing. At one point, after Victor was out of the shop for a few weeks due to an illness, many of his customers changed their appointments permanently to me. Victor, who was not very strong , slowed down a lot. He showed signs of irritation with some of his customers and certainly with me. I talked it over with Thomas and he agreed that Victor had become unhappy with the situation. I decided to look for another place to work. Here follows another episode in my life where seemingly difficult times turned out for the better and ended up preparing me for my next step-up into the future.
It was now the summer of 1958. I was twenty eight years old. It did not take me long to find a job this time; I now had a following of a very fine clientele. I wanted to stay in the neighborhood so I would not lose this following and I did not want to commute. I do not remember how I found "Pierre Hair stylists" but somehow I got into contact with Mr. Pierre and he hired me on the spot. He was thrilled to find a hairdresser with knowledge of permanent waving and hair coloring and who could do the latest hairstyles. With the following I would bring into his salon I demanded and got a high commission rate which enhanced my financial situation instantly.
This job was absolutely perfect for me and a preparation for my future success. Mr. Pierre, whose real name was Gustaf Drakoudis, was a middle-aged man from Greece, who was tired of working and, because of that, impatient with his customers. He often poked fun at them and he was not always polite to them. He was an incorrigible gambler; he liked nothing better than to take off to the races where he lost a lot of money and seldom won anything. He thought nothing of leaving the shop, even if he had appointments, to go to the race track or to his friends for a long poker game where, according to him, he made the money for his horse betting. This of course gave me the opportunity to build up an additional clientele. He had two girls working for him and a manucurist who doubled as a receptionist. Together they had stolen plenty from him while he was out of the shop. He was aware of it but he called that part of his entertainment expense. He made me the unofficial manager. The first thing I did was getting the girls to enter all the money they charged the customers on a sales slip and I told them to stop taking supplies from the shop. That did not go over too well but after some months they got used to it and we got along fabulously. They were also rather lazy and moved like molasses. This also was to my advantage because I was able to get extra customers in my chair while they were busy gossiping.
The shop started to flourish. Pierre was so pleased with me that he took more and more time off to go to the races. He also put me in charge of ordering supplies. In the beginning this was difficult but I soon learned the ropes and the supply men were very helpful. Within six months I was completely in charge of the shop. Both Pierre and I were thrilled and the girls were also happy to earn some more income than they had previously. Soon the shop had a reputation of a first class salon with the latest hairstyles. We even did hairstyles with rollers, a novelty! Then a new hair styling technique became popular: teasing or "ratting" the hair, to make it look like a rat's nest or a balloon. I never got the hang of it, so I decided to take a stand: I was busy enough with my customers without teasing their hair, so I turned down anybody who wanted their hair teased and gave them to the girls. I continued that throughout the rest of my career. I might add that I did very well without teasing the hair. There were plenty of ladies who liked the soft, casual look I gave them. Besides that, it took the girls so long to do all that fussing, that I could do three clients during that time or even wrap a permanent wave. So, I did not mind giving up the "tease" clientele.
In the meantime, Mr. Pierre gradually spent less time in the shop. He gave me the keys and full responsibility of the business. One day he came back from the race track all excited. He kept repeating: " I almost won $2000.-- on a long shot! Missed it by the tip of the nose!" I asked him what good "almost" was but he ignored that and kept telling everybody in the shop about his exciting afternoon when he "almost" won $2000.--. On another day he tried to encourage me to place a bet on a horse. It was the Kentucky Derby race (at that time I did not even know what that was) and he explained everything about the odds and told me that for a two dollar bet I could win a lot of money. After a while he somewhat convinced me and I reluctantly placed my bet. I figured that I might as well win big so I bet on a long shot, something like thirty two to one. He put the radio on very loudly, something that the customers certainly did not appreciate. I was very busy that afternoon so I did not pay much attention to all these goings on. Every once in a while I asked how the race was getting along. Well, it had not started yet. A while later I asked again because there was a lot of music and applause and announcements and it all sounded very exciting. No, it had not started yet. More screaming and hollering. Still nothing. I told him to tell me when it would start. Well, he forgot because minutes later he told me I had lost my bet. I had not even noticed that the race had started and it was already over and I was out of my hard earned two dollars. That was my first and last bet on the races. Another time he came in between two stern looking policemen. He was booked for off track betting which was then illegal. The next morning he came back to work. I asked him how things were going because I had not expected him so soon. I thought that he would spend at least some time in jail. Well, he explained the facts of life to me: he had given a lawyer a few thousand dollars and the lawyer knew whom to pay off so he did not even have to go before a judge. That was something new to me. I had never learned that in the Lorenz Lyceum in Holland, in the Army or even at the Beauty Academy!
Life was bright and sunny. Our finances became more secure and, thank G'd, we had a healthy family so we could enjoy life to the fullest with our limited finances. We went on rides regularly, sometimes to Sunken Meadow Beach (our favorite), occasionally to Jones Beach or the Bear Mountains in upstate New York. We also went regularly to Central Park for a nice walk and a visit to the zoo and to the Bronx Park where the flower display in the spring was exquisite. On many of these excursions Ettie and Pappa joined us. I believe that they really appreciated these outings because they had no other way of getting around.
I have no horror stories to tell about my in-laws. Ettie and Pappa were angels. We always enjoyed their company and they loved us and the children. I loved them dearly and I believe that they liked me also quite a bit. They always showed appreciation for what little we did for them. We spent all our holidays with them and we especially looked forward to the yearly Passover Seders (traditional meals and readings) in their house. Ettie was a good cook and Pappa helped her very much. And he was so proud to lead us in the traditional prayers. He always had some jokes to tell us many of which he regularly repeated on later occasions. He was a thoroughly good person. He always worked hard but never made much money. He gave his boss more than his wages worth. With all that he worked till well in his seventies before he finally retired. Ettie was the educated person in the family. She had gone to college (unusual in those days for a girl) and she financially helped their son Milton and daughter Anita through college. Anita had a masters degree in nursing and she worked in a supervisory job until I insisted (because of my European background and culture) that a married woman should not work. It was up to the man of the house to provide for the family!
So, the whole family was very close except for Milton. He lived in New Jersey and, except for the few times we took Ettie and Pappa there for a visit, we hardly ever saw them. However, there was another member of the family who was my favorite. That was Tante Peppi. She was a soft and roly-poly person who had endured many hardships but she maintained an utterly positive outlook on life. Even though she could hardly walk and only in shoes which were custom made for her, she never complained and one never heard a single bad word about anybody from her. She loved everybody and everybody was wonderful and talented and beautiful and well behaved in her eyes. When she came for a visit she brought a box full of little nothings for everybody: a little key, an old little purse, some buttons or trinkets she got from who-knows-where. The story went around that Milton, Anita's older brother, visited her one day when she had just acquired a new piano. Milton, a little kid then, managed to scratch some words with a nail into the piano. Everybody was so upset but Tante Peppi said:" At least he spelled the words correctly!" I do not know whether this really happened but I tend to believe it because that is the kind of person she was. She was the sister of Ettie and she, too, was highly intelligent. They were Einstein's and supposedly related to Albert Einstein. Tante Peppi had a great influence on my way of thinking. I tried all my life to follow her philosophy. It is not easy always to think positively about all persons one knows or to see hope when things look to be hopeless. But I tried and it has helped me through some difficult times.
In the meantime life was good to us. Our family was growing
and we had more money for entertainment. It was around this time that we
invited my mother to spend some time with us. I had kept up a steady correspondence
with her but I had not seen her since 1952. She had no money to pay for
such a journey so we decided to treat her. The first time, in November
1958, was very special because this was at the birth of our third child,
Robert Scott. It was a double treat: the birth of our child and the first
visit of my mother. There was such excitement in the air. It was hard for
Anita to have a strange mother-in-law in the house while she was in the
last stages of her pregnancy but things worked out. For me it was one of
the highlights in my life and the children loved "Grandma Julie" instantly.
|On Nov. 16 1958 our youngest child, Robert Scott Greenwood was born. It completed a well rounded family. Robert was handsome from the minute he was born and he had a devilish gleam in his eyes which we adored. He constantly looked around and focused intently on something he wanted to learn or remember. My mother liked to feed Robert. During one of these feedings she called us over and said: "This boy (Robert) has such a strong will. He is only a few weeks old and, look, he takes the bottle with great force and pushes it away when he wants to take a break. When he is good and ready he grabs the bottle again and puts it to his mouth to drink some more. You are going to have your hands full with this boy when he grows older." This proved to be prophetic but we could not see that at that moment.|
It was quite a sight to see Anita, with Mark walking along her side, and pushing Robert in the baby carriage with Rochelle sitting on a seat on top of the carriage. Often, when Anita went shopping, she even dragged a shopping cart behind her in addition to her entourage of children. What a scene! Sometimes she would meet me that way as I was walking home from work.
Grandma Julie only stayed for a few weeks. Then we saw her off from the quay of New York Harbor. It was a very emotional farewell especially as the "Rotterdam" slowly left the pier and then gradually turned around to face the ocean and little by little my mother disappeared in the distance. I still can feel this sad emotion after all these years. At subsequent trips I did not feel it so strongly. I suppose I got used to saying farewell but during the first parting it was very difficult. We immediately decided to have her come over every other year and that is what happened until she became too ill to travel.
Next -> CHAPTER 12: STARTING OUR OWN BUSINESS
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