As soon as we got settled at home we made preparations for our move. We told our children about our plans. They were less than enthusiastic about it but that could not stand in our way. We understood that it was scary for them to leave the familiar surroundings and friends behind but we gave them ample time to get used to the idea. For us a very difficult time was ahead; we had to sell our house, our business and two cars, hopefully without too much upheaval. My greatest fear was that I would sell the business too soon and that I would be without income for many months, or that we would sell our house too soon and the whole family would have to move into an apartment for many months until the move. We timed our move with the end of the school year so our children would not have to change schools in the middle of the year. We immediately put a "for sale" ad for everything in the paper and hoped for the best. We also ordered the Phoenix daily paper to our house so that we would get acquainted with what was going on in Arizona.
Little by little we had to say farewell to our family and friends. We arranged garden parties so we could talk to several couples at the same time. I personally found it the most difficult to say good bye to Tante Pepi who had had such a great influence on my life and who was already quite old and her health was not very good. We never saw her again. I am still grateful for her philosophy of life which I made mine and which helped me to get through the difficult times I encountered later.
We decided that I should go to Phoenix prior to our move to try to at least get a house ready for us to move into. I went for five days in the middle of May, during one of the hottest years on record! This was my first trip without Anita since we were married. It felt rather strange. I had to find a hotel room and did everything by myself. This is not the way I like to do things. I called her every night to let her know about the progress.
Again, everything went as smoothly as it can go. During the first day I rode around in my rented car and started to shop for a new car which would be waiting for us when we made our permanent move. I found a lovely Chevrolet Impala and managed to get it for a great price. I walked out of the showroom when the salesman did not agree to the low price I offered. I returned the next night, just before closing, showed him a cashier check for three thousand dollars and told him that this was all I had, take it or leave it. After some talk with his boss he accepted my offer and I was now the proud owner of a beautiful new car which would be waiting for us when we moved to Phoenix in August.
Nearby the car dealer I found a real estate agent. Mr. Emile Marcous. He was a wonderful agent who understood exactly what we needed for our family. I told him that I had to find a house within five days and buy it! Well, he said we had to start early, like eight or nine o'clock in the morning. He could not scare me with that time. He could not know that I hardly ever sleep more than four or five hours at night. I said: "What is wrong with 7 am?" And that is what we did. He drove me around the greater Phoenix area and showed me many houses in the price range we could afford but it was only on the day before I had to return to Phoenix that we found our dream house. It had exactly what we wanted: four nice bedrooms, a large family room and living room, a completely equipped kitchen and a lush garden with large citrus trees and palm trees. The house was located in a lovely residential street in what was then North Phoenix, north of Northern Avenue, behind the large estates which we had seen just five months earlier. In 1966 that was the end of Phoenix. There was not much developed north of Northern Avenue and west of 7th Avenue. The agent was very accommodating and accepted just one hundred dollars for "earnest money" to hold the house until August when we would do the closing and make our move to Phoenix. What could be better? In five days I had managed to buy a car and a house which would be ready for us when we arrived later to start our new life in Arizona. I returned to New York with the good news and a case full of official papers for Anita to sign.
As I had planned to leave my hairdressing career behind I contacted a wig manufacturer whose wigs I handled in the Elmhurst store. I planned to get into a wholesale and retail wig business in Phoenix. I felt that after selling wigs and toupees for about two years in my Elmhurst Salon I was sufficiently familiar with the business. I visited the show room of the Marshall wig company which manufactured high quality human hair wigs which then was very much in vogue. I invested seven thousand dollars at distributor prices ( and, as always, paid for it in cash) which at that time was a considerable amount of money. I was really excited about it but it ended up to be a big mistake. I will write about this later.
Time was going fast. Now again, everything fell in place as we had planned. It was like a miracle. I worked in the salon until the day we planned to move to Phoenix, we lived in our house until the night of our departure for Phoenix and we even drove to the airport in our own car where the new owner picked it up! Unbelievable! The move itself also went smoothly. We found out that each person was allowed three suitcases on the airplane, so we bought enough suitcases so that we dragged all the heavy things, such as books and gramophone records, in fifteen suitcases to the airport. This saved us a lot of money on the move as they charged quite a lot per hundred pounds to move us cross country. We had quite a laugh when it seemed that the airplane had trouble getting up from the ground. We thought that it was dragging its tail because of our fifteen heavy suitcases weighing it down. But everything went well and we arrived in Phoenix safely where the temperature late at night was one hundred and five degrees! It was August 5th, 1966. We decided to rent a station wagon to drag our fifteen suitcases loaded with the heaviest items to our house. As we left the airport the rear end of the wagon dragged just inches above the pavement so we had to drive to our house very carefully and very slowly.
Our kids were not thrilled with this adventure. They were scared of the unfamiliar surroundings and it was pitch black when we reached our house. We did have electricity but no telephone and our furniture had not yet arrived. The air conditioning kept us cool but we had no beds and it was too late to rent anything. The empty house was not very inviting. To make them feel at home I took everybody for a ride in our new car. I bragged how easy it was to get around Phoenix because all streets were straight for many miles. Then I drove on Northern Avenue to demonstrate this. I did not know then that Northern Avenue was one of the few streets that went through the mountains and ended up in the middle of the desert between Phoenix and Paradise Valley. There were no lights as the road became more winding and the Saguaro cacti on both sides seemed to reach out to our car. The children became petrified so I quickly turned back and returned to the safety of our house.
The next morning I got into action. I contacted the moving company which told us the unsettling news that our moving van was delayed and that we would not get our things until at least a week later. I called the real estate man and he was wonderful. He said he had an empty apartment where we could stay until we received our furniture at no cost to us. It was a two bedroom apartment but the kids did not mind sharing one bedroom as long as they did not have to stay in that awful, empty house. In those days apartments were located in one story buildings so we had access to the gardens and the swimming pool where the children spent the whole day. And we had a place to cook and eat. Every day we called the moving company without any positive results. Mr.Marcoux became a little impatient after one week. After all, we were not paying any rent. I pleaded for a few more days but eventually we had to move into our unfurnished house. Luckily, our furniture arrived a few days later and after a little while we settled into a routine.
W e immediately joined a synagogue. We decided on Beth Israel, a reformed synagogue, for several reasons. First of all, I had gone to Beth Israel the week I had come to buy the house and our car. Then, people treated me with great warmth. The Rabbi, Rabbi Plotkin, was great and so was cantor Chessler. There was also an older Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Jaffe, who was in his eighties and whom I admired greatly. The service was very traditional for a reformed synagogue and there was a Hebrew school principal, who was a real "mensch" ( I cannot translate that word but it is something like a "wonderful person") and who understood our financial situation and did in no way embarrass us while making special arrangements so all our kids could go to Hebrew school. I will always remember him. Soon after that, in December 1966, Mark had his Bar Mitzvah. Unfortunately for him we had no chance to make new friends in Phoenix, so it was a very simple event. We did invite Ettie and Papa for a visit and that made it a kind of a family reunion. They really liked Phoenix and I tried to talk them into moving here but they were not yet ready for such a big move.
Now I had to get to work and find a place to open my shop. I quickly found out that this was nothing like doing business in New York. In one way it was more relaxed and people were friendlier and very easy to talk to. I soon realized that there was not much available in the price range I could afford. Finally, I found a small store in a strip of stores. It was a narrow, deep store with a showroom in the front and six small rooms in the back. I thought that this would be ideal for a wig store. I had done my homework. It was a good location (Indian School Road and 24th Street), thousands of cars passed every day, it had a good parking lot and people had to pass my store to go to the Post Office, which was right next door, and the grocery store which was around the corner. I made a very elegant looking store and even spent money to make a fancy entrance door with a large brass door knob and beautiful outdoor carpeting leading to the door. We decided on the name and paid a fortune for a beautiful sign: "Greenwood Wigs."
It looked all very impressive but that did not help me. The passing cars did just that: they passed by the thousands going to and from work. The post office was always busy and the people parked right in front of my store, backed up to the sidewalk and when they left black smoke dirtied my fancy outdoor carpet. A steady stream of people passed my store all day but they just passed, nobody entered even to look out of curiosity. I soon realized that this was not going to be a repetition of the fast take off I had had in New York. I had a supply of seven thousand dollars worth of stock and no clients. It did not look good. I decided to try wholesaling the wigs but for this I needed an assistant in the store. I put an advertisement in the paper but not one person answered! Just when I thought that everything was for naught a girl walked in who said that she worked for a wig shop in the neighborhood and that she wanted to make a change. I was so desperate that I hired her on the spot.
The following week she started working for me. I immediately prepared myself for my wholesale business. I went through the yellow pages and made a list of all the better beauty salons which sold wigs (mine was a high priced product) and the wig shops. Then I put a sign on the car with the name and telephone number of the shop and off I went to introduce myself to over one hundred beauty and wig salon owners in a twenty mile radius from our business. It took weeks but I did get some orders, enough to keep us from going bankrupt. But I soon found out that this was not going to get me very far either. Many times I had to pick up a hairpiece, which I thought I had sold. Because the color or style was not just right I had to exchange it for another piece and drive another twenty or thirty mile round trip to please the customer. Sometimes the salon owner asked me to come when the customer had an appointment to see exactly what was needed only to find out that the lady had changed her mind or canceled her appointment. But as long as I could meet expenses and have a little left over for the family I wanted to give it a try.
So it went on for many months. Occasionally I would venture farther out of town, to Tucson and Globe and Miami. Mostly these trips were unsuccessful and my intake on those days seldom covered my expenses . But I enjoyed the ride and especially the few times I took Robert or Mark along. Then two things happened which convinced me to throw in the towel. On one of my selling trips I stopped in at a large wig salon trying to sell my fancy wigs. I later found out that this was the largest, most successful wig chain in Arizona, "Heddy's Wigs." Heddy Spitz (we later became good friends) was a lovely Hungarian Jewish lady. She talked to me like a mother would talk to a son and explained at great length what direction the wig business was taking. She was retailing Korean nylon wigs for about one quarter to one tenth of the price I had paid for my wigs at distributor's prices. She told me very frankly that I would never be able to sell my wigs for the price they demanded and that real hair wigs were out! Even though she was giving me a lot of bad news, I liked her very much because she was so sincere and friendly.
If that was not enough the following event convinced me to try to get rid of my shop. After a difficult morning on the road I returned to my fancy shop and smelled a strong smell of french fried potatoes. I could not imagine how that was possible. There was no fast food restaurant nearby. I asked my assistant where the smell came from. She explained, without blinking an eye, that she had put her lunch consisting of hamburger and french fries in the wig drier to keep it warm! I ran over to the drier, which was a large cabinet through which hot air blows to dry the newly styled wigs, and there was her lunch with the grease actually bubbling in the heat. Needles to say that I fired her immediately. It took me weeks to get rid of the smell in the cabinet and the wigs and the store. It even had penetrated into the carpet! It sounds funny to me now writing about it but at that time I was near tears. What was I supposed to do? I could not leave the store and I could not get new help. I advertised the store for sale. Again, this was not like in New York. For months nobody answered. I advertised the store for rent because my lease was for three years and I did not want to get stuck there for that long and the word "bankruptcy" was not in my vocabulary. And here I had some luck. A lawyer in the area was looking for a larger office and he liked the six rooms in the back. Within one year I was in and out of the wig business.
Our family life continued in a more or less orderly fashion. One of the first things we did after our business was set up, was to get a dog for the whole family. We all missed Prince a lot. We had decided to leave him behind with a family who had just lost their German Shephard, mainly because he always became sick, even when traveling in a car and I imagined how he would feel locked up in a cage in the hold of an airplane. We wrote to that family and asked them, whether they had any trouble with him. If so, we would be happy to take him off their hands. I think we had some misgivings about leaving him behind. We soon received an answer which made us feel even worse: Prince had refused to eat anything since we had left him and he had died of starvation.
We were so upset! I promised the kids a dog, preferably a German shepherd. We looked in the paper and very soon found an ad: six months old German Shepherd for sale, house-broken, make offer. We immediately called the person who wanted to sell the dog and the next day we drove to Scottsdale to look at the dog. The house was located on the outskirts of Scottsdale, now just North of central Scottsdale, about half a mile north of Camelback Road. The man's property was surrounded by a fence. As we left the car and walked towards the house a young, large but beautiful shepherd jumped over the six foot fence and, with a loud bark, placed himself in front of us, blocking the path to the house. Since my childhood I never had a fear of dogs, so I offered him the back of my hand to let him sniff it and repeatedly told him how lovely and beautiful he was, which was the truth. This calmed him down and he started walking around all of us, sniffing one after the other. In the meanwhile the man walked over and re-assured us that he was very good with children and not to be afraid of him. I loved the dog right away and it was not long before we agreed about the price. The man gave us his dog bowl and some left-over dog food, told us that he called the dog "Shep" and we said good bye. As the children went into the back of the car the dog also jumped in, pushed the kids aside and lay down on the top ledge in front of the rear window. He was immediately part of our family, one of the children. The kids loved him, he loved the kids and Anita and I were absolutely thrilled. He was a "man's" dog; whenever I was home he sat right next to me, touching my chair or hand or leg. When I got up he followed me wherever I went. After a short while he understood everything we said. More about Shep later.
Now I had to find another way to make a living. I was burnt out as far as wigs and hairdressing was concerned but I still had almost seven thousand dollars worth of wigs. Again something happened which pointed me in the right direction. We had made some friends during that time and when things were at their worst we met some one in our friends' house one evening. The conversation went as it usually goes when one meets a new acquaintance: "what do you do and what is your business, etc." I told my sad story and mentioned that I did not know what to do. Then this person said: "You have a skill acquired over a period of some fifteen years, you were successful in New York, you liked the business, so do not throw all this away. Go back to what you know best. Do not try something you are unfamiliar with. You will be struggling for years." I listened to his advice and this then became the beginning of a very successful second career as a hairdresser. I never met this person again because, ironically, the man who was my age, died very soon after I met him. I often think of him and I will always be grateful for his wise advice.
And so I started to look for a location for a beauty salon. I did not have enough cash to open a large salon in a good location or to buy an existing successful salon. In the paper I saw an ad for a salon for sale in our own area, walking distance from our house. In my heart I was hoping that it would be a repetition of my good luck in Elmhurst but it was not to be. The lady who owned the salon was not a hairdresser. She more or less managed the salon and had a real estate office in the front area. I saw some possibility in this shop. It was a deep store and the front room, where her office was, seemed ideal for displaying my wigs. Two operators were running the salon, the oldest of the two being kind of in charge. I interviewed them, trying to find out how much of a following they had or, at least, how much money they brought into the business. They were very vague about all that which surprised me. After all, when you want to buy a salon you need to know its potential. Even though I could not learn about their strength or weakness, I liked the salon. I liked the location, right on 7th Street, a major street in Phoenix and I liked the large front window which reminded me of my New York shop and which showed a beautiful view of the West side of Squaw Peak Mountain. That alone weighed very heavily on my decision to buy the business. This may sound un-businesslike but I like to see something beautiful during hard times. It boosts my morale. I also liked the salon. It was small with three stations which left one station open for me in case I had to jump in. I was also hoping that I could keep my wholesale and retail wig business running while the two ladies ran the salon. With this in mind Anita and I decided to buy the salon and to name it "A & F Wig and Beauty Salon." The "A" stood for Anita who got top billing because it would put us farther to the front of the Yellow Pages. The "F" stood for Fred, of course. After weighing the pros and cons we decided to pay cash for the business which was eight thousand dollars, a lot of money for such a small business in 1967. But we could manage to do it and it would mean that every dollar profit would be ours and we would not have to share it with a bank and pay interest on top of that. This proved to be a smart decision in the long run but hard on our nerves in the beginning.
When we became more or less settled in our new situation, we started to travel again. Our first trips were to California, to Los Angeles and San Diego. Then we started camping in the forests of Arizona. We enjoyed that very much, especially Robert and Anita and I. Rochelle came along under protest. We did not feel comfortable leaving her home without parental supervision. After all, she was then only eleven or twelve years old. Mark did not go along with us. He had a large newspaper route which kept him busy. Also, he was a little older and mature for his age. First we rented a tent trailer. Later we bought one and eventually sold that and had a truck with a camper on top. Then we bought a small trailer. We ended up getting rid of all those large units and just threw a large tent and all our equipment in the back of our station wagon, which was our second car for Anita.
While all this was going on I started to work on our back yard. It was beautiful with four large citrus trees (the house was built in an old citrus grove) and one large and very messy female mulberry tree. That tree left some bad memories for the boys because every fall they had to cut the enormous branches it had grown during the spring and summer. I had a great fear of height so Mark and Robert had to do that task, mostly under protest. But they did it and I still appreciate them for that. I started to think of beautifying the back yard. I read an article in the Sunset magazine that described how to re-make a back yard while making use of the existing strong points such as the large citrus trees. I read how to make a free-form reflecting pool and I decided to make it between the two grapefruit trees facing the sliding door of our family room. With a garden hose I made a rough figure eight and started digging following that design. It sounds easy but I had to dig and move a lot of dirt. In order to have the finished pool as deep as I wanted it I had to dig four feet deep and a twenty by twelve foot oval. Then I lined it with six layers of cement with a total of about three inches thickness and finally a layer of sealant. On the outside I added the natural rocks which we had collected from different parts of Arizona and Colorado on our frequent camping trips. It ended to be a lovely reflecting pool, one side six feet in diameter and two feet deep and the other nine and a half feet in diameter and about three and a half feet deep. At the narrowest section the water was only about a foot deep. Behind it I made a two foot high mound of boulders on which I planted an Italian Cypress. After the water had cured we bought some goldfish and water hyacinths. Then I made a small fountain near the Cypress with a large cement frog spitting out water into the pool. I finished it with some spotlights which made the whole scene very dramatic at night. The fish flourished, had many young and became quite large over the years. It became the center piece of our garden and it was a beauty. I spent many hours there just watching nature at work. After a short while the pool was self sustained. I never had to feed the fish. They caught mosquitoes and other bugs coming for a drink. Somehow we got mosquito fish into the pool and these were wonderful to watch as they did their water ballet in their quest for natural bait. Soon frogs found our pool and once an enormous bullfrog, who kept us up a good part of the night with his sonorous call. I suspect that Robert had something to do with that. I also decided to build a large aviary. I was influenced by the walk-in aviary we had seen during our trip to San Diego. With Anita's help I made a cage which was ten by ten feet and nine feet high. We went to the Roer Bird farm where we bought some fancy finches and also a Chinese nightingale and a fancy Brazilian cardinal who woke up the whole neighborhood with his lovely song. Later we made an additional smaller cage after we bought a price winning Dutch rabbit at the Arizona state fair. We also bought a miniature windmill which looks like the ones you find on the farms, used for pumping water out of a well. We put that next to our reflecting pool which added to its beauty. Robert added to our collection when he came home with one large and four smaller desert tortoises. The large one we named Elmer. The small tortoises seemed to like the surroundings because they actually had babies in our back yard. A few died but the rest we had for more than twenty years. I loved that garden. It was so peaceful and quiet and, even in the heat of the Phoenix summer, it was comfortable sitting under the grapefruit tree by the pond.
In the meanwhile I faced another challenge. I tried to build up the beauty shop. I soon found out that the girls did not contribute a great deal to my income but my profit after all expenses at least covered the rent of the store. I continued servicing my wholesale wig clients and also did some retail wig business and the girls did additional business styling wigs. Altogether it was enough to give me a little income. However, I soon discovered that the business could not grow. The girls were not very ambitious. They were more interested in going home early than in building up their trade. They also did not like the idea that they now had a hairdresser as their boss who knew how to run the business. Under their old boss they had run the show but not very productively. I decided to get into action and to get some more life into the business. I spent money on advertising the salon which gave us some new customers. One of our most exciting advertising campaigns was when a photographer was willing to offer our customers a free eight by ten photograph in the hope that he could sell additional copies. I advertised that heavily and for the first time we had a large crowd in our salon for a while. But I noticed that, as the girls became busier they also became very selective about which customers they would cater to and which customers they would rush out of their chairs. They were also very poor in selling so their bills were minimal. I had a feeling that they gave some services away or that they put the money into their own pockets. So, I started a system of numbered checks, one for each customer with a duplicate check going to the customer. This did not particularly increase their love for me.
One day after I did my usual daily counting of the money I noticed that the drawer was ten dollars short. I decided to overlook it but to keep a very close eye on their activities. I stayed more in the shop and after another shortage of money I decided to confront them with it as diplomatically as I could be. I told them that we had been short in the cash drawer a few times. I did not accuse them of stealing but could they, please, be very careful when giving change to the customers. I told them that I understood that sometimes, when busy, they had to take cash as they were taking care of customers so that such a mistake was possible but to, please, be extra careful. The older girl, who had been some kind of a manager until I bought the shop, got mad. Did I, by any chance, accuse her of stealing? Oh no, not a chance in the world. Just pay more attention when giving change so you will not make any mistakes. Well, I tried to tip-toe through the situation but the following week she said that, if I did not trust her, she would rather quit. Well, here was a challenge I had to face. She was the busier of the two girls and she had more experience. Without her my little income would immediately be cut by two thirds. Yet, I could not let her control the business, not the way she failed to take advantage of the increase of business due to the increase in advertising. So, I again told her that I did not accuse her of anything but that, if she felt uncomfortable working under these circumstances, she was free to leave. Which she promptly did.
This put me in a very peculiar position. I asked the other girl, Penny Stasnopolis, how she felt about it. I was glad that she decided to stay. I think that she realized that, without her older co-worker, she would be getting busier. I promised that I would promote her as much as I could but I also told her that, under these circumstances, I had to start working now as a hairdresser besides taking care of my wig business. I also decided not to hire another girl. I felt that the two of us could do quite a good business if she only was willing to work hard and put in more hours. This was to her liking. From that day our business grew by leaps and bounds. We both became very busy and I finally started to make some money. I had some nice promotions the most successful of which was a repeat of the portrait promotion.
To my shock I noticed that after a few weeks we had lost most of the new customers. Penny simply was not willing to make the effort to retain that many patrons. That is when I decided to go back to hairdressing full time. The opportunity was there and I did not want to squander it just to be nice to Penny. So, I put myself with all my energy into building up our business and within a short period we built up a wonderful trade. I said farewell to the wholesale wig trade and became again a full time hair stylist. This was one of the best decisions I made in my life because my second career as a hairstylist became extremely lucrative.
One problem had to be resolved: I had a large stock of very expensive wigs left over which I could not sell in my store. Everybody wanted the artificial hair wigs because they were very reasonable and easy to maintain. First I put an ad in the paper without any result. I offered my wigs below my distributor price to some of my better wig stores but they also did not want these real hair wigs any more. Then I thought I was really smart: I took my whole supply of these beautiful wigs and hairpieces to the "Park & Swap" at the Greyhound Park at Washington Street, rented a space for the day and took the whole family there from six in the morning until late in the afternoon. It ended up to be a nice outing. The kids went shopping with Anita and bought some colorful baby chicks and I wanted a large bag of oranges. It was a wonderful day with nice cool sunny weather but I could not sell one iota. One lady was interested in a gorgeous long-hair "showgirl" wig. I had paid one hundred and fifty dollars for it and it was supposed to retail for two hundred and fifty dollars. I offered it to her for thirty five dollars and she walked away! When she returned later in the afternoon I asked her to make me an offer, any offer. No luck. Finally I told her, just to test her, that she could have it for five dollars. When she refused even that I decided it was time to go home. The whole day, including lunches and shopping, cost us about eighty dollars. But the kids enjoyed their chicks and we all enjoyed our oranges and a nice day in the sun. It pays to have a sense of humor when you are in business! I ended up giving all the hairpieces to a welfare shop and taking a nice tax deduction.
At home things were getting more and more out of hand. There always was an air of tension which I handled by spending more time in the garden, especially after dark. Of course, this was not particularly helpful but I loved to watch the fish trying to catch mosquitoes which were taking a sip from the pool and the antics of the frogs. After a while the pond was filled with tadpoles and newborn goldfish and mosquito fish. It was a lively scene and I could watch it for hours and hours. This gave me the relaxation I needed from the hard day's work at the salon but it did not solve the difficult situation with the family. Robert and Rochelle were constantly in each other's hair and Anita was often near tears. Mark was out of sight when things heated up; he was smart. I tried to do the same by sitting and meditating at the pool but I could not get away with that. Sooner or later I was drawn into the melee. I never could figure out who was right or wrong and ended up punishing one or the other, mostly Robert who, at least in front of me, seemed the most problematic in his behavior. I probably mishandled the situation but at that time in my life I could not see it any other way. I hope that the children forgave me for it.
And so, we settled down into some kind of routine. The business grew steadily and, with it, my income. For the first time, after two years of struggle, we were able to put some money away for our savings. At home things became gradually even more hectic. The kids were constantly in each other's hair and Anita could not control them. Rochelle felt completely miserable under these circumstances. It seemed that she took the brunt of the upheavals, so once in a while I took her to the shop, especially on Saturdays when everybody was home from school. Friday evenings we went to Temple Beth Israel which was very difficult because the children did not enjoy it and could not be kept quiet. As the children grew older, into the terrible teens, things became more tense and difficult. I am not going to dwell on it or even describe what was going on. Each one of my children have their own version of those days and each one is convinced that he or she is right. All of us put a different spin on it. At this point it is a moot question and I just wish that everybody put this difficult time behind them and that we will become one whole family again. If that happens I will always regret that Anita could not witness it. As for me, it was maybe ten percent of my life. The other ninety percent was so good and exciting that I do not want to spend even one percent of this history of my life on that time.
During the first seven years in Phoenix we went camping all over Arizona and occasionally in Colorado. I will never forget our first experience with camping. We were all excited because we had rented a beautiful and comfortable tent trailer. We could not wait until we could try it out. We decided to go to the Grand Canyon. It was Memorial day 1967. The freeway to Flagstaff was not finished yet. At Bell Road, which was then still outside the city limits and in the middle of the desert, it became a one lane highway and later it occasionally disappeared altogether. We had just crested a ridge approaching Camp Verde when our trailer got a flat tire. Here we were standing, all packed for our exciting trip and now we were stuck. I hitched a ride into Camp Verde where some helpful people assisted us back on our way. When we finally arrived at the Grand Canyon rather late in the afternoon, all the campgrounds were full. We had to backtrack ten miles to a campground called "Ten X," probably so called because it was ten miles outside the canyon area, and there we found a space in the lovely campground in the forest. Our space was located under a stand of enormous ponderosa pine trees and there we set up camp. It was now getting dark and cold and the children were tired. I quickly prepared dinner (hot dogs and potatoes) and we got into the spirit of things. We put on our sweaters and jackets but soon it became too cold to stay outside and inside there really was not enough room for five people to sit for a long time. We decided to go to bed early. Coming from a hot Phoenix at the end of May we had no idea how cold it could get in Northern Arizona. Even in our beds we were cold. None of us had pajamas with us, so we went to bed fully dressed.
Early in the morning we wanted to see the sun rise at the Grand Canyon. The kids were so cold, they refused to go with us. We told them not to leave the tent trailer until we came back. I would never do this today but in those days this was still safe. So, Anita and I went to the canyon. We had the heater in the car on full blast and when we went out of the car at the overlook we wrapped ourselves in our blankets. It was freezing! But we saw a gorgeous sunrise. We quickly returned to the children who were still asleep when we arrived at the camp. They really did not want to get up! Eventually, over the following ten years we tried to spend time in every campground in Arizona. Every other week we went to a different campsite, in the summer in the high mountains and in the winter in the desert areas. It was a wonderful experience. I can still see Robert, with a plastic bag hanging from his side, looking for frogs to feed his pet snakes or for scorpions which he used in the making of bolo ties. Sometimes he surprised us with snakes in his bag. Once, to the great consternation of Rochelle, a snake escaped in our car while we were driving home. It took us some time to catch it and get it back into Robert's sack.
In September 1967 Rochelle had her Bat-Mitzva and four years later in November Robert had his Bar Mitzvah. As the children started to get into their teens things became more difficult. Anita seemed not to be able to control things at all. When I came home at night she often was in tears. I was never able to get all the stories straight but I was fuming mad just to see Anita so upset and so I punished one or the other child without knowing the whole story. I must say that somehow Mark was able to keep his nose out of this mess. After a while I felt that the children were old enough to be on their own and that it would be better for Anita to get out of the house and back into the work force. This was in 1970. Robert was then twelve years old, Rochelle was fifteen and Mark seventeen years old. Anita had a master's degree in nursing and had had much experience in public health nursing and supervisory work before our marriage. Fortunately, Anita agreed with me and it did not take her long to find a very good job teaching nurses how to teach mothers "mother and child care." It gave her such a lift to be able to be out in the world, talking to nurses about nursing which was always her highest interest. This took place at Good Samaritan Hospital, which is now much larger and called Samaritan Health Services. She worked there five years. She earned fairly good wages but that was not our primary concern because my business by now had grown to an extent that it gave us a good income. More important was to see her become happier and more self-confident again, more outspoken and self assured. Of course, she needed a car to get to and from work and that also increased her self esteem. Every week, on Thursday night she came into the shop after work and I did her hair. I always had made her a redhead but now, as she became a little older, I made her a little brighter red and it was very becoming to her.
We started to walk regularly because I had become overweight and I tried to take some pounds off. We had now also a little more money for our camping trips, so we bought different rigs, one time a truck with a camper on top, then a tent trailer and finally a small fifteen foot Kid Trailer which we liked very much. We made some beautiful camping trips to Northern Arizona, such as to the yearly 4th of July Indian Pow-wows in Flagstaff, and also several trips to Colorado and the White Mountains. Mark had a paper route, so he stayed home. Rochelle went with us under protest, but I did not feel secure in leaving her home overnight and she was too old for a baby sitter. Robert's room at that time of his life was like a miniature zoo. He had tanks with snakes, some very beautiful, and a collection of little frogs and some mice to feed the snakes. He also collected all kinds of lizards among which was a horned toad, which really is a lizard, about three inches long, looking much like a miniature primeval monster. The problem with this was twofold. First of all, it was against the law to have such pets as they were a protected species. But more than that, this little monster spits blood out of his eye when he gets mad and that horrified Rochelle. Robert simply had to release it back into the wilds. This was a traumatic event for him. I do not know what he did with it but I never saw it again.
In 1970 I felt that it would be a good idea to re-model
the beauty shop. We now had an established clientele and the future looked
promising. This time I designed the furniture myself. I knew exactly what
I wanted and made some drawings and plans. No beauty shop supply house
was able to get this for me so I started to look for a cabinet maker. I
do not remember how I found out about him but somebody told me about a
Mr. Flake (I do not remember his first name but later he got killed in
a private plane accident). He was from the Flake family of Snowflake, a
small town in the White Mountains of Arizona. His family is part of Arizona's
pioneer history. He was an excellent cabinet maker and he made the shop
exactly as I had designed it. We repainted the inside, removed the partitions,
put new flooring in and the place, which was very small, looked brighter
and larger. I still had only one operator, Penny Stasnopolis. We got along
very well and we both had a good income. I tried to hire other operators,
but they all came and went without contributing anything to the shop. Nevertheless,
the business was doing very well.
|Around this time, I believe it was in 1971, we got a letter from Anita's brother Milton with the news that Ettie and Pappa were getting older, that he thought that they could not take care of themselves anymore and that he thought it necessary to put them in a nursing home. He had picked a nursing home some fifty miles North of New York on the Hudson River. It sounded nice and reasonable enough but I remembered the very infrequent visits Ettie and Pappa had from Milton and his family when they lived not that far away. I could just imagine them in that nursing home far from familiar surroundings and not seeing anybody for long periods of time. I also knew that the Hudson River Valley is often dreary, damp and often rainy. In the winter it is covered with snow and ice so they would not be able to get out at all! So I pleaded in a letter to them to, please, come to Phoenix where the warm, dry climate would do them a lot of good and where there are beautiful places for them to stay with good care and their daughter and I would be able to visit with them and look after their well being.|
|Fortunately they listened to my advice. They moved here, first to an apartment connected with the Kivel Nursing home where they lived for many years independently. They ate communal dinners in a dining room in their building but otherwise they took care of themselves. We often visited them, took them out or took them to our house. They even baby sat for us during one of our vacations. It was like a new lease of life for them. Pappa loved our garden and always had to tell me what to do to improve on it. Later, when they became older and in worse shape, first Pappa and later Ettie had to go into the nursing home but even there they had a good life and enjoyed the wonderful climate of Phoenix until they died at age ninety two and ninety respectively. I really feel that I extended their lives and certainly they had a better life style for an additional ten years of their lives.||
Around this time I invited my mother for another visit. I did not know that then but this was to be her last visit to America. We gave her a great time. It was in February and it must have been a little warm for that time of the year. I remember my mother complaining that she was constantly perspiring because of the great heat. It probably was in the seventies but, coming from the cold winters in Holland, that was hot for her. We decided to give her some relief; we arranged for her to go on a tour to the Grand Canyon. The children were in school and I could not leave the business, so Grandma Julie had to go alone. She came back with exciting stories about the friends she had made on the bus and about the beauty of the canyon. She also had a very funny experience. As the bus approached the Grand Canyon she heard everybody talking very excitingly about the "rabbits" they were going to see. She could not imagine why anybody could get so enthusiastic about observing rabbits. When they finally came to that highlight of the trip and she saw the "rapids" of the Colorado River, she realized that she had misunderstood. She gave everybody a good laugh. Soon after that she returned to Holland. That was the last time the children saw her.
By 1972 I started to get tired of carrying nearly the entire load of the business. Also, for the first time in my life I started to develop a few health problems which gave me much concern. I had gained a lot of weight which made the work very hard for me. One day I collapsed with terrible lower back pain. I could not get up. I could not put any weight on my legs. I told Penny to call Anita from work. Luckily she was able to leave work early. I crawled into her car. I do not remember how I got into the car but eventually I ended up in the emergency room of the Veteran's hospital. I do not remember them doing anything for me. They did take an X-ray and then they sent me home with a support belt which I had to wear whenever necessary. The next day I was back at work all tied together with the lumbar support and still in considerable pain.
The other problem seemed worse. My regular walks around the canal with Shep, our dog, became more and more difficult until I could not get around the canal and back home, a good half hour walk, without sitting and resting a few times. I had no strength and no energy. I felt as if I would collapse. Here again I was very lucky. Somebody told me about Dr. Art Mollen, a sports doctor and a great runner. I went to him. His nurse did some tests in his office and after a while Dr. Mollen came in, sat on the examining table and said that there was nothing wrong with me. All I should do is: 1) stop smoking, 2) start taking off some weight and 3) start some serious exercising, preferably running. He saw me for no more than five minutes and charged me one hundred and forty five dollars, an enormous amount for that time (1972). But I quickly forgave him because I honestly believe that he saved my life with his advice.
And I immediately started to follow his advice. Anita and I started the Heart Association diet and we began walking twice a day. After a while this was too much for Anita so I walked by myself early in the morning. We also joined a health spa where I went first three days a week and later six days a week. More difficult for me was my attempt to stop smoking. I smoked about a carton a week but I really did not enjoy smoking anymore. My children, especially Robert and Rochelle, pleaded with me to quit. All these things gave me cause for concern. I realized that, if I could not work as a hairdresser anymore, or even if not effectively, I would not have any income and most likely I would lose the business completely.
I found out about a wonderful program by the cancer society. It was given in a church and the priest was the program leader. He was wonderful. He did not bring up religion except to say during the introductory talk that praying never hurts. Then he promised he would fast during the week that we promised not to smoke. They had talks about the danger of smoking and showed some movies. Nothing touched me very much until they showed in a movie a healthy lung and then a cancer ridden lung which had just been removed from a patient. The healthy lung was shiny and red, so beautiful. But the cancer ridden lung looked like a large dry prune, brown and wrinkled. It occurred to me that my lungs, which were giving me such a hard time breathing, might look like that. This got me! I stopped smoking. They had warned us that the first few days and maybe even weeks would be very difficult for us and also for the people around us. How right they proved to be. I became so irritable that Anita started smoking again after having stopping some sixteen years earlier! This made me feel bad. I felt responsible for her and I was not strong enough to stick to the program, so I went back to smoking. But by now my body already had adjusted itself to be without a constant nicotine fix so I felt awful while smoking and yet I could not stop. I went back to the same program for a second time and this time Anita went with me. Finally, I was able to leave this dirty and dangerous habit and after a short while I started feeling a lot better. At the same time I lost some weight and I felt, that as I had beaten this strong urge and habit, I could beat anything. I started looking better and I had an excess of energy. I walked faster and farther and finally I attempted a little run, less than half a block. Little by little I increased the distance and now I really started to lose weight dramatically. I got information about Sunday morning runs with Dr. Art Mollen. I went regularly to these runs at the canal road starting at 40th Street and Indian School Road. Before the run Dr. Mollen and another famous runner whose first name was Ian, gave a short lecture about running or dieting or healthy living. After the lecture they had a three mile easy run alongside the canal. It was lovely. I soon improved to the point that I took part in weekly races and after a while managed to win a few trophies. Anita was very supportive of this and accompanied me to every race where she cheered me on whenever I came into view. I became very strong and fast and skinny. I went down to one hundred and thirty nine pounds and my waist slimmed down to twenty nine inches! I looked like a runner. By this time it was 1976 and I was forty six years old. I felt strong and invincible.
I am now a little ahead of myself and return to the time (1973) when I was ready to sell my shop. I had heard that Goldwater's was going to open a salon in its new Metrocenter department store. Goldwater's was a prestigious store and the beauty salon was known for its advanced hair styling and high prices. It actually was quite nervy of me to apply for a position in the salon. After all, my styling was basic and simple. I again must say, that Anita encouraged me very much. So, one day I went to see the manager of all the Goldwater Beauty salons and told him about my background. He seemed impressed even though I explained to him that my hair styling was basic and not fancy. He promised me a job. I put our shop up for sale and it sold very quickly. I got out of it the same amount I had put into it. There was no profit but I was glad to get away from the constant pressure and responsibility. I was asked to stay in the salon for six months to help in the change-over. This fitted perfectly with my plans, so I stayed. As the time approached for Metrocenter to open I called the manager of the Goldwater Beauty salons to remind him of his promise. I think he had forgotten all about it but he told me to report a week before the grand opening to set up my station and to get acquainted with our manager, Ira Shaw, and the co-workers. I immediately wrote to all my customers where and when I would start working at Gold water's Beauty Salon and their response was encouraging.
Next -> CHAPTER 14: MY CAREER AS A SUCCESSFUL HAIR STYLIST
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