Cape Breton Post
Woman cuts ties with her career
Joan Mackinnon hangs up her scissors after 53 years
SYDNEY — After 53 years in the same career, Joan Mackinnon is finally cutting her ties with the work world.
Mackinnon, 72, of Frenchvale, a hairdresser and owner of the Isle Royal Beauty Salon in Sydney, has retired after five decades in the business. Friday was her last day. Mackinnon said in early years clients would come weekly and hers remained loyal throughout the years.
“I’m getting older,” she said, adding she has fewer customers now as well.
“I used to say to my husband, ‘More of my customers left me to go to heaven then left me to go with someone else. Most of my customers are now age 85 and older.”
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Growing up Mackinnon wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. However in 1968 she began working at the Isle Royale Beauty Salon, in the basement of the former Isle Royale Hotel in Sydney. She had just graduated from Riverview and got a job as the shampoo girl at this exclusive hotel salon, where they weren’t allowed to venture to the main floor.
“Going to the Isle Royale Hotel at that time was like going to Montreal,“she said. “You had to have an appointment to go there.”
For the first while.she would sweep the floor and pick up clips. Eventually she began doing the shampooing.
One day Dorothy Logue — one of owner the late Ann Ojeleck’s customers — came in wearing an off-white designer dress and coat. While doing a shampoo, the hose slipped out of Mackinnon’s hand and went right up to Logue’s face.
”The makeup she had on came down on to her white dress,” she said.
A mortified Mackinnon ran to the lunchroom crying. Logue came in and sat on a dirty bench.
“She said, ‘Dear the coat and dress can be cleaned. You come back and do your work.”
THE FIRST LICENSE
Eventually Mackinnon trained as a hairdresser.
Mackinnon studied the manual and did practical work, doing the hair of customers with lower incomes, who offered half price in return. In 1970 she received her first license.
Growing a dedicated clientele, most customers would get a weekly shampoo and set, and every three weeks a perm, or five to six weeks a colour.
The biggest change today in a salon is many women tend to have long hair and different techniques of foiling, that weren’t done back then.
As far as women being picky, she said there isn’t much change.
“Women are women, they like to look good and they did back then too,” she said.
In 1983 Ojeleck moved the salon to Centre Ave. in Sydney. In 1999 Ojeleck decided she was going to give up the shop and sold it to Mackinnon.
“My husband Charlie and I and the Credit Union bought the business,” she said laughing.
Charlie was actually the first man’s hair she cut in early years. She remembers about eight years ago breaking her arm and Charlie had to go to a barber. She found out afterwards that he was her biggest fan.
“He said, ‘Never, ever again,’” she said. “That was his first and last trip to a barber.”
Back when Mackinnon was still a shampoo girl, a group of ladies would come weekly and also give an order for the kitchen.
“That was my chore on Friday, to go get them coffee,” she said.
However one day the owner decided they weren’t waitresses and the ladies would have to get their own coffee before they came in.
A group of women got together and bought a coffee percolator for the shop.
“Today they go to Tim Hortons,” she said.
On another occasion the power went off in the hotel.
“We had to set all their hair and move them all out into the street so that they could dry their hair in the sun.”
The Cape Breton Post showed up.
“Their photo was in with all of them out there in their curlers,“she said.
Lilian Macivor, 98, of Sydney, has been one of Mackinnon’s many 53-year clients.
Macivor worked as a waitress in the former Isle Royale Hotel.
“She was such a friendly person,” Macivor said of Mackinnon, adding she was also accommodating.
“If you were having trouble with your hair one way or another, you didn’t mind telling her and she’d try doing something about it.”
Sad to lose her decadeslong hairdresser, Macivor is happy Mackinnon will be able to retire and enjoy life. Macivor will continue to patronize the beauty salon, with hairdresser Tracy Harrietha, taking over Mackinnon’s clients. Macivor is not worried about going to a new one after five decades.
“I’m not so fussy now either,” Macivor added jokingly.
Joan Mackinnon might own the Isle Royal Beauty Salon, but Tracy Harrietha, who has been renting a chair there for eight years, said you’d never know it.
“This is the best job I’ve had in my 33-years,” she said.
Harrietha, who is taking over Mackinnon’s clients, said she will miss the friendship they had and the humour Mackinnon kept in the salon.
“She is very kind, very patient, a wonderful coworker,” she said, tears forming in her eyes.
THE LAST DAY
On Friday there was a combination birthday and retirement cake for Mackinnon, who turned 72 on June 23.
Mackinnon, who has sold the shop to a Cape Breton University professor, said it turned into a busy day with customers. Thursday was the sad day. “A lot of my long-time customers came in,” she said. “We reminisced about different different things over the years and they brought me presents, wine and lots of good things.”
Now Mackinnon hopes retirement will bring lots of time with their children, son Colin and daughter-in-law Cheryl and granddaughters Victoria and Olivia of New Glasgow, and daughter Kyla Horne, son-in-law Donald and grandchildren Sophie, Samantha and Charles, of George’s River.
However there is another milestone coming.
“Charles and I will be celebrating our fiftieth anniversary,” she said. “In the near future we’re going to go across the sea to Ireland.”
Meanwhile, she will miss her customers and the job she loved.
“You have to like hairdressing to stay with it,” she said. ”To stay in it 53 years you really have to like it a lot.”