FORT WORTH -- It was 45 years ago when a young widow and mother scraped together the money to open a small beauty shop along Montgomery Street called Curl & Swirl.
Times were different. Vidal Sassoon's revolutionary concept of "wash and wear" was foreign to the women who frequented the shop for weekly hair appointments.
Ruth West cut, set and colored hair, gossiped with clients and traded snapshots of children, then grandchildren, and these days, great-grandchildren.
Today, West, now 80, will set her final hairdo. Curl & Swirl will close its doors.
"This is my family," West said. "But I guess it's time for me to retire. Honestly, I'll probably go crazy."
Much has changed since 1966, but not at Curl & Swirl. Inside the small brick building, pink and blue floral curtains still hang from windows, clients still sit on eggplant-colored chairs while they wait their turn, and wood paneling still covers the walls.
Old-fashioned cone-shaped dryers still line one wall. Regulars know better than to ask West for a blow-dry. To her, the blare of a blow-dryer is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Styles have come and gone. The beehive. The pageboy. The French roll. Prices have changed, but not by much. A haircut is $9; a hair set is $10. Tinting is $35, and permanents start at $45.
Over the years, the average age of customers has steadily climbed -- the oldest is 102 -- and the once-long list of clients has dwindled.
"Most of my clients have passed on," said Jo Elaine Evans, 67, who works with West and is also retiring today. "You see a lot of that working here."
Arthritis pain shoots through the hands of West and Evans, who have worked side by side since they day the shop opened.
"In all these years, the two of us have never even had a fuss," Evans said. "Can you believe that?"
Child after child spent days here, learning to crawl and walk and talk amid the hair spray and shampoo stations. In 1966, child care was not prevalent, and the stylists brought their children to work. A bassinet and high chair were permanent fixtures.
"One of us would be setting hair," Evans said, "while the other was changing a diaper."
West's granddaughter, Randi Whitis, recalled playing on a quilt on the brown linoleum floor, learning about curlers and permanents. When she heard her grandmother was closing the shop, Whitis immediately brought her 8-month-old son. The ladies promptly rolled his short hair in curlers before his father could protest.
"This was my second home," Whitis said. "I grew up here."
Customers returned week after week, stopping by after work, and later, finding rides when they could no longer drive.
Rosalyn Woodfin, who comes in weekly for a shampoo and set, sat straight in the chair as West brushed curls out of her short hair.
"I wasn't even gray when I started coming here," said Woodfin, 85. "Ruth knows just how to do my hair."
Jean Brandt, 91, stopped by to get her hair done the day before she was scheduled to fly to China to visit her grandson and new great-grandchild, who live there.
"I love the conversation and stories you hear," Brandt said.
Before leaving, the two women hugged.
"Oh, I'm going to miss you," Brandt told her, as the two friends said goodbye.
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056