By Crystal Thompson
Since 1975, Hi-Line women and men alike have relied on Edna Reese for their beauty needs.
Reese is the sole proprietor of Edna's Beauty Nook in Gildford. She and her husband, Wade, have lived in Gildford for more than 25 years. They were married in 1940.
"She was a hairdresser when we got married," Wade said.
Edna said that she attended beauty school in Chinook when she was 17, and worked for local hairdresser Ethel Jurenka in her early years. Reese was a resident of Kremlin from 1952 until 1975, when she opened her shop in Gildford.
Reese said that she started her shop on a shoestring. "One of my friends gave me fifteen towels," she said. From there, Reese expanded her business and relied mostly on word-of-mouth advertising from her customers to get her business up and running.
Reese said than, over the years, she has had several local women work for her on and off, including Lisa Springer, who leased the shop from Reese while she took a one-year hiatus from work. Reese said that during the year she wasn't working, she didn't quite feel like herself.
"I went to the doctor and he told me to go back to work," Reese said, "I've got to have an outlet."
Her husband agrees with that sentiment, saying that he continues to be amazed at Edna's ambition.
"She never runs out of gas," Wade said.
Reese comes from a French background, and had thirteen brothers and sisters growing up. Two of her sisters went to beauty school, she said, but only one had a job as a hairdresser, and she chose not to make a living out of it. Edna, on the other hand, has spent decades perfecting the art of being a beautician; not that she planned it that way.
"When I moved to Gildford I thought I'll probably only work at it for a year', and that was thirty years ago," Reese said.
Edna's Beauty Nook is a favorite for people up and down the Hi-Line, not just members of the Gildford community. Reese gives haircuts, trims and permanents to people from Hingham, Rudyard, Kremlin and Havre.
"I have about 40 regulars," Reese said, adding that some people come in weekly to have their hair styled. "I have some that come in every Friday to get their hair done," she said.
Edna said that her schedule used to be booked all week, but in more recent years, the numbers have dwindled. Reese said that she has outlived many of her regulars, and that many have moved a way in past years. "I've lost a lot of customers," she said.
Emma Hansen, of Gildford, is one of Reese's long-time patrons. She attributes Edna's successful career to the fact that she likes what she does and that it keeps her busy. Reese said that she truly does enjoy her work, especially the social aspect of it.
"I really appreciate my people," she said.
She said that her job is satisfying because she has the ability to make people happy because they feel good about their appearance. Reese praised the people of Gildford, saying that they've made it easy for her to continue doing what she loves.
"I really have enjoyed working in a small town, I really enjoy the community," she said.
The Reese's have four children, all of whom grew up with free haircuts provided by Mom. Even now, most of the couple's children and grandchildren continue to rely on Edna for her styling expertise.
"When the grandkids come to visit, they always want Grandma to do their hair," Wade said. Wade also relies on his wife for haircuts.
"Actually, he needs one right now," Edna said, "I think I'll give him a buzz cut this time."
Reese has worked through decades of hairstyles, saying that she considered going back to school to brush up, but decided to stick with what she knows.
"I never took up the young kids' hairstyles," she said, adding that her customer numbers will probably continue to decrease because she does not gain many young customers.
But Edna is content with her devoted Hi-Line patrons.
"I love my customers," she said.
Gildford resident Esther Griffith began going to Edna's Beauty Nook because of the convenience of having a beautician in town. Griffith said that she's continued going to Edna weekly for nearly twenty years because Edna is always willing to accomodate her customers and continues to have reasonable prices and wonderful service.
Edna has been styling the hair of Gildford resident Dorothy Cady for more than thirty years. "She's very accomodating, and will try desperately to get you in when you need a quick 'do," Cady said, "She's been very good to me, and very accomodating, even in an emergency."
Reese recalled some emergencies of her own during her early years as a beautician, including dyeing someone's hair the wrong color and burning a customer with a curling iron.
"I've never had somebody's hair fall out, though," she quipped.
Edna remembered one visit where a customer went for a drink of water and the spray hose came loose, causing water to shoot all over the salon.
"She didn't know what to do," Edna said, chuckling.
Reese also recalled a male customer who used to request "half a haircut", because the top of his head was bald.
"I have bought a few wigs for customers," Reese said.
Unfortunately, Edna has been forced to wear a wig herself, after a scalp disorder left her without hair. But she doesn't let that stop her from making herself and others happy with their look, and her customers seem to be satisfied with her no-nonsense approach to what she does.
"Did you ever notice that its always a bald-headed barber trying to sell something that's guaranteed to grow hair?" Edna said.
At Edna's Beauty Nook in Gildford, though, there's no gimmicks or pushy barbers trying to sell the latest product. Edna Reese offers only good, old-fashioned experience and friendly hometown conversation, which is why she continues to be the favorite hairdresser to so many on the Hi-Line.