K is for K of C Dances and Curl Free. Eleventh of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
Unlike many of my artsy and activist classmates, I retained my love of dancing through high school. In junior high, most dances were held in the school gym, and I rarely missed one.
By high school, though, there were off-campus dances to go to – and one of the best was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Main St. near Union Endicott High School. We called it “The K.”
My classmate Terry remembers a husband-and-wife team organizing the K of C dance parties, which featured lots of local bands. And classmate Jan says she recalls the dances being super fun! So much fun I was inspired to write a poem about The K in one of my journals:
Ultraviolet noise, Skinny girls, hairy boys,
Rock and rollin’ beat, Humid air full of heat,
Sirens in the night, Cigarettes, smoky lights.
May 19, 1967
Partying at The K
I think the dances were on Friday night — and I was a regular, which surprised a few other classmates when the subject came up at a high school reunion.
“Really? I don’t remember you being there,” one of the guys said.
“That’s because I spent most of the night in tears in the ladies room trying to get my curly hair to behave,” I replied.
Fun as they were, dances at The K were also humid — which caused my carefully set hair to rise and expand like a freshly baked cake, banishing any hope of flipping it around on the dance floor after the first two or three songs.
So, while the high school guys were busy figuring out how to pre-drink before the K of C dances (Terry says he was often sent in to buy the booze), I was in search of something that would keep my curly tresses at bay during the steamy Friday parties. That’s when I discovered Curl Free.
Curl Free to the rescue
Many curly gals will tell you that they’ve tried lots of methods to straighten their hair. Before large rollers existed, I set my hair on orange juice can curlers to straighten it out – which worked fine in the dry winter months, but not so well when the humidity rose.
I also tried ironing my hair with a clothes iron — before modern straightening flat irons existed — but the risk of singes and burns was too great, and breaking a sweat would curl my hair up again anyway.
Then I saw an ad for Curl Free, a chemical straightener that promised long, swinging locks with a few passes of the comb. I had to try it!
I don’t recall if I mail ordered Curl Free or got it at the store, but I remember the box, gloves, comb, and shower cap were all pink – and the test-tube-like instructions were right out of a chem lab.
I had shoulder length hair when I started using the straightener – and it worked well. For the first time ever my hair moved when I shook my head! No more fear that hot or rainy days would ruin my look – and no more frustrating combing sessions in the K of C bathroom!
Inspired by my success, my younger brother Mark — whose hair was as curly as mine — wanted to try it, too. So, one evening I gave us both a Curl Free treatment and we sat together in pink shower caps waiting for the relaxer to work its magic.
Alas, like many things that seem too good to be true, Curl Free had a downside: it weakened my already relaxed hair when I reapplied it to straighten my curly roots. Soon the ends started breaking, and by senior year I was sporting a curly pixie cut and only relaxing the top so I could have bangs.
Fortunately, I was rescued by the Sixties while I still had some hair! After I headed to college, I embraced my natural curls — along with much else about myself — and happily left Curl Free behind.
Up next, L is for Learning to drive: I get my license. Please stop back!
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