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Connie Livingston has stood behind her customers 50 years

Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater were campaigning for president, the St. Louis Cardinals had won the World Series the night before, gas was 30 cents a gallon and Connie Livingston began her new career as a cosmetologist.

10/22/14 (Wed)

Not retiring yet...Cosmetologist Connie Livingston puts the finishing touches on Cleone Kolbo's hair last week in the Beauty Nook salon in Kenmare. On Oct. 15, Livingston passed a major milestone in her career, working in the beauty industry 50 years. She will be honored at an open house in Kenmare Sunday, Oct. 26, although she has no plans to retire at this time.

By Marvin Baker

Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater were campaigning for president, the St. Louis Cardinals had won the World Series the night before, gas was 30 cents a gallon and Connie Livingston began her new career as a cosmetologist.

That was Oct. 15, 1964. Fifty years later, she is still at it, working in a career that she continues to enjoy.

Livingston has never changed careers, she has never taken considerable time off, she has never doubted what she does or thought about quitting altogether.

She has never wavered from what she enjoys most and does best and her customers couldn’t be happier.

One of her long time clients, Phyllis Hanson, 92, Kenmare, considers Livingston more of a daughter than a merchant.

Hanson said she has been a customer of Livingston’s for about 40 years and in that time the two have become close friends.

“It’s awesome to realize that she has for 50 years, created amazing changes,” Hanson said. “They say she’s a beautician not a magician. I beg to differ.”

Hanson said Livingston has worked on young and old alike and suggested that readers think about the fact that while working, Livingston is on her feet all day.

“She’s very efficient in her schedule,” Hanson said. “That tells you she does care for her customers.”

Friends, customers and former co-workers will honor Livingston Sunday, Oct. 26, from 3-5 p.m. in the Kenmare Senior Center.

“I’m not retiring,” Livingston said of recent phone calls congratulating her on her retirement. “As of yet, I’m not quite ready to retire. I couldn’t stand to be home and not working.”

Her youngest brother Ross, who has been retired six years, said as long as she’s happy and healthy, he’ll support what she is doing.

Livingston started her illustrious career in Westhope at Hoiland’s House of Beauty shortly after graduating from Montana Beauty School in Great Falls.

She later became board certified to work in Montana and North Dakota and quickly landed her first job in Westhope.

In February 1965, she came to Kenmare and worked in Ann’s Beauty Shop, on the west side of the Downtown Square.

Livingston worked there until 1975. Owner Betty Johnson was selling the shop, Sandy Nelson purchased it and they both became involved in the Beauty Nook. At the time, Livingston worked for Nelson.

Then, in 1990, Livingston purchased the Beauty Nook from Nelson and Nelson became an employee of Livingston’s.

Livingston said Nelson continued working in the salon until her other job at Beer Bob’s became the priority.

Nelson called Livingston “an awesome lady” when asked about their relationship through all these years.

“Where do you start,” Nelson said. “She taught me everything I know. We’ve had a lot of good times together.”

Apparently, Livingston taught other apprentices as well. She said after the closure of Ann’s Beauty Shop, there were six operators working days and evenings in the Beauty Nook.

Two of her prodogies, Jennifer Mau and Denise Holter, worked for Livingston for a time before striking out on their own. Mau currently operates Shear Creations and Holter is operator of Wild Styles, both in Kenmare.

It seems a remarkable achievement that Livingston is still in the same shop, Tuesday through Saturday, tending to family hair care, doing colors, perms, facial waxings, haircuts and other services.

Until the Maple View Nursing Home closed, she spent one day each week there in a makeshift shop and continues working Thursday afternoons in Kenmare Community Hospital.

In addition, she has done occasional work for Thompson-Larson Funeral Home. She said some people consider that a bit creepy. However, Livingston sees it as the last time she can enhance a woman’s beauty.

That, in itself, proves Livingston’s integrity and that she truly cares about her customers as Hanson earlier described.

According to Livingston, the beauty industry has changed over the years, especially with costs and styles.

“There was the curly look, then straight cuts, now we’re fixing and curling,” she said. “Now there’s highlights where they get their hair frosted.”

When Livingston started her career, a perm cost $25. Now, that same perm is $48. Women could get curls for 25 cents. Now, they are $15 and $20.

Her best advice for everyone in today’s society is to have the style that works best for them.

“More of a natural look is better for people,” Livingston said. “It’s something that’s easy for their lifestyle.”

In reflecting on her career, she said nothing she has done has really been difficult, and there hasn’t been anything she’s disliked about her job. She did say, however, that the longer the hair, the longer it takes to fix.

Often times young boys don’t like to get their hair cut but Livingston said she has learned how to deal with it and uses clever tricks to get the job done.

“Sometimes you can just give them a toy to distract them,” she said. “Sometimes the mother would have to take them out and come back another day. Sometimes we put the gown on the mother too, to calm them down.”

Livingston is keen on the people she meets who continue to keep her energized day after day.

“I like people, all the people and the personalities,” she said. “Young, old and in between.”

She has regular customers from as far away as Minot, Tioga and McGregor, every spring she gets ready for area high school proms and she has done more weddings than she can recall.

However, one wedding in her career stands out.

“I remember one that wasn’t so swift,” she said. “The bridesmaids were going to shops in three communities and they were wearing these hoodies on a cold day. I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’ They would be able to get it over their head, but try taking it off. I told them they could either mess up what I had just done or they would be cold going home...” Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!