Until three weeks ago, one could still dial OLdfield 9-5404 and reach Betty D'Amico at her eponymous Elizabeth Ann Hair Salon on First Street, which was home to one pink dial phone, one pink sink, half a dozen orange chair/hairdryer combos, a long plastic green bench and 52 years of memories. When D'Amico moved into her digs as a teenager fresh out of beauty school in the 1940s, she says, the area in the south of Hoboken was "Poor. Run down." Now, it's burgeoning with development, and that's probably why D'Amico's landlord decided to raise her rent recently from $850 to $1,450. And the rent is why she's finally hanging up her shears for good. Ah, the perils of progress. Not that price increases had ever butted with D'Amico's allegiance to her customers. When the salon closed June 31, she was charging only $7 for a haircut, $12 for a wash and set. Then again, this was 600 percent more than during her post-WWII nascence. "When I first started, three items were a dollar," D'Amico said on Saturday, July 1 as she packed up. "You'd get a wash, set and manicure. That was a long time ago. Then it went up." D'Amico borrowed money from her mother to start the business, which first occupied a space above Bloomberg's Glass Store at 259 First St. and then moved next door. She had gone through two years of Demarest High School in Hoboken and had received a diploma from the Modern College of Beauty Culture in Hackensack. The requirements for the latter included "marcelling," which involved using a hot iron to make waves. But by the time D'Amico graduated, everyone was using their fingers, so the training was for naught. But D'Amico said that the strangest hair trend in all of her years was "What they're wearing now. The straight look, which I think is horrible. And the punk look that some of the fellows wear. My customers didn't go in for those crazy looks. I mean, we frosted hair, permed it, dyed it. We did all that." It's time
D'Amico, who would not reveal her age, said she had kept her prices low to accommodate senior citizens. Rather than raise them to keep up with the rent, she decided to move on. The salon will be replaced by a store that sells antique jewelry and furniture, and D'Amico left some items from the salon for the new owner. But she cleaned out the contents of the back room, where she used to serve coffee to her many long-time customers. "My customers were my friends," D'Amico said. "You can put that down. Customers and friends. That's how they were. You laughed with them, you cried with them. That's how they were." D'Amico's customers were so loyal, in fact, that one of them called on Saturday as she was cleaning up and repeatedly begged her for one last hair appointment. But it was not to be. D'Amico and nephew Kenneth Marano of Jersey City had packed up much of the equipment and were ready to go.