Sioux City was supposed to be a temporary stop for hair stylist/cutter Cecil Ogle, 24, on his way to head-line glory at Kilpatrick's in Omaha, But 50 years later, he's still doing heads at Younkers at the Southern Hills Mall.
Cecil only cuts hair these days, and he has cut his workload back to 20 hours a week, down from the 60 hours he worked at the beginning of his career; but his nickname around the salon is "God," which tells you a little about what the only man in the shop has earned after 50 years of being the only man in the shop.
"Basically, whatever he wants, he gets," says Aundrea McCadams, the store manager. "When I first joined the company six years ago, I heard Cecil was the best and I tried to get in with him. But I couldn't. He wasn't taking new clients. And I'm still in purgatory. I've never been able to cross the line."
Living without a car on Sioux City's north side, Cecil has no trouble finding rides to and from work from friends, clients and co-workers.
"Everyone's just loyal to Cecil," McCadams said, noting that the company gave him special recognition at the last Christmas party.
And that is especially true of his clientele. Several of his "young ladies" from the 1960s still see Cecil.
A Des Moines native, he started working as a graphic artist at Younkers there just out of high school. He then went to Drake University for three years.
"And then I decided I wanted to do something with my hands. So somebody talked me into going to the major beauty school there, which I did. That's how I got into the business," he said.
Younkers hired him, then dispatched him to Martin's, one of its two Sioux City stores, the other being Davidson's. He really wanted to go to Omaha, but took the Sioux City job, figuring he would transfer later to Kilpatrick's. That was before he saw Martin's.
"I was shocked to see such an upscale store in Sioux City," he said. "There were 40 hairdressers and chandeliers. It was what they call a spa today, but we called it a full-service salon. And they had everything: Pedicurists, manicurists, booths for people to sit in. Women did not sit out with color on their hair. And we had to get them lunch. They would come in and spend the whole day in the salon, which is pretty amazing. And we had a tea room down below us where we would go and get their food and bring the food up to them. It was just unbelievable."
Better than Omaha.
Though Cecil got his basic schooling in Des Moines, he figures he's been to some 10,000 schools since then, chief among them the Vidal Sassoon schools in Santa Monica, Calif., Chicago and New York.
"I always wanted to cut hair. That's why I went to Sassoon's," he said. "To me, it's like getting a PhD in hair cutting. It's very disciplined. It's very hard. They take 10 to a class and then they watch every move that you make. Everything is checked. And, of course, it's really precision cutting."
He worked for Younkers downtown until 1980 when the company opened a second store at the Mall, just before Christmas.
Cecil cut his hours back at the age of 65, partially because he couldn't keep up with the longer hours, but mainly because of conflicts with Social Security and other benefits.
And it helps that he gets to set his own hours, too. "After all these years, they just kind of humor me," he said.
Sioux City is very fortunate to have so many great hairdressers, he said.
"It used to be everybody had to go out of town to get something, but that's not true any more," he said. "People are trained very well, and you can get a styling in Sioux City the same as anyplace else. Chicago or whatever."
Cecil has seen a number of hairstyles come and go, from back-combing to freestyle, since the 1960s. And while he does some contemporary cuts, he mainly does the classic looks these days, the bobbed haircuts, that type of look, he said.
In his spare time, he collects art. He has a 'huge, huge, huge" regional art collection, featuring the works of such artists as Karen Chesterman, Cathy Palmer and Ann Royer.
He is also a major book reader, belonging to several book clubs, the chief of which includes him, of course, as the only male member.
And he never grows tired of the heads he cuts.
As a onetime graphic artist, Cecil said he prefers working with his hands.
"When you're cutting hair, you're cutting out in space. You're doing geometric stuff. That was always fascinating to me," he said. "And I really like people."