Sunday Stories: Letha's Beauty Salon

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Submitted by Claudia Eberly

Letha Jane Heskett Kennedy, after her graduation from the Sutherland High School, journeyed to Omaha, Nebraska, to attend the Moller Beauty College in 1928. After a year’s training, she returned to Sutherland and opened up a shop. Her business was located above the former Post Office, a two story building on Walnut Street.

Letha’s shop was located on the second floor in the northeast corner of the building. Also on the second floor was the Telephone Company owned by George White. Nina Wilcot Humphrey had lost her husband, and worked as the night telephone operator. She and her daughter Arlene had an apartment next to the street. Downstairs on the first floor was where Mr. McKinley was located and Dr. Shambaugh’s office. Mr. McKinley was on the south, and Dr. Shambaugh was on the north side.
Later, Mrs. Nation came from Wallace, Nebraska, and she and Letha moved the shop downstairs into the location former occupied by Mr. McKinley. Dr. Shambaugh at that time moved into the Cox Hospital Building.

In 1941, Mr. Nation bought a nightclub in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and he and Mrs. Nation moved to Cheyenne. Letha could not afford to buy Mrs. Nation’s share of the business, so she moved the shop into her home. This has been the location of Letha’s shop since that time.

At about that time, Verona Moore and Mrs. McCall had a shop in the Emery Drug Store. Also, Lorna Hillard and Doris Dunn had a shop together. They both got married, and closed up business.
Finger waves were most popular in the middle 20’s. Permanents were given with a big electric “Croquonel” machine, and the spiral method was used. The style that Letha came home from Omaha with was called the “Marcel”, and everyone had that style in the early 1930’s.

Example of a permanent wave machine
Permanents at that time cost $1.75 to $3.50, and haircuts were $1.00. Letha did not do barbering, as a special license was needed for that.

Letha started her shop in 1930, and a copy of the original license is shown. She has the honor of being the oldest licensed cosmetologist in the State of Nebraska.

Letha’s only comment regarding the many years she has been at work is that “it seems like I never have enough time to visit and to keep up with all my old friendships.”

What a wonderful lady! Letha raised her family, kept her home neat as a pin, and was a working cosmetologist for 60 years. Sutherland can be proud of her for being the oldest original business in the village of Sutherland.


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