A lot has changed in the 47 years since Betty Mayo began teaching cosmetology at Wallace State Community College. Hair styles have come and gone and come back again.
But the biggest change came most recently when the Cosmetology Department moved into its updated and expanded facilities. The new state-of-the-art, serene and spa-like teaching and learning environment has been officially named the Academy of Cosmetic Arts.
Mrs. Mayo, who along with Lorene Stewart were the first instructors when the department was created in 1966, was delighted to see the new facilities on March 19, and treated to a day of beauty with a cut and style, facial, manicure, and pedicure.
She and Department Chair Tracy W. Smith, who was a student of Mrs. Mayo’s shortly before she retired, reminisced about days gone by and how Smith still uses the skills Mrs. Mayo taught her to teach her own students today.
“This is wonderful,” Mrs. Mayo said as Smith gave her a tour of the facilities. “I never dreamed they’d have a place like this.”
When she first started teaching at the college, Mrs. Mayo came from running a successful salon out of her home. She became a hair stylist when she married her husband, Harold, whose family owned and operated the Mayo Beauty Salon in downtown Cullman, Ala.
After giving birth to their third child, Mrs. Mayo stayed at home, but after a while, her husband offered to build an addition to their home so she could operate a salon from there. Pretty soon, another woman wanted to work there and then another.
“We wound up with three women in that one-room beauty shop,” Mrs. Mayo said.
In 1966, Mrs. Mayo was asked to instruct classes at Wallace State Community College. She said they probably had about 15 students in that first year. Currently there are almost 80 students enrolled in day and night time courses.
Mrs. Mayo taught at WSCC until the late 1980s. She taught hundreds of students who advanced through the program and even some she never met. Cosmetology instructor Sabrina Flanigan took the opportunity to introduce herself to Mrs. Mayo, whom she’s seen in training videos and heard about over the years.
“You’ve made an impact even in my career,” Flanigan said. “You’ve definitely passed it on from generation to generation, probably more than you’ll ever know. People ask [about you] all the time and now I can say I know Mrs. Mayo. I feel honored and so glad you’re here with us today.”
Smith said Mrs. Mayo is still talked about in salon studios throughout the area.
“You definitely have a legacy in this community,” Flanigan added.
With the makeover that transformed the Cosmetology Department, that legacy can reach many more students now and in the future.
The Academy of Cosmetic Arts is open to the public, with appointments accepted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and on Tuesday nights. Call 256.352.8216 to set up an appointment.