Marion Stout was almost 30 years past the normal national retirement age when the beauty salon where she worked more than 40 years closed last month. So naturally, the Brigantine woman knew there was really only one thing to do at that point in her life: She went out, got herself another job and continued a career that she started at age 16.
At 94, the rookie with 78 years of experience drove herself to work and showed up for her first day at Animations, a salon on the opposite end of Ventnor from Todd D’Paul Stylists, her old employer.
Stout knew she’d find some familiar faces at Animations — by her count, about 10 clients followed her to her new chair. She has women who have trusted her with their hair for even longer than those four decades she was at the other salon.
Take Joan Mucciarone, of Margate, who just got a shorter commute to her hairdresser — Animations is right at the Ventnor-Margate city line. Mucciarone figures that Stout has been working on her hair for at least 45 years, although it could be a bit longer.
In all that time they’ve spent in very close quarters, their conversations have gone well beyond how Mucciarone wanted her hair done, the customer confirmed during a recent visit.
“We’ve talked a lot over the years,” Mucciarone said. “Lots and lots of happy times — but you know, some sad ones come in, too.”
Stout, a widow since 1972, said she was pleasantly surprised when her new boss, Carol Speirs, gave her a place to work in the six-chair Animations.
“Who’s going to take a 94-year-old?” Stout said, but she found the answer she wanted to hear to that question with an assist from some old cross-town colleagues who put in a good word for her.
“Her co-workers were walking the avenue, looking for jobs, and I took in the homeless,” Speirs said, smiling. “I’m impressed by this young lady, still bending hair at her age.”
But Speirs admits she had her concerns when she heard exactly how old her new job applicant was.
“There was a little hesitation. I didn’t know what to expect,” the boss said. “I hid in the back for a few minutes (to eyeball the hire). ... And then I got out here and saw a beautiful young lady — hair done, makeup on, all put together.”
Now Stout is getting used to her new hair home, and she’s thrilled she found it.
“I don’t want to retire,” she said, adding later that she got her start in the business in Atlantic City, then moved to Ventnor and Margate before she spent those 40-some years at Todd D’Paul. “If I can help it, I never want to retire, because I love what I do.”
And despite her age, Stout has kept current with trends in the world of hair, and the world beyond. She’s perfectly comfortable cutting a man’s hair now, even if “I started out when there were barbershops and beauty parlors” — and nobody even thought of crossing that line.
Now she usually works three days a week, mostly from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or so. But she keeps busy even when she’s not on the job, among other ways by taking regular singing lessons — and then using those lessons in the choir at her Community Presbyterian Church in Brigantine. She also cooks and volunteers for a church program that delivers food to shut-in senior citizens, as Stout’s client, Mucciarone, bragged about her old friend recently.
Stout uses a word that sometimes gets applied to lively people in her age group to compliment her boss, Speirs, for taking a chance on a brand-new employee at such an old age.
“I think Carol was very spunky to take a 94-year-old,” the veteran hairdresser said, wrapping up another styling session for another happy customer.
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