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Morning Sun
  • 73 YEARS STRONG

  • Records at the Kansas Board of Cosmetology go way, way back — all the way back to the time Ellen Chester, who had just turned 19, applied for her license to style hair in Kansas.

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  • Records at the Kansas Board of Cosmetology go way, way back — all the way back to the time Ellen Chester, who had just turned 19, applied for her license to style hair in Kansas.
    Ellen Chester Rowden Bradley recently celebrated her 90th birthday and is still styling. She no longer has her own shop, but works Mondays at Total Image Salon.
    Mary Lou Davis, executive director of the Kansas Board of Cosmetology, recently presented Bradley with a certificate in recognition of her 73 years of service to the profession.
    Davis had been contacted by Saundra Bradley Kneebone, who worked in Bradley’s salon for many years.
    “I thought they should do something for Ellen, at least send her a card,” said Kneebone, who is also Bradley’s stepdaughter. “They asked me if Ellen was still ambulatory and could come to a ceremony if they held one for her. I told them that she drives herself to work every Monday.”
    The ceremony was held in the center court at Meadowbrook Mall, following company-wide “Fear Factor Perm Challenge” training session at the J.C. Penney Salon.
    “We were blessed to be able to have Ellen with us,” said Dawnelle Burris, salon supervisor.
    “I couldn’t understand why Saundra wanted me to come to J.C. Penney with her,” said Bradley, who was completely surprised by the honor.
    “We got in Ellen’s files, and found her original application from April, 1937,” Davis said, displaying the yellowed paper form with attached photo. “In those days you had to submit a photo of yourself with your application. On April 22, 1937, Ellen took her state examination, and it should come as no surprise that she made very good scores.”
    Bradley had started at Ray’s Beauty Salon in Lamar, Mo., before opening her first salon, the Thrift, in Liberal, Mo. She worked at the Vanity Box and Jones Store Salon in Pittsburg before opening Rowden’s Sleek and Chic in 1965.
    In addition to the certificate from the board, Bradley also received a letter from Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, praising her for her entrepreneurial spirit and her devotion to her clients. A decorated cake was served in her honor.
    “I sure didn’t expect all this just for getting old and doing what I wanted to do,” Bradley said.
    Davis said that her staff had enjoyed researching Bradley’s files. “Normally my staff processes applications for licenses and renewals, but it’s not personal — they don’t get to know the people,” she said. “Doing this was fun for them.”
    Bradley is definitely one of the oldest, if not the oldest, active stylists in Kansas. “We do have several in their 80s who still provide services,” Davis said. “These women are an inspiration to young stylists.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She noted that Bradley had recently renewed her state license. “It’s good until 2010,” Davis said. “Ellen, we’ll be looking for your next application for renewal in 2010.”
    That just might happen.
    “I plan to live to be 120 and keep doing hair,” Bradley said. “I’ll probably drop dead in the middle of a job, they’ll kick me to the side, and the customer will ask who’s going to finish her up.”

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