DUNLAP, Tenn. - Anna Faye Heard's profession is hair stylist, but her extra-curricular duties go well beyond cutting and combing.
Besides styling hair for six decades, the 78-year-old proprietress of the Bouffant Beauty Salon in Dunlap, Tennessee, is an unofficial town counselor, minister, news reporter and historian.
There's very little that goes on in the Sequatchie County seat that hasn't been vetted inside the wood-paneled walls of her Walnut Street salon, where she has been queen bee since the 1960s.
"The joke at church is: 'Just ask Anna Faye. She knows everybody. She knows everything,'" Heard said, laughing.
Heard is celebrating 60 years as a hair stylist, and she is inviting customers to visit her salon the third week in February for refreshments and souvenir ink pens to mark the occasion.
Even her salon's name suggests longevity.
The bouffant was a hairstyle popular in the 1960s, when women working in a nearby shirt factory in Dunlap would stream into the Bouffant Beauty Salon for their weekly styling appointments.
Back in the 1960s, Heard's customers paid $2.50 for "wet sets" that involved curlers and hooded hair-dryers followed by comb teasing to poof up their hair like cotton candy.
Heard and her late husband, Harold, bought the old malt shop building in Dunlap in the early 1960s for $6,400 and converted it into the Bouffant Beauty Salon, which at one time had 10 hair-dryer stations.
"When we opened I would do 22 appointments a day," Heard says. "One prom day, with all the hair-dressers doing up-dos, we did 40-something girls. Of course, we were younger then and we could handle it."
Heard works three days a week now, but by Friday afternoon her back and feet are starting to hurt, she says.
As an 18-year-old just out of high school, Heard would rise at 3:30 a.m. and ride from Dunlap to Chattanooga with workers employed at Combustion Engineering, a Chattanooga plant that made boilers. She attended beauty school inside the Dome Building on Georgia Avenue before settling back in Dunlap to start her business.
Over the years, Heard counts at least 30 stylists who have worked in her salon before going out on their own. That makes Bouffant Hair Salon the mother church of Sequatchie County hair styling, where generations of acolytes have come and gone.
In fact, there is a faith element to the business. There's a chalkboard on the back wall of the shop where Heard's daughter, Erika Greer, who is also a stylist at Bouffant, jots prayer requests from regular customers.
For her part, Heard says customers regularly pour out their troubles to her, much like they might to a trusted minister or counselor.
"They tell their hairdresser things that they won't tell anybody else," Heard says. "They tell your their problems and you just listen. You encourage them if possible."
Lately, some of her older patrons - she calls them her "little customers" - have one fear in common, she says.
"They all say, 'You're not going to quit are you, Anna Faye? Now, you can't quit until I die, and then you've got to do my hair at the funeral home."
Like the character Otis on the old "Andy Griffith Show," who had his own key to the Mayberry town jail, Heard has her own key to the local funeral home.
While doing "last hairstyles" is old hat to her now, Heard chuckles recalling her first attempt at post-mortem hair work.
"I was a young girl starting in the business, and they called me because someone had died," she recalls. "The guy that ran [the funeral home] was standing at the back door because I was afraid to be there by myself with a dead person.
"I had my back to the door and the wind was blowing hard outside. I was doing her hair - all tense, you know. Then, that screen door slammed behind me and I screamed like I'd been shot. You could've heard me in Chattanooga."
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com.