- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

CARLTON, Ore. (AP) - Phyllis Riley gave a permanent wave goodbye to her beauty shop at the end of 2016.

After cutting and curling in Carlton for 63 years, she’s finally retiring. But she still hopes to continue some of the volunteer work that’s made her a driving lifelong force in the Yamhill-Carlton area.

“I’ve volunteered at the food bank for years, and I want to help with that again,” she said, ticking through her list of plans.

While she intends to keep helping, she said she’s definitely ready to put down her scissors.

A few years ago, when a broken leg kept her home for weeks, “I was so homesick to go up town,” she said. “So I thought I’d have a hard time with retiring.”

Now, though, she’s accepted moving on.

“That’s not my life anymore,” she said. “I have to make my mind up to it.”

Riley grew up in Yamhill, first in town and later on acreage between there and Carlton where her family grew prunes, reported the Yamhill Valley News-Register (https://bit.ly/2iaKQWA).

“Prunes were up and coming then,” she said, thinking back to the late 1940s. “We picked by hand. Now everything is machine.”

She graduated from Yamhill High School in 1951.

Her father, who came from a long line of teachers, insisted she study education. But after a year and a half at the Oregon College of Education, now Western Oregon University, she won a scholarship to a beauty school in Salem and moved on with no regrets.

“I’ve never been sorry a day,” she said. Styling hair was her true calling, she said.

She worked in Salem for a short time. Then friends told her about a salon for sale for $1,100 in Carlton. She borrowed enough to buy the place, located across from the park on Main Street, in 1953.

“When I opened, I had $9 in my pocket,” she recalled.

Full service at the salon at the time - shampoo, set, cut, curl - might cost $4 to $5. Customers often brought gifts, too, such as cookies or other homemade items.

“I never had to bake a cake,” she said, although she did bake pies for the First Baptist Church’s popular Fun Days booth.

Someone always brought her a Trappist Abbey fruit cake at Christmas, too. She missed that this year, so she’s hoping to drive to the abbey, between Carlton and Lafayette, to pick one up herself.

A few years later, she moved next door to the location from which she retired. She sold the business once, but kept working there for the new owner and eventually bought it back.

Permanent waves were the most popular service she provided in the early days, and they’ve remained popular throughout her career, she said.

On her first weekend of business in Carlton, the mayor’s wife, Rita Williams, came in for a perm. Riley was excited to be fixing the hair of such an important person.

“She was such a lovely lady,” Riley said. “And later she became a best friend.”

Many customers became friends. And many returned week after week, year after year.

Riley’s Beauty Shop had two chairs and four dryers. They were operated by Riley and her longtime employee, Linda Hart.

They worked together companionably for 19 years. Hart also is retiring.

Riley was still single when she opened her shop in Carlton. But not for long, as she soon married local veteran Dick Riley, whose grandfather is the namesake for Riley Hall at Linfield College.

They’ve both been active in Carlton Memorial Post 173 of the American Legion. As an auxiliary member, she’s helped with everything from rocky mountain oyster feeds to programs that assist vets.

The parents of four, they’ve also been active with schools.

She helped in the classroom and Dick, an accountant, served on the school board for 15 years. She remains supportive of Yamhill-Carlton FFA programs.

Riley was the prime mover behind the Yamhill-Carlton luncheons for many years. Business owners and community members would gather monthly to learn more about their communities - whether it was new policing programs or successes of school sports teams.

Those champion sports teams make her proud, she said. She’s also proud of the high school’s graduates, such as Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times.

She also worked with other townspeople to make sure Carlton’s youngsters had what they needed. For instance, she recalled, she and other Main Street owners, such as the Masons at the gas station down the block, sometimes donated pool entry fees so children could go swimming.

“There was always somebody uptown who’d help anybody,” she said.

Riley said she loved being part of Carlton’s diverse business community over the decades.

She said she’s glad wineries and related businesses have given the town’s economy a boost. Still, she misses the times when the town had a dime store, a hardware store, a pharmacy, doctors’ offices and other shops, in addition to restaurants and agriculture-related businesses.

Best of all, she said, there was a great ice cream shop across Pine Street from the granary.

Her favorite scoop? Licorice.

While the licorice ice cream is just a memory, Riley is pleased Carlton still has its outdoor pool.

The new poolhouse, which opened in 2016, is “beautiful,” she said. And she said, “It was long needed.”

When she was working across the street from the pool, she enjoyed hearing children splashing. “I could tell how good the lifeguard was by the whistles,” she said.

Her own children spent their summers there. “Colleen was the orneriest one in the pool, but boy, could she swim!” Riley said fondly.

Colleen Wilcox now lives in McMinnville, as does Carol Riley, who works for First Federal. Collette, a nurse, lives in Sherwood. And the Rileys’ son, Steve, lives a few miles from his parents’ house.

They have five grandchildren and four great-grandkids so far. And she said, “We sure hope to have more.”


Information from: Yamhill Valley News-Register, https://www.newsregister.com

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