Professional Groomers’ History Project

By Teri DiMarino & Shirlee Kalstone

A few issues ago, I devoted this column to the subject of the history of the professional grooming industry. Shirlee Kalstone and I have collectively wondered why no one has ever attempted to document how far the art of grooming has advanced in the past few decades from their modest beginnings. Shirlee recalls years ago in the mid-1970’s, while at the All-American Grooming Show in Chicago, that she was shocked to read a blurb in one of the Chicago papers that in the scheme of things “dog groomers were placed slightly above garbage collectors” who were on the bottom of their list. She regrets never cutting out that article to save and she wishes she had it in hand now! I would have liked the opportunity to contact the writer of the article and show him or her how our industry has expanded and matured!

In this day of Google, we have the ability to find just about anything we need to know. While this is true for most things, very little has been written specifically about our industry. Shirlee has always been extremely interested in history and one of the web sites she checks regularly is the Poodle History Project (www.poodlehistory.org), edited by Emily Cain, a pet Poodle owner. Even if Poodles are not your favored breed, this is a “must see” site as it is so chock-full of information about a variety of subjects, including some history on the evolution of trims and trimming.

One section that will interest our readers is Hair Do’s Through the Ages, which includes a history of Poodle grooming tools and a section on Traditional Clips going back as far as 1900 and accompanied by a Sporting Clip illustration by Gervais Markham in 1621. A section on Professional Dog Groomers includes a favorite illustrated historical article, originally published in The Royal Magazine in 1900 titled A Dog’s Toilet Club: an old time reference to grooming. It’s fascinating to see what the groomers accomplished with a hand-operated clipper! And while this information is wonderful, it still doesn’t begin to cover the evolution of what we all now recognize as our modern pet grooming industry with its publications, trade shows, competitions and products.

It has puzzled us as to why there has not been any historical project to document the events and people that have changed our industry to make grooming a truly appreciated profession and not one of “the least admired” as that long-ago article stated. Two years ago, Shirlee and I talked at length about starting such a project and I offered to make this endeavor part of my Groomer To Groomer column.

The Celebrity Rescue Makeover, held at Intergroom last year, brought out many old-timer contestants and showed the crowd that, while most of the contestants have been out of the ring for several decades, they still have it! Over $3,500 was raised for the local rescue and everyone had a great time! But many of the spectators did not know who many of these groomers were, much less what they have contributed to the industry. We have had conversations with other groomers and early competitors who have been around for a while and they have all agreed to contribute. We were all very enthusiastic about the prospects of this project. But, we all were so busy that it became a project that got put on the back burner… until now.

Shirlee and I began making notes about the first grooming contests and associations as well as noted groomers of the time. We set up an outline of where to start, what to cover and how to proceed. While the Poodle History Project is a great start, we began looking into the beginnings of our modern educational trade shows and contests.

Several regional contests had been organized in the very early 1970’s by the Southern California Groomers Association with the help of Betty Brown and Barbara Baillargeon, as well as another show held in central Florida, where Mario Migliorini (a mover-and-shaker of the time), was the judge. If any of our readers know the actual origins of these shows, we would love your input. Then, very shortly thereafter, Jerry Schinberg had the foresight to produce the first national event, The All-American Grooming Show in Chicago. Last year at Intergroom, Jerry and Shirlee talked about being the two oldest people still active in the industry. As Shirlee’s note-taking increased, every time she couldn’t remember the name of a winning groomer of long ago, she would think “I’ll just ask Jerry. He’ll know.”

When Jerry passed away so suddenly last summer, it became important to get this project started as soon as possible. With that being said, Shirlee probably now holds the title of THE oldest active person in our industry (with a very positive nod to Sam Kohl, of course). We both want this history to go forward before any more of us are sharing stories and sipping martinis at that great bar in the sky with the likes of Jerry Schinberg, Sally Liddick, John Nash and Liz Paul. Much of what is happening now is based on events of the past, such as the founding and evolution of professional organizations like NDGAA, IPG, ISCC and, of course, GroomTeam USA. There are, and have been, so many remarkably creative people in grooming over the years who stand out for their achievements. While publications like Groomer to Groomer are extremely instrumental in keeping the industry aware of what is going on now, the past is something we must document or it will, out of pure apathy, be lost.

Future columns are being formatted. Putting together as accurate a history as possible requires participation from as many people as possible that have something to contribute. Here is our request: Early information has already been provided by groomers like Romaine Michele. If any of the following people reading this article have information that they would care to contribute, please send a short message with what you would like to share, to either to Shirlee Kalstone at [email protected] or Teri DiMarino at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you! Also, please be sure you include your contact information.

Here is a partial list of some of the groomers we surely will want to hear from in the near future, as we are sure they all have “good stuff” to add: Karla Addington-Smith, Jackie Bowman, Judy Breton, Diane Betelak, Christine DeFilippo, Mario Di Fante, Linda Claflin, Hazel Christiansen, Sarah Hawks, Linda Kay, Lisa Leady, Loretta Marchese, Ann Martin, Vivian Nash, Julie Ostoski , Christina Pawlosky, Val Penstone, Dina Perry, Sue Pratt, Kathy Rose, Gail Rudowicz-Schroll, Jay Scruggs, Gwen Shelly, Pat Snyder, Ann Stafford, John Stazko, Marea Tully, Melissa Verplank, Joey Villani, Suesan Watson, Sue Zecco and SO many more. If you don’t see your name here please do not be slighted, as there are so many who remember the origins of our industry. We know there are many more that should contribute to this project and we want to hear from you.

We plan on taking this world-wide, as many of our overseas friends, like Kitty Dekeersgieter, are already offering their help. We would like to hear from groomers like Paola Acco, Anita Bax, Shaunna Bernardin, Jackie Bolton, Mijo Klein, Umberto Lehmann, Denys Lorrain, Sheila Morris, Colin Taylor, Mirjam Van Der Bosch, Jetty van der Hulst, Bea van Zanten, Peter Young and many others who helped shape our industry internationally.

Please join us to make the Professional Groomers’ History Project a reality. And, please keep in mind that, one day we will all part of today’s newcomer’s history.

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