The Beauty Shop Owner by Carlos Dugan

Vic Streeter, whose birth name was Invictus, was born in DeWeese, SC on August 13, 1897. He was the owner of a beauty shop in Charlotte, NC, which stands as the headquarters of Caravan Beauty Salons. This life history comes from the Federal Writers' Project of the Great Depression era, and outlines how the pursuit of black entrepreneurship shaped Streeter's life. The Federal Writers' project was a government attempt to document the everyday lives of Americans during the Great Depression. However, much of the information in this project has been altered to create a better narrative for the writers' taste. With that said, the only recurring issue in Vic's life history was the dialect the writer used to portray the way he talked.

Biography

Early Life

Streeter's early childhood was an extremely rough experience, which was characterized by family deaths, and constant movement. When he was just two years old, his brother died, making him an only child. Just a year later, his mother passed away, leaving his grandmother to take care of him. Streeter's father was a sharecropper, who frequently moved the two in search of better job opportunities. Considering that Vic had to travel so much, he wasn't able to gain a full education. He finished school with just a third grade education, yet managed to learn important lessons along the way. His first exposure to the hair care business came from his stepmother. He mentions that he and her went to the woods to dig roots and made grease for all the kids that lived around him. While staying with his father on a plantation, Streeter began working his first job: babysitting a little boy. After staying here for a few years, Vic's father moved him into his cousins' house and would temporarily disappear from his life. Here Vic recalls the harsh treatment that he faced, and how it still hurt him. What he did gain from this experience though, were valuable business lessons. The man he credits for helping to foster that knowledge within him, goes by "Captain Tucker". Mr. Tucker owned a dispensary that Vic frequently visited. One day while taking his usual visit, Tucker decided to dress Vic in dapper clothes to go see his father. While recalling his visit Vic comments, "I looked so good, papa decided to keep me."

Humble Beginnings

Adult Life

While living with his father again Vic earned another babysitting job, this time for his first official paycheck. He made just a dollar a month, and admitted that he never liked living on that farm in the first place. Using his determination to get off the farm, Vic took on a few more positions which eventually landed him a job as a cook. It was here that he met his first wife, Ila May Brevard. Within a year they had their first child together, whom they thought wouldn't live very long because of its health complications. After the birth of their second child, the infections that Mrs. Brevard caught ended up taking her life. It didn't take long for Vic to recover from her death, as he married again just six weeks later.

Career

In order to support his new wife and children, he moved his family to Riverton and got a job in a hotel there. He had already applied for a hair growing patent, and soon started selling it on a small scale. Vic understood that in order to make his dream work, he would have to put everything he could into his business. In an effort to expand his brand, he invested in an agent for his hair product, and continued to perfect his pressing oil and shampoo. The first month he opened his shop, he and his workers only attracted seven customers. At the time, they had little equipment to serve many customers. In an effort to garner more customers, he advertised that his shop used cleaner water than his competitors. He also gave out samples of his hair products at every public event he possibly could. His tactics worked, because by 1933 the State had recognized Streeter's shop as one of the first Negro shops to receive a business license. At the height of his success, he had owned a chain of six different Caravan Beauty Salons in Riverton.

Community

Black Entrepreneurship

Historians have always argued that due to slavery and discrimination, blacks have struggled to gain industry experience. When it comes to small businesses on the other hand, blacks have always been able to excel. In era where "shaving rather than haircutting, was the mainstay of nineteenth century barbers"(Bristol), the fact that blacks had this much success is impressive. The motivation behind Vic's business success was to serve and uplift his community. This was a common theme behind black beauty shops and barbershops, because it provided a sense of unity and enterprise amongst black people. The barbershop profession in the black community has always maintained a high level of success, dating all the way back to the late eighteenth century. When thought about in this context, it's no surprise that Vic took this career route. With the limited education that he had, barbering was his best opportunity to economically succeed.

Federal writers' project

Federal Writers' Project Office

As stated before, the Federal Writers' Project was the government's effort to document the daily lives of those living through the Great Depression. Employing writers who hadn't been properly trained in interviewing though, created conflicts with the interpretations of these life histories. A common issue in this collection is that, writers took it amongst themselves to alter these interviews to fit a more dramatic narrative. Since Project workers were recruited in their home states, many of them had a limited view of the nation. Many have been described as having a "blurred historical perspective"(Fox). This resulted from an attempt to present American life in a panoramic view, a very common format in literary history during the 1930s.

Works cited

Bristol, Douglas. "Project MUSE - From Outposts to Enclaves: A Social History of Black Barbers from 1750 to 1915." Project MUSE - From Outposts to Enclaves: A Social History of Black Barbers from 1750 to 1915. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

Fox, Daniel M. “The Achievement of the Federal Writers' Project.” American Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 1, 1961, pp. 3–19., www.jstor.org/stable/2710508.

Images Cited

Oatman-Stanford, Hunter. "Straight Razors and Social Justice: The Empowering Evolution of Black Barbershops." Collectors Weekly. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

"PRX." PRX. N.p., n.d. Web. February 1, 2017

Vachon, John. Plowing, Guilford County, North Carolina. April 1938. Guilford, North Carolina. Photogrammer. http://photogrammar.yale.edu/records/index.php?record=fsa1998021085/PP. Accessed February 1, 2017

Vachon, John. Charlotte, North Carolina. Negro Truck Driver. March 1943. Charlotte, North Carolina. Photogrammer. http://photogrammar.yale.edu/records/index.php?record=owi2001023312/PP. Accessed February 1, 2017

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