Jane Hammontree recalls that as a child she had a great-aunt with long hair that stretched down to the small of her back.
"She taught me to braid hair when I was just a child," Hammontree said. "I guess that was where it all started."
Hammontree, known as "Moma Jane" to her family, recently retired after 74 years as a beautician and hair dresser in Whitfield County.
She started when she was still a student at Dalton High School.
"I was 14-and-a-half-years old, and I was training in a beauty shop," she recalled. "I went to school half a day and then worked until the shop closed at night."
She said that when she started she really didn't think she'd still be cutting hair more than seven decades later. But she said she loved her job, and she loved to spend time with her customers. She cut the hair of hundreds of women and "quite a few men" over the years.
"I really considered them my friends as well as my customers," she said. "I had some of them with me for many years."
She said she shared their lives — the births of their children, the deaths of relatives and other important events.
"We really got to know each other," she said.
Asked about who some of her closest customers were, she declined to answer, saying there were so many and she was afraid she might leave someone out.
Hammontree started working with Cletes Burchfield at the Monte Carlo Beauty Shop in Dalton, where she stayed for about 10 years. She worked with Flora Brock in Dalton for several more years. She opened her own beauty shop in Rocky Face, the Wave N Set, where she worked for more than 30 years.
Hammontree saw many changes in hairstyles over those 74 years, from bouffants to beehives to bangs.
"I remember in the 1970s, they got to teasing their hair really big," she said. "No matter how high I got it, they'd tell me they wanted it higher."
When her husband Trammell passed away in 2015, she considered retiring.
"But she told us 'I need to keep cutting hair. I need to see my friends,'" said her son Dennis. "My brother (Greg) and I said, 'Mom, you are probably right.'"
Jane Hammontree said the decision to retire was a difficult one. But in April, Gov. Brian Kemp closed beauty shops and barber shops for a month to try to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). And when Kemp decided to allow beauty shops to reopen, Hammontree decided she would not reopen.
"I injured my back, and it was getting more difficult for me to stand for a long time. I didn't want to not be able to give them (her clients) justice," she said. "So when they closed all the beauty shops, I started to think about (retiring), and I talked to my family and decided it was time."
She said it was difficult to tell her customers.
"I'm going to miss them. I appreciate them, and I do consider them my friends," she said.
Dennis Hammontree said he's proud of his mother.
"Seventy-four years is a long time," he said. "She has worked hard, and I know how much she enjoyed her work."