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Viewfinder: 90-year old beautician never out of style

Natchez beautician Burtie Hamilton laughs with Ellen Posey as she washes Posey’s hair. Hamilton recently celebrated her 90th birthday and continues to serve customers in her beauty shop on Homochitto Street.  (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez beautician Burtie Hamilton laughs with Ellen Posey as she washes Posey’s hair. Hamilton recently celebrated her 90th birthday and continues to serve customers in her beauty shop on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Although Burtie Hamilton doesn’t take a miracle pill each day, she does have a prescription for longevity.

Hamilton has been washing, styling and setting hair for nearly 70 years. The Natchez beauty shop owner and beautician, who just celebrated her 90th birthday in January, has no plans to stop. Retirement would be bad for her health.

Burtie Hamilton blow dries Ellen Posey's hair Monday morning in Hamilton's beauty shop on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer/ The Natchez Democrat)

Burtie Hamilton blow dries Ellen Posey’s hair Monday morning in Hamilton’s beauty shop on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer/ The Natchez Democrat)

“Coming to work is like a dose of medicine to me,” said Hamilton as she applied hair color to one of her customers Monday morning. “I only take one pill a day and a handful of vitamins.”

With the exception of working two years making bullets at a Kentucky ammunitions plant during World War II, Hamilton has spent most of her life making people look beautiful.

After the war ended and the demand for ammunitions dropped, Hamilton decided it was time to move on.

She attended beauty school in Memphis. Even though she can pronounce the name of her alma mater “it has been so long, I have forgotten how to spell the name,” Hamilton said.

After graduating from the beauty academy, a classmate and former serviceman convinced her to come to Winona to work in a beauty shop he just bought. It was there that Hamilton met her husband, a telephone lineman. After following him to Clarksdale, Mendenhall and Brookhaven, the couple and their children moved to Natchez in 1971.

Natchez beautician Burtie Hamilton acquired the Stylarama beauty shop in Tracetown Shopping Center in 1971. Since then the shop has moved to John R. Junkin Drive and is now on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez beautician Burtie Hamilton acquired the Stylarama beauty shop in Tracetown Shopping Center in 1971. Since then the shop has moved to John R. Junkin Drive and is now on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

That same year, Hamilton acquired Stylarama in Tracetown Shopping Center. A few years later, Hamilton moved her shop to John R. Junkin across from the Natchez Mall. The beauty shop and skin care salon would become one of the area’s popular places for hair styling, pedicures and manicures.

“I had nine girls working for me at one time,” Hamilton said. “They were all wonderful and we loved each other.”

In 1987, Hamilton closed her shop on John R. Junkin and moved to Homochitto Street into the same building from which her husband fixed telephones and alarm systems.

Since then she has been cutting and styling on her own.

“I also do pedicures, manicures and everything else that comes with hair doing,” Hamilton said.

While most of her regular customers still come to her, Hamilton does make house calls. For some of her long-time customers who now live in local assisted living centers, she picks them up and drives them back to her shop once a week.

As much as hairstyles have changed in the last 70 years, Hamilton said her way of cutting and styling hair hasn’t changed a great deal.

Natchez beautician Burtie Hamilton dries Ellen Posey's hair in Hamilton's beauty shop on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez beautician Burtie Hamilton dries Ellen Posey’s hair in Hamilton’s beauty shop on Homochitto Street. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

“For a long time, everybody came once a week to get their hair set and a manicure,” Hamilton said.

Even though younger generations don’t frequent the beauty shop as much, Hamilton said she is thankful that her customers still come for their regular appointments.

“I have enjoyed every minute of it and still do,” Hamilton said. “When you enjoy doing something so much, it is not tiring. It keeps you alive.”