Everyone looked terrific yesterday at Mildred C. Berger's surprise party, but what would you expect at a retirement gathering for a hairdresser?
After 52 years of making everyone look just so, Mrs. Berger, 66, is leaving the business to spend more time with her family.
Family, friends and clients of the Linthicum resident turned out at Snyder's Willow Grove Restaurant to say goodbye and share memories.
A hush fell over the room just before 1 p.m. as the guest of honor arrived. Her daughter, Christine L. Lienesch, grabbed a camera and dropped to her knees.
"Surprise," yelled the crowd, as Mrs. Berger darted back out of the door with her husband of 48 years, Russell W. Berger, and her son-in-law, Gary W. Lienesch.
"I'll get you for this, Kathy. I will get you for this," said Mrs. Berger, coming back in and hugging Katherine J. Ulrich, her boss at Head To Toe.
The two women have worked together for more than 20 years, first as hairstylists at the Linthicum shop, then known as Susan's Beauty Nook. When Mrs. Ulrich bought the shop eight years ago and opened it as Head To Toe, Mrs. Berger stayed on.
As the partygoers indulged in a few drinks and nibbled salads, they wondered what they will do without Mrs. Berger.
"I'll miss Millie. She's done my hair so long," said Norma E. Koepf, 87, of Linthicum, a customer for more than 40 years of Mrs. Berger and the stylist's oldest sister.
Mrs. Berger has traveled to hospitals and the homes of bedridden or ill customers to do their hair for free. She's kept an eye out for elderly customers and given them rides to the shop and back home.
She got her first job at age 13, sweeping floors for 25 cents a day at her oldest sister's salon in Westport on Sidney Avenue and Kent Street. She attended Claire Barton Beauty School and joined her sister's shop as a hairdresser when she turned 16.
"It was wonderful, hon. We didn't have any money but we built it up until it amounted to something nice," said Emma M. Moeller, 79, who passed along what she knew to her sister.
The two women ran the shop, Mil-Em, together until Mrs. Moeller closed it in the 1950s to move to Lancaster, Pa. Mrs. Berger moved to the Linthicum shop.
Mrs. Ulrich said there was a saying at Head To Toe: "When you are in Millie's chair, you are also in Millie's care."