Vona Hankins' hands move with precision as she cuts the bangs of 1-year-old Nathan Marshall at Sassy Looks in southwest Oklahoma City.
Nathan is the sixth-generation member of his family to have his hair cut by Hankins, 71.
“I'm not as quick as I used to be,” Hankins said as Nathan squirmed.
Hankins graduated from Capitol Hill in 1959 after transferring there because U.S. Grant didn't have cosmetology classes. There, she met Nathan's great-grandmother, Janet Rodriquez, and a lifelong friendship was formed.
Shortly after graduation, Hankins began leasing a space in the home of Janet's mother and father for what amounted to her first beauty salon.
Over the years Janet had three kids. Her children had children and now her grandchildren are having kids. And Hankins wanted to be the first one to cut the sixth generation's hair.
“She started cutting my hair, and my mother's hair, and my father's mother lived close to us and she cut her hair too,” Janet Rodriquez said. “It's just a relationship that has grown over the years to the point where she is part of our family. She comes to our family reunions.”
Hankins is now in her 53rd year of cutting hair, but 2012 has not been easy for her. In March, she tripped and broke her leg in several places. She is still rehabilitating nine months later.
The day after she had surgery on her leg, her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. She plans to return to work on a full-time basis, but it's been a long road.
“I've been looking forward to cutting the hair of a sixth generation of this family but I didn't know if I would make it,” Hankins said. “I know I won't make the seventh, but I'm glad I made it this far. It's been a hard year for me.”
As for why she's stayed in the business for so long — it's the people.
“I've had so many of the same people coming to me, some of them until they died,” she said. “You can't please all of the people. I've had people quit on me and that hurts. It's part of the business. But when you get that bond with a family it makes you happy.”
Miranda Marshall holds Nathan as Hankins gives her son his first haircut. She thinks back to when she cut her hair.
“I'm so happy she was able to give Nathan his first haircut,” Marshall said. “She gave me my first haircut. I don't remember it but I have the pictures of it. She's just one of the sweetest people I've ever known. She would give you her last dollar if you ever needed it. We love her like she is a part of our family because in a lot of ways, she is.”