Her shop in Highland Park was a gathering place.
For more than 40 years, laughter sprang from Alice's House of Beauty, a salon in the basement of a Jefferson Avenue house in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.
The beautician who cut, colored, curled and styled hair there for hundreds of customers over the decades, Alice Josephine Flood, died in her sleep last week at the age of 99. She was a beautician for 70 years.
Flood began her career early, going to cosmetology school while still in high school in Hayfield, Minn. She started working at age 15 and continued -- part-time in her later years -- until her mid-80s, her son Steve Flood said.
"She was still doing hair for 50s and 60s prices ... so she had to love it because she wasn't doing it for the money," he said.
Alice Flood was energetic, smart and independent, friends and relatives said. She was No. 2 in her class at Hayfield High School and played on the girls' basketball team -- well before most rural Minnesota towns had a girls' basketball team.
She met her husband, Benjamin, as he passed through Hayfield while working on the railroad. They settled in St. Paul in the early 1930s, where they raised two sons while he worked for Northwestern Bell and she worked in other salons before running her own. Her husband was active in the Masons and she was active as an Eastern Star. Married for more than 35 years, Alice became a widow when Benjamin died of cancer in 1970. She suffered another tragedy when their oldest son, also named Benjamin, died of cancer in 1999.
"She was always going," Steve Flood said. "It was hard to call her or catch up with her because she was out with friends every night and golfed in a league until she was 85. The one time you could find her was during her work days in the beauty shop."
A couple of strokes in her late 80s eventually led to her using a wheelchair, but that didn't stop her from bowling and playing volleyball where she lived, most recently at Episcopal Church Home in St. Paul, he said.
Family and friends said they never saw Flood, even into her later years, without her hair and makeup done. She decorated her house in pink -- even down to the color of the toilet paper, one relative said.
Great niece Julie Mudge said she remembers Flood tending to several women at once in the salon. "I just remember I'd sit down there sometimes and she'd be carrying on maybe two to three conversations at a time," Mudge said.
Flood stuck out for her glamorous style, said family friend Barbara Bellinger, who grew up in a house across the alley in Highland Park. Flood had a head of big, teased blonde hair, bright red lipstick, bright red-painted fingernails, large jewelry and dressy clothes.
Flood cut not only Bellinger's hair, but also cut Bellinger's mother's and grandmother's hair.
"I would liken her basement to the beauty shop in [the movie] "Steel Magnolias," where everybody came and hung out," Bellinger said. "Sometimes, I think the social aspect was more important than the beauty aspect."
Besides her husband and son, she was preceded in death by five sisters, three brothers and a granddaughter. She is survived by her son Steve, two daughters-in-law, a grandson and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Flood will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, with visitation one hour prior, at Coventry Chapel in Cornelia House of the Episcopal Church Home in St. Paul. Attendees should enter at 1840 W. University Av.
Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102