Since the relaunch of the ‘IamBeeston’ project a few months ago, I have now met over a hundred different people from all walks of life. All with different tales to tell about Beeston and what they think of our favourite little town…
Besides asking people in the street, I am sometimes contacted directly through Facebook, by people who want to nominate individuals as subjects. One such person was Joanne Plumbley, who suggested that the owner of Poodletrim would be a great candidate for the project.
So I popped down to meet Louie Harrison at the place where dogs go for a haircut to find out more about her and what she thinks of Beeston. As the conversation went on, I realised that there was an interesting story being told here. One that needed to be developed into a feature for the magazine.
“I was born in Butterworth, a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, some 69 years ago. My mum was a white South African, whilst my dad was in the British Army. “We moved to Chilwell Village when I was three months old. But when I turned five or six, my mum returned to South Africa, leaving my dad Ray, who was now a joiner and me behind in Chilwell.”
Paul Smith used to use Louie’s Afghan hound in his advertising
The 1950s weren’t such liberal times as today, and single fathers hadn’t been invented, so her grandparents, who also lived in the area, brought her up. “When I was twelve years old, I started working as a Saturday girl at Poodletrim. It opened in 1958 by Elaine Drewery, in the same Victorian cottage, that was used as a shop that previously sold paint.” The name Drewery might trigger something in the minds of fans of 1980s pop music, as on the 21st of September 1959, Elaine gave birth to a daughter called Corinne, who later became the lead singer in the band Swing Out Sister; whose most well known song is ‘Breakout’ from 1986, and which made number 4 in the UK charts. Incidentally, the promo video features the band messing about with textiles. This is a bit of an in-joke, as Corinne studied fashion design at St Martin’s College.
At age seventeen, Louie became the manager of Poodletrim, which is now certainly the oldest dog grooming place in Beeston, if not the East Midlands. Elaine Drewery and her family moved to Lincolnshire when Corinne was growing up. Elaine currently runs the hedgehog charity ‘Authorpe Hedgehog Care’. As the 1960s moved on, Louie got to know some famous locals like Paul Smith and Richard Beckinsale. In fact Paul Smith used to use Louie’s Afghan hound in his advertising, when he first set up the fashion label in 1970.
Poodles have always been Louie’s favourite dog, and has had four in her life. Big Blues and Dark Greys. She remembers the fashion when people used to dye their poodle’s coat different colours. Sealyham terriers are a breed that was once popular. So too were fox terriers. Louie’s knowledge of dog breeds is extensive, which isn’t surprising, after dealing with them for nearly sixty years.
Disaster struck in the early 1990’s, when fire nearly burnt down the building. “The fire didn’t stop me. I just got as much of my kit together as I could and moved to the shop at the front of the building, which is currently Square 17 hairdressers, and I was open for business a few days later.”
Louie hasn’t needed to advertise her business at all for over twenty five years, as she purely relies on repeat business from long standing customers and word of mouth. She currently employs two assistants, two Saturday girls and often takes people on for work experience, or students who are studying animal care.
Despite her health issues, Louie still works full time, and also helps to raise money for different charities. For her sixtieth birthday, Louie managed to close the road, which she lives on, set up a marquee, and threw a big birthday bash. I asked her what she has planned for her seventieth later this year. “I’m not sure yet. I’d really like to go on the Orient Express.”