By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 29, 2023 – If you’re not living in Iowa, you might not appreciate just how nuts all of us here are right now about Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball team, which has reached this coming weekend’s Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
I saw additional proof of it Monday afternoon when I was browsing Facebook, and came across a post by my hair stylist Catherine Wilson, owner of Catherine’s Hairem, which is located exactly 47 paces south of my apartment door in Jefferson.
And that launched a string of a dozen supportive responses from her customers and friends.
Lori Finley and Chuck Offenburger, both at work Tuesday at Catherine’s Hairem in Jefferson.
Since I was already scheduled for a haircut at the Hairem right after lunch Tuesday, I decided to take along my reporter’s notebook.
“Let’s have a hair salon discussion of Caitlin, the Hawks, LSU Coach Kim Mulkey’s fashions, and other worthy topics,” I said.
Kind of like I’ve occasionally done over the years at Sam’s Barber Shop in Audubon, for you kind readers who remember. I’ll bet they’re talking Hawkeye women’s hoops at Sam’s now, too.
Catherine’s Hairem, I should explain, is a hallowed spot in Jefferson. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was the high school hangout as “The B & E,” an ice cream and snack shop owned by Burt and Eleanor Shuett, who gave their first initials to the business. (Most-remembered snack – “potato cakes,” like hashbrowns.) In 1969, Jim Adamson bought the building and converted it to The Hairem salon. Catherine Carman Wilson started working there 23 years ago and bought it nine years ago.
I started getting my hair cut there about four years ago, when the last barbershop in town closed. Catherine said “maybe 20 percent” of her business now is from men. “I’ve always wanted it to be a friendly, comfortable, hometown atmosphere,” she said. It is.
The conversation is always flowing. Currently, it’s all about Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball.
“That’s the No. 1 topic in here now,” Catherine said. “Especially among my older women customers. They love the Hawkeyes, and they definitely love talking about women’s basketball right now during the tournament.
“It is so fun watching Caitlin Clark play,” she continued. “The thing I may like the most is how she seems to see the whole floor while she’s out there. She knows where all her teammates are, and she’s really good at getting the ball to them. And it’s just crazy how far outside she can shoot. Still, she’s a team player – a really good teammate – and leader.”
But one customer, a Hawk fan, “says she doesn’t like Caitlin’s ‘attitude,’ that she seems a little ‘arrogant’,” Catherine added. “I tell her that isn’t arrogance that Caitlin has. It’s confidence! She’s put the work in. She’s earned all the attention she gets.”
When Clark occasionally pops off at an opponent or a referee, “it’s really pretty mild, compared to what a lot of guys get away with during games. Nobody says anything about them.”
Catherine Wilson says Caitlin Clark is filling what’s a real need.
“Young girls involved in sports have needed a woman to inspire them,” she said, “and Caitlin is inspiring a whole lot of them.”
Catherine said she’s “always been interested in sports.” She was a basketball player (“the 6-on-6 game”) through middle school, then gave it up to be a varsity basketball cheerleader in high school. And she and her husband Brian Wilson have raised sons Caden and Jace and daughter Sadie as good athletes for our Greene County High School Rams. Brian was a football player himself, now is an industrial worker here and also the bass guitarist in a good band “Dirt Road Divide.”
Catherine Wilson and daughter Sadie Wilson at Catherine’s Hairem.
Sadie, who sat in on our chat Tuesday afternoon, is a sophomore at Iowa Central Community College, studying to become a guidance counselor and basketball coach. She said she’s been so busy with her classes she hasn’t been able to watch much of the women’s tournament action. (Her mother gently scolded her about that.)
Catherine’s salon sidekick Lori Finley, who was cutting my hair Tuesday, was also a cheerleader in high school, “but I’m not really a sports person now,” she said. “I’m listening to your conversation here, and I’m just lost.”
But both Sadie and Lori got involved when we started talking about the wild fashion styles we’ve seen from the players, commentators and even coaches as we’ve watched the women’s games on network TV. Exotic long hairstyles with an amazing array of colors, braids and extensions. (Catherine swears some players must be “wearing wigs they are gluing on.”) Daring eye lashes. Make-up.
“I can understand that from the players,” Sadie Wilson said. “Remember, they’re playing on national television. I think if I were playing on national TV, I’d be putting on some make-up, too.”
Count me among those who have loved the colorful fashions and styles. Even those of Louisiana State University head coach Kim Mulkey, who took Baylor University’s women’s team to multiple national championships, then decided to go back home and coach the Bayou Tigers.
Here she is. (Thanks to USA Today for this photo.)
OMG, for their first Sweet Sixteen game on Friday night, Coach Mulkey showed up in a surreal suit jacket with a pattern showing flowers and vines. And across her shoulders and down both arms was a pink boa!
“That’s bold!” said Lori Finley, when she heard us describe it.
In case you missed it, Mulkey had a perfect explanation of the outfit when the commentators pressed her about it post-game.
“Look, we’re from Louisiana,” the coach said on TV. “We like sparkles, we like diamonds, we like Mardi Gras, we like to eat, and we like to party. So I’m filling the bill for my home state.”
Caitlin Clark, Monika Czinano, Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin, McKenna Warnock and their back-ups are filling the bill for our home state, too.
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