B.D. Wallace

Soldier-turned-cosmetologist worked hard and played hard

  • Bud Wallace relaxes with his beloved dog, G.G., in this picture taken in 2008 at his Hagerstown home.
Submitted photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about B.D. "Bud" Wallace, who died July 15 at the age of 87. His obituary appeared in the July 23 edition of The Herald-Mail.

HAGERSTOWN -- The life journey of B.D. Wallace could scarcely be described as typical or linear.

But B.D., or Bud as he was known, never viewed his path as all that remarkable or unusual.

Born July 1, 1923, on the Osage Indian Reservation in Tulsa, Okla., to the late Rosco and Mary Lassiter Wallace, he was the youngest of five children.

"They were sharecroppers. They moved around, working when they could," said Beverly J. (Kisiel) Wallace, Bud's wife of 41 years. "At one time, when the children were small, they actually lived in a covered wagon. They always had food, always had some kind of shelter."


When he was just 16, Bud married his first wife, Ruth M. Cook Wallace. The couple had three children -- Ronald, Barbara and Pam.

Bud served in World War II from 1943 to 1945 as a radio operator and a paratrooper in the European Theater. While with the 101st Airborne, he jumped at Operation Market Garden in Holland and received the Purple Heart in Bastogne, France, during the Battle of the Bulge. He completed his military service on the Volga River, where he met the Russian forces at the end of the war.

He then returned to Tulsa and worked as a firefighter. It was around that time that Bud's life took a capricious turn into a field that would prove to be providential.

With the daring of a vagabond and audacity of a soldier, Bud boldly moved across the country and strode into the field of cosmetology.

"His brother, Charles, and his sister, Mae, had a beauty salon in Bethesda (Md.)," Beverly said. "They said, 'Why don't you come up and we'll train you. You can get your license.' So he did, and that was his start in cosmetology."

Bud's training and apprenticeship at Wallace of Bethesda was the beginning of a lifelong passion that he practiced for nearly six decades. He went on to found the Award Beauty Schools in Hagerstown, Frederick, Md., and Gettysburg, Pa., as well as eight Wallace Hair Salons in surrounding areas.

"He did not find it odd," Beverly said. "He liked (cosmetology). It's an art. Not everybody can do it."

Janet Fischer, 61, of Hagerstown, met Bud when she began attending Award Beauty School in 1968. Janet completed the program and eventually became a teacher, then director of education at the school.

"(Bud) was my mentor. He knew how to flip and flop hair to the point that it was just, 'Look what he is doing. How did he ever do that with that hair?'" Janet said. "He could make a pin curl sing. To me, he could make music out of doing pin curls."

Bud opened his first school on North Potomac Street in Hagerstown in 1953.

Though the other two schools eventually closed, the Hagerstown site remains in operation at 26 E. Antietam St.

Also in 1953, Bud won the Golden Curls contest, a coveted title among hairstylists.

"It's very prestigious," Janet said. "Back then, to win the contest, you had to take a roller set that you did on a head and do two comb-outs, one for daytime and one for evening, on the same head."

Bud's flair for style was matched by his charisma, Beverly said. The couple met in 1964, when Beverly was working at Execo Printing Co. across the street from the East Antietam Street school.

"I was just fascinated with him," Beverly said. "He was sexy, ornery, fun-loving, happy. Once this hits (the newspaper), all the girls will say, 'Oh yeah. He was.' He was short, and he wasn't all that to look at, but once he smiled at you, that was it."

Beverly addressed the stereotype of a man's sexual preference being associated with an interest in cosmetology.

"It wasn't weird, back then, for a man to be interested in cosmetology. It was more about talent than exposure of somebody's preferences," she said. "And no one ever questioned Bud. Every time you ever saw him, he was with a woman -- a blonde, a brunette, a redhead."

Beverly's friends joke about the plethora of hair colors she has sported over the years as Bud's muse.

"She was a blond, brunette, redhead, sometimes two colors," Janet said. "'You gotta try this,' Bud would tell her."

Varner L. "Pat" Paddack, 75, of Hagerstown, was a friend of Bud. Pat, who served as mayor of Hagerstown from 1973 until 1981, described Bud as a man who worked hard and played hard.

"He worked like a dog," Pat said.

The two shared meals, drinks and hours on the golf course.

Pat fondly recalled Bud's 70th birthday party as representative of who Bud was. Not a person predisposed for half-heartedness, Bud had a party that lasted for a week straight. Beverly hosted it at their home.

"There was birthday cake all the time and no shortage of libation," Pat said. "That's one of the things I will never forget."

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