Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I have so many memories of haircuts that it’s hard to know where to begin. Of course, I’m assuming anyone would be interested in what I have to say about haircuts.

Well, I guess it’s no more outrageous to think anyone would be interested in my haircut stories, as in anything else I would have to say.

My excuse is, for a “blabber” like me, the important thing is NOT whether anyone reads them or not, but rather whether I can get this thing off my mind.

Don’t get me wrong! I appreciate the few friends who have told me they DO read these ramblings. It’s just that, having readers is NOT the PRIMARY motivator of a blabber. These things just have to be said, it seems.

Though I can’t remember my FIRST haircut, (I wish I could), I do remember, as a little boy of maybe 9 or 10, sitting in the Barber Shop on a Saturday morning, waiting on Garland Flowers to cut my hair. I was at least old enough to go to the Barber by myself. We just lived less that two blocks away, on the same street - East Sandusky.

One Saturday when it became my turn to sit in the “big” chair, one of the fellows waiting behind me said something like,

“Boy…..are you in a hurry to get a haircut?”

I answered, “No sir. Not really, Why?”

“Well, I was just wonderin’, if I gave you a nickel, would you let me have your place in line?” (I was next.) Haircuts were only a quarter.

A nickel? Are you kiddin’ me? That was a LOT of money to me.

“Sure”, I said. “I’ll take the nickel.”

You know, that idea really caught on. I made several nickels that day.

What do you think I did the NEXT time I needed a haircut? (NOT the next Saturday, if that’s what you’re thinking.)

I started my own little business of “place holding”. I “held a place” for the gentlemen who were in a hurry.

In some later years, Foster Griffin opened a Barber Shop in the basement of the Anderson Hotel in Mechanicsburg. The shop was available through an outside stair well, so one would not have to enter the Hotel to get to the barber.

Foster was the one who first taught me how to comb my hair. He said I should comb it straight down in the front, part it on the left side, then comb the right side down, then comb the ends backward, with a little “flip” in the front.

“Don Juan?” Or “Casanova?”

Combed it that way through most of the rest of my life - at least as long as my hair was long enough to do it. (Oh…..not when I went in the Army, though. It was short!)

I JUST NOW thought of a picture we used to have, of “Little Jimmy” getting his first haircut. Clarence Stoddard was the barber then, and Jimmy was “crying his eyes out”, as we say. Funny how kids “grow out” of that stage. Who knows what is so scary about a barber? Shears, maybe? Or even the “loud” clippers?

Two of the barbers I’ve already mentioned ended up selling car insurance, right in the barber shop. I think I bought from both of them, over time.

It’s amazing what you can learn in a barber shop, also.

In these later years, my barber was named Larry. He was very knowledgeable and astute. He was “up” on current events, and ran for public office one time (I forget which office). He was a Democrat, but had very strong conservative leanings - more like a Republican. He and his brother Jim were given the titles of “Kentucky Colonel” one time. How they got that, I’ll never know.

Larry hangs out in Florida now - especially in the winter - having had to sell out his share in the Barber Shop, as well as a two story rental property next door. They were right in the path of the new Regional Hospital being erected.

When we moved to Chicago in 1954, we had two boys of “barbering age”. Haircuts cost $1.50, I think. For the three of us boys, that was $4.50.

The summer after the haircuts went up to $1.75, I bought a barbering kit. Those poor boys! At least until I learned what I was doing. I still went to the barber, even though Jean offered to cut mine.

Since they both liked short hair, the cutting was relatively easy. We just got out the Chicago Telephone Directory, at least 3 or 4 inches thick, and they sat on that book, on top of a dining room chair. And, I whittled away. I did my best at “flat tops”, though I’m not sure John wanted that. Jim seemed happy with his flat top. I think I just cut John’s short.

One summer, we returned to Mechanicsburg for our annual vacation trip, and hadn’t cut Johnny’s hair yet.

I said, “Come on John. Let’s get your hair cut. Go get Grandpa’s telephone book.”

I waited, then sheepishly, John returned to the room with Grandpa’s phone book, which was about the thickness of 10 sheets of paper (more or less). He had the funniest grin on his face as he held up the book. “Is that all you’ve got?”, I said, laughing. We made it, without the phone book.

About 6 or 7 years ago, my hair was getting thinner and thinner, and harder to comb properly. John and Tonya were with us on vacation. John had started getting his hair cut short - the same length all over.

John said, “Dad, why don’t you get a flat top haircut?” I didn’t know what Larry would say about that.

So, John and Tonya joined me in Larry’s shop.

Tonya said, “He wants it real short on the sides, and a Number 4 on the flat top.”

Larry said, “Oh, I don’t think he wants it THAT short.”

“Oh yes he does”, said Tonya. And I did.

He started in, going shorter and shorter until I thought it was about right. I’ve kept it that way ever since. Different barbers do it slightly differently, but it’s basically the same.

I got a hair cut today, from a different barber (mine moved to Florida, remember.)

Back in February, I found that I couldn’t even find Larry’s brother, Jim. So, I asked OUR Jim where I should go. He said to try “Great Clips” on North Bechtle Avenue.

I went there, and the “barbers” were ALL female! I hadn’t let a woman cut my hair since my sister Miriam did it at age 12.

This was the week of WEEC’s SHARATHON, and I was a helper. Could I trust a FEMALE to cut my hair the way I wanted it?

I waited 5 minutes or so, when a nice, smiling, young African American girl called my name. She began working on my hair like she knew what she was doing. She did! I just told her, “Real short on the sides, and flat on top.” Her name is JJ.

After less than 20 minutes, she had me cut (and dried), after spraying a substance on it that made it stand up the way it should. (Not like the “wax” I had tried one time.) Just like I wanted it!

I ask for JJ every time now, and when I showed up today, she said, “I’ve just been thinking about you, and here you are!” Right!

I said, “It’s been great what you’ve been doing, but I want it even a little shorter this time.” When she finished, she said, “How’s that?”

“Terrific!”, I said.

I paid the shop $10 (the Senior Citizens rate), then gave her a two dollar tip, and said “See ya next time!”

(What ever happened to $1.75?)

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