Friday, October 20, 2006


We start out in this world trusting those around us – taking them for face value. Everyone was to be taken at their word with no second thoughts or doubts. However, there comes a day when you start to be leery of people and second guess their intentions – you start keeping an eye on them.

I was still small enough to have to sit on the padded board in the barber’s chair the day I began to mistrust adults, and two people regretted the incident for the rest of their lives.

The first visit to the barbershop in the 50’s was a “coming out” for a young man and it was a rite that only a man and his son should share. It was a dad’s way of welcoming you to his world and introducing you to his friends.

My dad proudly opened the door and let me walk into the smoky little red-bricked building first, and my face immediately began to glow hot from the attention as all eyes looked my way and seemed to dare me to enter alone. As soon as my dad appeared, smiles came to those faces, and greetings were exchanged, telling me that dad was known and welcomed there.

Little red vinyl padded chairs, with chrome curved arms and legs, lined one side of the room, separated by brown painted metal ashtray stands, folded newspapers, and stacks of Argosy and Field & Stream Magazines, while the other wall was grandly displayed with giant mirrored cabinets and shelves arrayed with strange electric devices, bottles of blue water soaking dirty combs clean, and big white haired brushes and cans of powder.

In front of the workstations were the stately padded and arrayed barber chairs with their chrome and porcelain pump handles and padded footrest. They were grand, magical things to me that rose and lowered at the barber’s command, or whirled from side-to-side as the customer was shown the barber’s experienced touch in the mirror.

My dad decided to go first, to let me relax and watch the show, and to see that there was nothing to getting a haircut. I watched and listened as the men all talked and laughed. It was all innocent enough and I could hardly wait my turn to climb on the big chair give it all a try. I listened to the clippers click on and off, the slap of the straight razors against leather straps, and the snip, snip of the shinny scissors, and the hydraulic sound the chairs made.

Finally, it came my turn and I stood waiting at the foot of the chair, one foot upon the footrest, until the “booster seat” was added across its arms. “Hop up son…you’re next!”

The barber gently put the traditional neck paper in place, then popped the white barber sheet clean of old hair and draped it around my body. The sheet, with my knees up under it, covered my entire body, and I was ready for the first real man haircut!

The barber clicked the electric clippers on and touched the warm face of the shears against the back of my neck. It felt good and I loved the hum and buzzing it made inside my skull – this was going to be good. The barber went round and around, and side-to-side, did some clipping with his scissors over his long black comb and finally completed his masterpiece on my little blond head. The final touch, so I thought, was the powdered brush across the back of my neck that made me blink and cough.

My dad walked behind me, out of view, whispered something to the barber, and then walked back in front. I should have known something was up, but remember, at that point I trusted all mankind!

I heard another louder buzz click on and thought nothing of it until the barber’s hand; complete with scalp massager touched the top of my head! Down from the chair I sprang and out the door I ran terrified! My dad chased me about a block before catching the barber sheet with me in it!

He carried me back into the barbershop where everyone, except for the barber, was still laughing. The barber looked sheepish and immediately began to apologize to me. “I’m sorry son, you’re dad put me up to it.”

I never again let that barber cut my hair. I went back to the shop for years, but I always used the second chair and kept a watchful eye on the barber when he moved away from the chair. No matter how much my dad pleaded I would not let barber number one touch me. Both the barber and my dad always regretted their little surprise, but never failed to tease me about it every trip back.

I lost my innocence that day, and three people learned valuable lessons for life – never let a stranger get behind your back and a kid never forgets or forgives!


Jose said...

The memories definitely came back, I used to get those barber shop haircuts that resembled Army hair cuts as per my mom's request. Funny thing is she wasn't even there to request it, she just game me the message to be relayed to the barber, and when I came back I better had no surprises or back to the barber it was. The life my kids had here in the U.S. is no where near to the life I had in Mexico as a kid. Luckily the barber never pulled any surprises, maybe it was because my dad was not with me as he was always working. Again thanks for the memories.

bozette said...

Very true I still have memories of things when I was young.
For some reason only the bad sticks with you.

Fathairybastard said...

Hmm. My mom's got a picture of my very first hair cut. Me sitting in a chair in the kitchen, my dad grinning up at me with both hands on the lags of the chair, proud as hell. His boys first cut. Mom had let by baby hair grow long and dad hated it, or so they tell me. I have no memory. Was like 3. I do remember going to the air base in England back in the late 60s, like 67 or 68, and getting a haircut from the air force barbers while sitting on the board. I'd forgotten all about that. Haircuts were always a sore point between me and dad. The fashion all my life was to let it grow, but dad felt that the hair was his, even if it grew out of my head. when I was a junior in high school, over my objection, dad insisted on saving a few dollars by giving me a haircut himself in the back yard with this comb thing he's bought that had razor blades in it. Butchered the hell out of me. Cheap bastard. Wish I'd had balls back then, but he really didn't raise me to have any. I remember the last two male barbers who cut my hair for extended periods in the late 70s and 80s. Wonder what those guys are doin' now, what with everyone going to these chain stores. The old time barber shop must be extinct. Those were the days. Now my cousin in Salado cuts my hair. She's got a salon down there. Does a great job, even if I pay a lot for it. Get one about every 6 to 8 weeks. Love the visit with her. I get to ketch up on the family. One of the few people around here that I'm related to that I have anything to do with.

Ranger Tom said...

I lost my innocense a lot like that...

No I just don't trust anyone.

Mushy said...

I appreciate all the nice comments and visits. I even got one email complaining that this post wasn't about my virginity - well, a gentleman doesn't talk about that, plus I'm not quite sure if the "doctor playing" counts or not!

EC said...

Great story!! I love childhood memories, you are right, there is so much innocence in them :)

Kuanyin said...

You're a great writer!

phlegmfatale said...

That's so funny - I remember seeing those scalp massage things, but I forgot all about them! I don't blame you for bolting - that was a bad joke to play on you. Good for you for sticking to your guns after that. A man has his pride, even a man in boy form.

benning said...

I never had that sort of trauma at the Barber's. What I remember most, aside from wondering why Dad needed a cut, considering his balding head, was going to the tavern next door afterward. Dad would have a mug of beer, and he would order a Shirley Temple for me. He and the bartender never called it that in front of me, but that's what it was. Dad showed me how to play table shuffle-board there. I loved getting my hair cur along with Dad. Sometimes Mom took me, but it wasn't the Man adventure it was with Dad.

I sure miss that. And I miss Dad.

Thanks, Mushy.

Mushy said...

Thanks again to the rest of you, especially to Kuanyin for the flattery!

Funny you should mention that Benning, I have plans to post something about "weekend dads" who bring their children to the sports bar on Saturdays. Don't take it personal what I say...just an observation.

Ya'll stop in again sometime - ya hear!

Becky said...

I can't say that I blame you. My dad once trimmed my hair and agreed to just cut off an inch, but he thought it would look better shorter so he cut off about six inches. I was traumatized to get my hair cut for years afterward, until I learned that they'll actually listen to me, unlike my dad.