Hair Raising Tales of Yesteryears

I was talking to my brothers last week mentioning my upcoming hair appointment at a local hair salon with Tammy Lea and got a wonderful story from each of them about an incident of ‘hair gone bad’ from years gone by.

There was a barber shop on the other side of Western Ave that we girls used to take our younger brothers growing up. Crossing Western Ave. in the middle of the block in heavy traffic was pretty dangerous, being that it was four lanes and filled with cars at most times of the day or night. Often we waited for what seemed like hours to find the right opening.

Of course sometimes we had to make our own openings and it was my sister, Jeannie, the most daring, that found a way one day. Grabbing Jack by the back of the shirt, she shoved him into the street, declaring, “There’s only room for one!” Amid the squealing tires and swearing drivers, traffic came to a standstill and the rest of the group was able to cross in leisure.

The barber shop had great comics and pictures of suave professional types with flat-tops and buzz cuts adorning the walls along side the dead fish plaques and deer heads. The guys sat on booster seats in front of huge mirrored walls and even received a squirt of the good smelling stuff on the back of their necks. It was well worth the three dollars they paid out for the cut.

The real or not so real bargain, depending on how you looked at it, was the barber college down by Szold’s department store. Once the boys were old enough to take themselves for a haircut, the options were much greater.

The prices for a cut ranged from $2.00 for a cut from an instructor to 50 cents for a ‘beginner’. The older of my brothers was, h-m-m-m, how do I say this? Frugal? Resourceful? Cheap? Jack had figured out that the less money he spent on a haircut, the more he would have to buy important things at Ben Franklin’s, the dime store down the street.

Being the big brother, Jack stepped up and said with all the authority a 10 year old can, “I’ll take the 50 cent cut”. If the receptionist rolled her eyes, Jack didn’t notice as he hopped up into the chair. Larry, my younger brother grabbed a seat and waited for the show.

The trainee was a female, unusual in those days to have a woman barber, but, hey, the price was right and Jack was already busy spending his dollar fifty in his mind. Things progressed alright for awhile, but it wasn’t long before there was a lull in the clipping sound and a very distinct, “Oh, my” from the lady barber.

Pandemonium broke out as barbers of various degrees came forward to gaze at the mess that was my brother’s head. Great gouges all the way to the scalp stood out against his unsunburned skin. Each new barber that stepped up echoed the first cutter’s “Oh, my”.

It was about this time that the main instructor came forward and sighing, picked up the clippers to try some damage control on the young customer. Things quieted down and began to return to normal. The receptionist turned to Larry and said, “You’re next, young man. What will it be?” Larry said without a moment of hesitation, “I have two dollars!”

Larry later said that he may have been young, but if his brother could be cheap, he could be vain and had no intention of living four weeks with hair that looked like something had taken a huge bite out of. No little army guy with a plastic parachute could make up for that much bad hair.

Oh, and Jack? He bought the little parachute guy and had many fun hours throwing him from the roof and watching him plunge to the earth. Besides, he said he couldn’t see the back of his own head, anyway!

At least my brothers never had to face a holiday with crazy curls or go to school with permed bangs or no bangs at all, like when my youngest decided to cut her own hair the night before school pictures…but that’s another ‘hair-raising’ story.

To be continued…

Originally published at Peoria.com

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