My Kingdom For A Barber
The once familiar red, white and blue spinning spiral poles are disappearing from the face of America. Barbers are a vanishing breed. Like the spotted owl or dodo, I think that they should be placed on the endangered professionals list.
Old world craftsmanship has given way to high-priced hair stylists and a “one size fits all” unicut mentality. I have yet to find a fancy salon operator who knew how to shave a man’s neck for that “finishing” touch. No razor straps or warm shaving cream found here.
So why should anyone care? Certainly Generation X won’t! Little would they know about the simple pleasures of earlier days when barbershop talk would turn to stories of baseball-- Sandy Colfax, Don Drysdale and the Dodgers’ chances of winning the pennant. Maybe they would discuss the latest episode of Ozzie and Harriet. Usually, this involved some member of the family with a problem that could only be solved down at the local malt shop with their friend Wally.
Corny you say? Probably. But I can still recall the smell of Vitalis and Brylcreem permeating the air. Families anxious to have their sons’ haircuts done early so that they could all attend the local little league game or the neighborhood barbeque.
Bazooka Joe bubble gum, complete with a comic inside, was only a penny back then and the final reward for this bi-monthly ritual. Those days have long since disappeared. Today there are fewer barbers and barber schools than ever before. Many of these men served in World War II where they learned the value of sacrifice, integrity and a strong work ethic. Yes, many from this generation have passed on or retired as their craft goes the way of the buggy whip.
I guess I was too young to recall my first barber, but certainly not the others who groomed me through adolescence. There was Charles “Chaz”, the immigrant from Italy who came to America with little more than the clothes on his back and made enough over his 30 odd years to support a wife and family.
Dominique from Southern California who would not only cut your hair but also give you a head massage with a portable hand-held contraption that made your teeth vibrate. Albert, well, I never did figure out where he came from but he sure made me look better than I felt many times.
Maybe it’s just nostalgia, thinking about a happier time when people felt safe in their homes, their cars and while walking down the street at night. A time when families ate together, prayed together and a person’s handshake was as good as a promissory note.
Perhaps this new high-tech, fast-paced, stress-filled life is better in some ways. Nowadays, people probably prefer the appointment system of a glitzy hair salon instead of the slower-paced “there are three ahead of you” method that is typical of most barbershops.
Still, there is something to be said for these symbols of our eroding Americana. Like a faded Norman Rockwell painting or an old Chevrolet rotting in a junkyard, these images will collect dust in my memories. Every now and again, I will go into my attic, dust them off and remember.
Bio: Ron Stern is a freelance writer from Ft. Collins, Colorado. He is the author of six books including his latest ebook called "Surfing for Savings: Your Complete Online Guide to Saving Big Money on Travel" (Hadami.com).