Growing up in a small town was Americana at its best. My father was the owner of the only bicycle shop in town. That made it even better for me, I think. I don't recall anyone making a big deal out of it, my friends never mentioned it. But it was a source of pride to me as I grew a little older. When my father moved the shop from that alley garage to a regular store across the street from the elementary school, it made things simpler for me. After all, I could leave school, cross the street and my journey was ended. Mom was often there, and I'd get to eat at the luncheonette next door from time to time.
The bike shop was like a second home to me. The area became familiar to me as I explored it. The barber shop, with its red, white, and blue striped pole outside, was a few doors north. I had more than a few haircuts there. The barber's name was Joe, I think, as it seems all barbers were called then. I remember him as a shortish, slightly stout, man with dark hair and a small mustache. Probably Italian. Very friendly, always happy to see his customers and seemed to like kids. All the store owners on the block (probably in town)knew each other and were friendly.
There was a ritual to a haircut then. You sat in the chair, the barber wrapped you in that big apron and pinned a ribbon of crepe paper tight around your neck. He trimmed your hair with electric clippers and then scissors. Then he ran the shaving cream machine, which whirred behind you, and applied the warm, almost hot, shaving cream to the back of your neck and behind and in front of your ears. That was a strangely nice feeling. Then he would strop the straight razor for a bit, "thwop, thwop, thwop". The sound was so suitable to the word and the action. And then that delicious feeling of the razor's edge scraping across the skin as it took away the small hairs from your neck and around your ears. It was a sensation that I have never felt anywhere but at a barbershop. Just short of pain, just past a tickle. And then he would slap on the aftershave lotion, which stung just a little but also felt good and smelled neat. Then he'd brush you off, pull off the paper from your neck, and remove the wrap with a swirling motion, and announce, "All done!"
I would leave the shop and walk back to the bike shop, feeling all fresh and a little chilly around the ears, where Mom would "ooh" and "ahh" about how nice I looked.
A Night Unremembered
7 years ago