I looked at my smiling self in the mirror the other day and thought, “I need a haircut!”
These days that means stopping by Bob’s place where’s there a lone barber (Bob) and a row of black vinyl chairs lining the wall where the customers sit and wait. There’s also a dark, shiny mark on the wall behind each chair where customers’ heads make contact with the faux-wood paneling.
Bob will cut your hair and talk to you while looking at the mirrors, which line the shop. Most times the talk centers on local sports, news and weather plus the vehicles the customers drive.
I’ve been going to Bob’s since I came to Indiana in 1994. I was looking for a somewhat old-fashioned barber shop, one with those black-and-chrome chairs, perhaps some bottles of that green “good-smelling guy-stuff” and lots of magazines.
When I first began my search, I looked for the familiar revolving red, white and blue vertical tubes and found one outside Bob’s business. The barber pole reflects the long history of barbering and the dual arts of cutting hair and shaving faces. Barber razors dating back to the Bronze Age have been recovered and a barber’s razor or the act of barbering is even mentioned in 11 books of the Bible.
The striped poles are the legacy of the blood-letting days and bandages used. Others believe the colors refer to arterial blood (red), venous blood (blue) and the bandages (white). Early physicians thought some surgeries were beneath them, so the tasks of mending wounds, extracting teeth and blood-letting fell to barber surgeons.
Before coming to Indiana, I let Juanita do my hair and she was the same person who cared for my wife’s tresses. That’s when I was introduced to mousse and other hair-styling spritzes. But, I missed the razor cut trim along the neckline and ears that was pretty much standard for barbers — and went back.
As a kid, many times Dad cut my hair and since I had a butch, flattop or a crew cut. It wasn’t terribly challenging for him. Somewhere in the family photo albums, there’s a photo of Dad cutting my cousin Buster’s hair while his dad, Uncle Gene, steadied him. Buster was pretty much balling his eyes out. As kids, it’s the strange sound of the clippers and a towel tied tightly around our necks that is somewhat unsettling.
I think my Mom tried to trim my sister’s bangs and they kept getting higher and higher as she tried to make them straight.
Dad also dropped me off at Frank’s on Auburn Street in Mansfield, Ohio, one of those little brick places with big plate glass windows in front. I think I also bought by first car from Frank, a 1958 Chevy.
Gene cut my hair for a time and he also sponsored our youth baseball team, cleverly-called Gene’s Crew Cuts. We had white T-shirts with dark green block lettering.
Butch wax was something you could always find in the bathroom medicine cabinet and it had a unique yet pleasant aroma. Dad also used Brylcreem because as we all knew, “A little dab’ll do ya’!”
There was a little barber shop in East Mansfield I used to drop in on for a cut but in my high school days, when the hair was a little longer and the visits weren’t as frequent. In my junior high days, the Princeton was the rage and that’s when guys kept it short on the sides but we let the bangs grow out and combed them forward. There’s an old black-and-white photo somewhere with “The Vibrations” all decked out in our short-sleeved white shirts with black turtle-necked dickies, and I’m sporting a natty Princeton doo. We were too cool for the room.
Air Force basic training barbers were more like sheep-shearers and I still chuckle about the surfer-dude recruits crying as their long locks were buzzed away.
There have even been times when my wife cut my hair, as well as her Mom’s and Grandma Shearer’s and Neav said we all got the same cut.
Most days, now though, I’ll pop by Bob’s, read the paper, shoot some bull, and when it’s my turn, I’ll tell him, “Make it high and tight!” It may not be quite up to military specs. But when the wind blows, my hair ain’t movin’.
John Foster anchors ‘All-News-in-the-Morning’ weekdays on 1010 WCSI-AM and 98.1 FM. You can read his weekly blog at johnnyonthespot1950.com and monthly in The Republic.