The scary hairy times


During these days of isolation, most everyone is anxious for the beauty shops and barber shops to open. For many it was a scary hairy situation. This brings to mind a little about barber shops. In the olden days every barber shop had a barber pole out front. These were usually two or three foot long cylinders with red and white strips. Some were lighted and rotated. Of course, as you all know, the reason for these. Back then the barber was also the surgeon. Why not, he had the sharp tools, so go for it. The red and white stripes on the barber pole represented blood and bandages. Thank goodness, that no longer applies.

I remember the barber shop back home. It had a bathroom. No, not a restroom, I mean a “bath” room. People who didn’t have indoor plumbing could come to the barber shop and pay to use the bathtub. The barber chairs would have backs that laid back with a head rest. That of course, was for giving shaves. I don’t know of any barber who give shaves anymore. Those who did, learned by lathering up a balloon and shaving it. You failed the test if the balloon popped plus you got a face full of lather.

When the barber finished with your haircut, he would pour on hair tonic. There was a nickname for it due to its smell. You would go home and wash it out for several days.

The barber shop was not just a place to get a haircut; it was the place for all the gossip. Yes, men did it too. And instead of the nightly news, you learned it all at the barber shop. Political discussions: you bet. Very loud ones. You never knew which people were waiting there to get a haircut or if they just came in for the lively discussions. The barber, of course, was fluent in all subjects whether or not he knew anything about it.

And I suppose from whence came the barber shop quartets. It was better to sing than to argue. Unless you were a “yellow dog politician.”

Those were the days.

Don Hill is a resident of Seymour and has served as a volunteer at the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts for more than a quarter of a century. Send comments to awoods@

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