Sunday, January 17, 2010

Barbers from the past

For some reason, today I am thinking about my experiences with barbers in my childhood. My first memories are of going by bus from the little English village of Cheddleton to the nearby town of Leek to get my haircut. The barber's shop was the front room in a terraced house. The shop had just one chair and a length of leather hanging from the wall so the barber could strop his straight razor for those men that also came for a shave. My mother used to drop my brother and I off as she went to the market to shop.

Another barber shop experience was in the nearby city of Stoke-on-Trent. There the barber was a little more upscale. He would place a roll of cotton wool at your collar to prevent hairs going down your shirt. At the end of the hair-cutting session, that barber would apply a pommade to your hair so you would smell nice and also light a taper or spill and seal the cut ends of your hair to protect you from the cold in the winter. Do any high price salons offer such a extra these days?

A last memory is of the days we would go to my Father's bakery for a haircut. (My Father worked as a baker for St. Edwards Mental Hospital in Cheddleton. There he had ten or more patients working for him as he prepared the daily bread supply for all the patients and staff.) One of his lads had been a barber before he became a patient. So he cut my hair and my twin brother's too. This would take place in the flour storage room upstairs in the bakery. One time, while my hair was being cut, Frank was climbing up and racing over the hundred-weight sacks of flour. As I turned to watch his escapades, the patient accidentally cut my ear lobe. Blood poured out.

The patient was very upset about this and feared the possibility he would be sent back to the ward and not be able to work in the bakery any more. My Father assured him that his job was safe. Working in the bakery was a prized job to ward off the boredom of incarceration.

For the last decade or two, Anne has cut my hair, usually to a 4mm length all over. I then let it grow until it needs cutting again. It was only in late November last year that I actually had my hair cut once more, and once only, by a regular hairdresser. This was because Anne and I needed to have our photograhs taken for an upcoming award and celebration. Even for passports, Anne's tonsorial skills are deemed to be satisfactory.

1 comment:

  1. I can always remember how pleasant my father smelled when he returned home from the barber shop. My dad has passed on, but your post has brought back some really great memories. Thank you for that!