The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Robin L. Quillon

January 23, 2011

From a buzz cut to a coiffure

— Back when I was growing up, Dad would take me to the local barbershop to get my hair cut.

Outside was the classic, spinning, red-and-white barber pole.

It was an old-school shop. Leather razor straps hung at the sides of the chairs, easily accessible to sharpen the old-fashioned straight razors.

There were no magazines to glance through to help decide on a new cut you wanted. And no way would you find hair coloring in this joint.

Doing your nails in those days meant whipping out your pocket knife.

Pedicures? I didn’t want any of the people I saw in this barbershop taking off their shoes. A Hazmat team would have have had to be called.

Feelings were never explored between barber and customer, if you know what I mean.

Appointments weren’t necessary; it was first come, first served.

You sat and read the paper or a magazine until you heard “next!” Then you either jumped into a chair or waited for your barber.

Back then, barbers wore white coats and knew every customer by name.

The barber never asked Dad what kind of cut he wanted. He knew nothing had changed over the past 20 years.

In this place, haircuts were quick and simple.

I remember being so small that the barber would have to pull out his little green bench for me to sit on while he cut my hair – the exact way Dad wanted.

Vibrations from the electric razor on my neck and ears always made me giggle and squirm, making it even harder for the barber to do his job.

In the summertime, I would have to get a buzz cut. Afterward, a lollypop was handed me as a peace offering.

I hated when I got a hair on it.

Going to the barber, though, was a far cry better than facing Dad and his home barber kit.

Despite our efforts, he’d find the kit every time.

I hated his haircuts, but I learned early on that the difference between a good and a bad haircut was two weeks.

The barbershop was a working man’s club. Here, football, overhauling engines and yard work were discussed. I don’t  remember Mom or my sister ever stepping inside.

This was our place and women weren’t allowed – at least at my young age I supposed that to be the case.

For the most part today, gone are the old-school barbershops, replaced by beauty salons.

I must confess: My wife and I have the same barber/stylist.

Now, instead of shooting the bull with the guys, I am surrounded by women looking through hairstyling magazines, talking about “permanent this” and “coloring that.”

Instead of a ham-handed, hairy-armed barber in a white coat, I now have petite, beautiful, sweet-smelling gals cutting my hair.

Around me, I hear feelings discussed.

And “woman’s issues” compared.

Yikes!

Now before going to my beauty salon appointment, I feel like I need to shave and clean up – and suck in my gut as I walk in the door.

I’ve seen other men there, but I couldn’t tell you the color of their eyes.

I’ve witnessed in the salon a process that, frankly, scared me to death: Tin foil used in unnatural ways to cover painted hair.

Folks, the only thing I want tin foil to cover is my honey barbecue chicken fresh off the grill.

No one else seems to notice the smell of that tin foil hair coloring stuff, but to me the odor would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon.

We were out in a crowd the other day when I whispered to my wife that I needed to go to the beauty salon for a haircut.

“Why are you whispering?” she asked.

“You know it’s the beauty salon. You still can’t say it out loud, can you?”

I grunted.

And as she laughed, I continued thinking: “Certainly I can’t wear these jeans with holes in them.

“What would my stylist think?”

Lord help me. …

 Robin L. Quillon is the publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at rquillon@tribdem.com.

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