By Norris Chambers

            Old timers sometimes had pretty shaggy hair. Except for those who lived in town, going to a barber shop was just about unheard of. Of course we knew there were barber shops in town that would cut your hair for a fee – usually from a dime to twenty-five cents. That seemed like a waste of hard to get money when someone in the family or the neighborhood would do it for nothing. My dad, my mother and my brother did a pretty good job of barbering.

            When it got to the point where we had to get something done with our hair, the hair-cutter, as they were called, sat you in a straight backed chair, threw a table cloth around your neck and over your shoulders and started snipping with a pair of scissors. A few families had a set of the old hand operated clippers for making the neck and sides look smoother. But these were usually dull and the pain was severe when they pulled the hairs instead of cutting them. The process usually called for a shave along the neck and over the ears with a straight edge razor.

            I had a cousin in a neighboring community who was about my age and was considered an expert hair cutter. When he reached his early teens, he started cutting hair in the community store on Saturdays. He didn’t charge for the service, but would accept donations. He collected a pretty good assortment of pennies, nickels and dimes and an occasional quarter. After he finished school he went to a barber school in Fort Worth and became a professional barber. He worked at this trade for over fifty years and insisted that he enjoyed every minute of it.

            After I graduated from high school and went to Fort Worth I didn’t know any hair cutters, so I made my first visit to a professional barber shop. I wasn’t there long until I found out that you could go to the barber college, on a street close to the court house, and get you hair serviced for a very nominal charge. I think a hair cut was only a nickel. For awhile I had a room mate who was a hair cutter and I saved my nickels. He wanted me to cut his hair, but I had never been trained in that trade and I didn’t attempt it.

            My dad told the tale of one of his early hair cutting experiences. He said he performed what he thought was a nice trim for a younger brother. The brother didn’t like the result and told him in a very disgusted manner, “I don’t like it and I won’t have it!”

            But one thing you can’t do is reattach hair that has been removed, so the little brother just had to wait for it to grow. He said that after that he gave the youngster many hair cuts and he never complained again. I don’t know if the cutting technique improved or if the boy’s vanity underwent a change.

            As I recall, on many home hair cuts some hair with sharp, irritating points got past the table cloth and started an itch session along the lower neck and the back. A new haircut usually called for a dip in the closest tank or creek if the weather was agreeable. Winter hair cuts just had it itch. It was better to itch than freeze.

            As cheap as barber work was then and as expensive as it is now it is actually about the same price when compared to wages. Many men worked for our or five dollars a week when they could find a job. A dollar a day was considered a living wage!

            Of course there were a few characters in the community who didn’t bother with hair mechanics. They had long beards and long hair and seemed happy. Actually, we still see a few characters like that today.

            The more things change, the more they stay the same. But we old timers like our Social Security that wasn’t available back then. We like our TVs and our air conditioning, our running water, our paved roads, our computers and our Medicare. Our high taxes, insurance payments, automobile expense and other inconveniences…well, that’s another matter!

            Does this story have a moral?  I’m sure it does – it’s just hidden under all that hair!