Barber Shop

In the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas where I grew up in the 1950s, I got my haircuts at Brownie’s Barber Shop across the street from the Esquire Theater.

On the left side of the shop, four barbers in matching white shirts cut clients’ hair. Behind the barbers, continuous mirrors and a shelf ran the length of the room. The shelf held tonics, shampoos, aftershaves, and transparent jars of blue liquid that disinfected the combs inside them.

Customers waiting for haircuts sat on the right. Their chrome-legged chairs were interspersed with low tables holding magazines such as Boy’s Life, Argosy, Field & Stream, and Popular Mechanics.

In the far right-hand corner of the room sat the shoeshine man. When he shined a customer’s shoes at the barber chair, he applied the polish with his fingers and popped his shoeshine rag like a rifle shot.

I got flattop haircuts in those days. I wanted a ducktail haircut like the one Edd “Kookie” Byrnes combed every week on 77 Sunset Strip, but the Dallas School Board associated ducktails with hoodlums and didn’t allow them.

When the barber finished my flattop, he would whack his straight razor back and forth on a leather strop, then fill one hand with hot lather from the lather machine. He would remove my paper collar and spread the lather on the back of my neck. I held very still while he shaved my neck with the open razor.

Done with the shave, he would wipe off the excess lather, comb my hair one more time, dust my neck with talcum powder, and shake the hair from my unfastened cape onto the floor.

The barber would ring up my haircut on the push-button cash register, and I would pay him, including a tip.

My mother said, “Always tip the barber” and gave me the extra money to do so.

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