Boys began to go to the Barber Shop almost as
soon as they were able to walk. The first thing that strikes you about the
Shop is the very pleasant smell of hair tonics and shaving lotion. The Shop
is a large long room. Along one side, away from the entrance door, there are
3 or 4 big chrome and leather barber chairs. The wall behind them is covered
with mirrors. The end wall has 2 or 3 very large windows that can be opened
wide in the summer. There are several large ceiling fans overhead. Most of
the Hall was not air-conditioned in the summer. Steam radiators were used
in the winter.
In the 1940’s and early 1950’s, Mr . Paul Brown officiated over the Barber
Shop. There were several other barbers from time to time but I do not remember
much about them. Mr. Brown was a friendly man with a kind word and story for
everyone. He was continually joking with the customers and sharing stories
As a child going to the Barber Shop, was like going to a favorite uncle’s
house and getting a special treat. Mr. Brown had lots of patience with little
boys. He had a small board that he laid across the arms of the barber chair
for them so that they would be high enough to reach them. he carried on a
running conversation with the boys just as if they were adults.
I have strong memories of Mr. Brown giving my Dad a shave with the old style
straight razor that was in use at the time. Mr. Brown approached the shave
almost like he was going to do battle with the beard. My Dad was reclined
horizontally in the chair. and Mr. Brown first applied hot towels to his face.
Then he lathered up his whiskers using a brush and lots of shaving soap.
While the beard was being softened up, he prepared his main weapon, the straight
razor, in a little ritual. He opened the folding razor, it looked almost
like a sword to me, then he ran the blade back and forth very quickly on
the big leather strap that hung on the edge of the chair. Now he was ready
for the attack.
With great deftness and skill, he shaved off the whiskers. He did it quickly,
using the exceedingly sharp razor. One miscue and he could have taken off
part of an ear or did other damage but he never did.
As a child, one of my dreams was to get a real shave like that by a real
barber and a real razor. Alas, however, times change and so far that has escaped
There was no sign in sheet or other formal way to keep track of the waiting
customers and I don’t think there was any such thing as “making an appointment”.
Sometimes, there might be 20 or so men and boys waiting but Mr. Brown and
the other barbers always knew who was next.
I don’t think that the inside of the Shop ever changed when I was growing
up. There were always the regular chairs for the customers and favorite magazines
like Field and Stream and Life. There was one special picture
on the walls that I remember as a child. It was of several dogs, dressed up
and seated around a table playing cards. It wasn’t high art but it seemed
to fit the Barber Shop exactly.