I was seven years old when I got my first haircut at a barbershop. It was the first of many to follow. But the first one was not my choice, nor what my mother wanted.
You see I was somewhat of a tomboy then. I liked being around my brothers: Brad, age ten, and Wayne, age nine. The three of us enjoyed playing and watching baseball more than any sports. We’d play in the back yard for hours when everyone else was into football and basketball.
It was this love for playing baseball that lead to my first barbershop haircut.
It was mid April – tax time, as dad called it – the weather was still a little chilly. Everyone was starting to play our favorite game, baseball.
We had gone to the playground to get into a pick-up game. Everyone there decided to play nine-man teams, but funny thing, there were only seventeen boys there.
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When it came to either letting me play or play eight-man teams, everyone, mostly everyone, decided to let me play.
The game was going great. Everyone was having a great time.
It was the fifth inning and I was the lead batter. I took the first pitch, but hit a low popper over the first baseman’s head. I hit first base a few steps before the first baseman caught the short throw from the second baseman, who chased the ball down.
The next batter was Kevin, age ten. He hit the first pitch to him, which was high and to the left. It was a soft line shot headed right between second base and the second baseman.
I took off with the crack of the bat, reaching the same place as the ball. It hit me with a POP, knocking me down. And, as everyone knows, when the runner is it by the ball he (she) is out.
I tried to get up by pushing on my hands, but my left arm went and it hurt bad.
The second baseman, Sammy, age nine, whose mother was a nurse, came racing over to me. When he saw the big black and blue bruise on my lower arm, he grabbed me above and below it. He called for John, who was running from left field and Wayne was coming from third base too.
“I think it could be broken,” he told them. “Help her up and I’ll hold her arm still. We better take her over to Doc Allen to make sure.”
When we got to Doc Allen’s his nurse took me and John into the backroom. Wayne called mom at home and told her what had happened and where we were. She came rushing in fifteen minutes later. By this time my arm was X-rayed and I was sitting in the casting room to have my broken arm casted.
While we sat there waiting for Doc Allen to come and put the cast on my arm, she commenced to blame John and Wayne for my broken arm. Then, when we got home, she called dad and told him what happened, then commenced to blame him from not talking to them about letting me play baseball with them.
Like I said it was my first haircut at a barbershop, but not my first visit. I had gone there with dad and my brothers many times. But when it came to getting my hair trimmed and fixed mom would take me to Miss Sharon, whom she had been going to since she and dad moved here twelve years ago. My dark brown hair was always trimmed, never cut more than an inch and a half.
Mom would say, “For now you get your hair cut like a girl and let it grow. When you turn fifteen you can do what you want.”
The problem with getting your arm in a cast is you have to have something to hold your arm still and close to your body. And, the sling, as it is called, comes around your neck. Every time you move, your arm swings some, your hair gets caught in the sling. And this hurts, too, because you pull what hair is caught.
So, whether mom wanted it or not I had to get my hair cut, or I would pull the hair out of the back of my head leaving a big bald spot. Unfortunately the day she made the decision, Miss Sharon was very busy and would be until Saturday. I could not wait three days more, so something had to be done.
Miss Sharon then recommended that mom take me to “The Fifth Dominion Barber Shop” on Continental Drive a little ways from her shop. “There’s a lady barber there,” she told mom. “Let me call and see if she can take Kaci. Her name is Teri.”
We were in luck – she was there and could take me. So, mom and I were off to “The Fifth Dominion Barber Shop” and my first, of many to come, barbershop haircut.
When we arrived Teri was just finishing a male customer, and there were two other men waiting.
As we walked in Teri looked up. “You must be Kaci!”
I nodded my head and sat down, as mom introduced herself, “I’m Commie. It is nice of you to take her.”
Teri smiled. “I’ll be with her in a minute. They are waiting for Sam, the barber who owns the shop. He’ll be back in five minutes.”
Mom came and sat next to me. I was reading a comic book, but she was watching Teri finish the man in the chair. Just as he stepped out the chair Sam came in and the other men got up and went off with him. Sam told Teri he would see her in the morning and not to forget to put the bag out. She waved and nodded her head.
“Okay,” she said when her last customer left the shop, “what have we got here?”
“Got hit with the baseball as I ran to second base,” I told her, getting up and walking to the chair.
“The sling has been pulling her hair,” mom told her. “So, we decided we’d better get it cut before she pulled it out and made a big bald spot in the back.”
As I stood on the footrest Teri put a booster seat in the chair, and help me up on to it. When I was seated she pulled my hair up and looked at how raw my neck was. She motioned mom over.
“Just in time,” she said. “See, the sling has already begun to pull her hair out.”
I could see mom shaking her head in the mirror along the wall where you waited your turn.
“What do you think should be done?” mom inquired.
“Well, it’ll have to be short in the back,” she said as she pushed my hair around. “Kind of cut up the neck because the knot of the sling is riding upward.”
She gathered my hair in back and raised it. “I would say something in the line of a wedge cut.”
Mom looked at me. “Well, you’re going to get short hair before you’re fifteen.”
She didn’t know how much I liked the sound of that. I had been wanting to cut my hair short since I was four, but she wouldn’t hear of it. But now I had to and she was a little upset.
Teri tossed the cape over me and pulled it around my neck, before mom could say a word. As mom sat down she began spraying my hair with warm water from a spray bottle. Then, she parted my hair down the center of my head and sectioned it into three parts on each side. She left the back hanging.
She looked at me in the big mirror. “Ready?”
I smiled at her and said, “Yes.”
And I had been ready for this for the longest.
Teri combed down the back of my head until she reached the hairline. I felt the coldness of the scissors as she slid the open blades around my hanging hair. Slowly she closed the blades, as the made a “Shrrrrring” sound. As the blades closed two feet of hair fell right to the floor. The blades opened again, moved across, then closed – “shrrrr” – and another two-foot length fell to the floor.
Mom did not look up from the magazine she was reading, but I could see she was crying.
Teri then undid the section behind my left ear. She combed it out and with two cuts of the scissors hair fell to the floor. Next she undid the section in front of my left ear, and with one closing motion of the scissors two feet of hair slid into my lap. Then she walked to the right side and hair fell to the floor and into my lap.
When she was finished cutting the bulk, mom looked up. Her eyes widened as she took a deep breath and her fingers grabbed the magazine tightly.
Teri looked at her. “Sorry, I should have told you I was going to cut it this short to make the cut look good.”
Mom smiled. “Do what you have to.”
Teri then placed the scissors right in front of my right ear, right at the hairline of the little sideburn I had. She slid the open scissors in and began cutting my hair two more inches shorter. She combed and cut, until she had worked her way around my head.
When she finished I shook my head and the short hair began flying upward. I liked how it did this. Mom saw me doing this and gave me a smile.
“You look like you’re enjoying the haircut,” she told me as she smiled.
“Yes,” I told her, “this feels good. And I like how it flies upward.”
Teri shook her head and combed my hair from the center part again. When she had finished she stepped behind the chair. She pushed my head downward.
“Keep your head down like this for me.”
With that she combed a part from the top of my head to my hairline right behind both ears. Next she parted my hair at an angle to the bone that sticks out when you bend your head. After these sections were pinned in place she combed the hair down, putting it between her fingers resting on my head, and cut. She did this five times.
She undid a section, combed it out, and cut following the length like she just did. The other sections were undone and cut the same way.
Then it happened.
There was a loud “click” followed by a soft humming sound. Mom looked. Teri looked at her. I looked at her. “Whatever has to be done,” Mom told her again.
My head was pushed downward as Teri began pushing the little clippers up the middle of my neck. She did it two more times, once on either side of the first one. Then she moved the little clippers down my neck, slowly cutting my hair in a “V”. Little by little she widened the “V” until it started and ended as my hairline began over my ears.
I felt the cool breeze when she stopped. I took my right hand from under the cape and brushed over where she had run the clippers. My hair was short and felt like dad’s face in the morning. But I liked how it felt. I got a strange shiver as I did this.
Teri was standing to my right with comb and scissors. She combed a section and cut it, combed a section and cut it. She did this on the left side of head, too.
Putting the comb and scissors down she picked up the hair duster and begin dusting the back of my neck and head that was clipped almost to the scalp. Then she dusted the sides and across my face.
The cape was undone and it slid into my lap.
There was a “POP” sound. Then, Teri was tucking something into the collar of my blouse. It was a small white hand towel. She turned and stepped to the middle of the two barber chairs. There was a winding from where she was standing.
As she turned around, a soft white pile in her hand, she told us, “This will prevent the sling from grabbing her hair.” With that she spread the white stuff, shaving cream she told me, where she had clipped my hair almost to the scalp.
After wiping her hand, she picked up something, her straight razor, and moved it up and down on the leather strap hanging on the right arm of the chair. She walked behind me, “Don’t move your head. I’ll move it for you.”
I heard the razor scrape my head, moving downward over my neck. Each stroke Teri made was slow, and I could hear the razor as it scraped over my skin. She shaved only where she had run the little clippers.
Soon she stopped. My body shivered when she wiped the area with a warm cloth.
She put some sweet powder on the hair duster and dusted across where she had shaved, then across my face.
The cape was removed. As she lowered the chair, mom got up and walked towards us.
“You’ll have to shave this area,” Teri told her as she pointed to the back of my head, “every two or three days. That way you’ll keep hair from growing too long, and it won’t get caught in the sling.”
“I don’t know about me doing that,” Mom commented. “I’ll leave that to her father. I don’t think I could shave like it has to be.”
“Well,” Teri said as she picked me up out the chair, “if neither of you want to, just send her around every two or three days and I’ll do it.”
“That could be two months,” Mom replied. “The doctor said her bone was broken pretty good and could take up to two, maybe three, months to mend.”
“That’s okay,” Teri said. “I had a broken arm when I was ten and I know what she is going through. Back then girls had to put up with the hair pulling and hoped hair grew back when the cast was taken off, months later. And don’t worry about the cost, I’ll do it between customers at no cost.”
Mom paid Teri for the haircut and we left. I felt mom brush her fingers up the back of my neck and it felt good. We were just passing the drug store, and she motioned me in. “Let’s get an ice cream float,” she said with a smile.
While we were waiting for our floats, she asked, “You like your hair short, don’t you?”
I looked up at her, somewhat puzzled. “Yes.”
“We’ll see when your arm is alright,” she said as she bushed her fingers over my shaved neck.
When our floats were brought to us, I looked at her. “Mom, can I go to Teri when my neck needs to be shaved?”
“Don’t trust your dad, do you?” she said with a smile.
“No,” I said then taking a spoon of ice cream.
Needless to say for the next two months I rode my bike to Teri and she shaved my neck. Every two weeks she would cut my hair as it began to grow in the way of the cut. Sometimes Mom would come and stand by the chair watching how she lathered and shaved me.
One time as we were riding home on our bikes, I asked her, “Do you like how my hair is cut?” She smiled and nodded her head.
“Then, why don’t you get yours cut like this, too,” I told her and rode up a little, to think about the question.
When she caught up with me she looked at me. “Maybe!”