By Tom Poland
Nancy’s eyes betrayed frustration and fear. “I can’t cut your hair right now. I’ve got to close.” Early April 2020, the year of perfect vision, what do we see? Closings. Not so perfect, but to venture out is to risk death. So they say. So they say.
Perched on the edge of chaos, it’s a good time to be handy, a jack-of-all-trades, a do-it-yourselfer. You’re on your own. Making do will have to do. Not happy with your shaggy hair? Cut it yourself but beware.
I’ve written about Dad’s efforts to become a do-it-yourself barber when the Beatles influenced boys to grow their hair long. I’ve not written why it was a once-and-done deal. Well, that time is at hand. Dad walked into the house one afternoon with a Charlescraft Deluxe Home Barber Shop kit. The box made a claim and a prediction. “Home haircutting is easy! Save $50 a year and more.”
Today it’d claim to save men $400 and women $400,000 a year but home haircutting wasn’t easy. Inside that box adorned with two barber poles were electric clippers, attachments, and a navy cape trimmed in red. A booklet provided nine tips for cutting hair, but Dad never read it. Tip number four? “Relax. Start slowly.”
Bang bang … Dad placed the apron over my head. The clippers buzzed like bees as Dad sheared away a strip of hair, another, and another like a row cropper harvesting wheat. Next came the acid test. Like other World War II GIs, Dad sported a military cut. Part of that cut were white walls, arcs cut one-eighth to one-fourth inch over each ear. “Scalp” comes to mind, as in Apaches after Pale Eyes.
Dad changed clipper Guide 101 to Guide 103 for cutting in white walls. Remember Don Knotts’ “Nervous Man?” Dad’s hands trembled as he cut a white wall over my left ear and one over my right. The right rode higher up. Back to the left but now it was higher, an inch. He repeated this scenario several times but finally got the white walls to match. I looked in the mirror and paled. One day I had a decent start on a Beatle do, the next I looked like a dog with the mange.
My only home haircut was over.
School friends stared. Asked what happened. I told them I had been helping Dad paint and got paint in my hair that Dad had to cut out. They didn’t buy my story but were kind enough to leave me alone.
Yesterday, I took the Charlescraft Super Professional Model 65 clippers from its box. I plugged it in. I wanted to hear the buzzing noise that terrified me as a 15-year old. Nothing. The clippers had died from too many summers in a hot attic. RIP, Charlescraft Deluxe Home Barber Shop kit.
Early April 2020. You can’t go past Go and collect $200, so stay home. Under house arrest, we must fend for ourselves, but beware. The road to haircuts and more is paved with good intentions. More than ever we see just how dependent we are on others, and it’s not a good feeling, but it’s a good lesson. The best we’ve had in a long, long time. Mark my words. Things will never be the same. Never.
Tom’s work appears in publications throughout the South. His books include South Carolina Country Roads, Classic Carolina Road Trips From Columbia, Georgialina, A Southland, As We Knew It, and Reflections of South Carolina, Vol. II. He writes about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture. He’s member of the SC Humanities Speaker’s Bureau. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom for his body of work on South Carolina. Tom grew up in Lincoln County, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Georgia. He lives in Irmo, South Carolina.