The Barber Shop

| January 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Until I was about 5, my family and I lived above my father’s photography studio along a busy road in a near Western suburb of Chicago. Much like Cicero, that I mentioned a year ago about The Knife Sharpener and Jimmy, unless you lived or worked in Berwyn, there was little reason for you to be there. Perhaps you would come from another town to get your family photos at my dad’s studio or pick up your sewing machine, vacuum or typewriter at the repair store next door to the studio but I gather most people did not come from too far.

shop5I would feed squirrels and pigeons from our flat rooftop and was allowed to walk along the sidewalk and visit the different businesses. Of course I would see my father first and watch him trying to take pictures of a screaming baby or helping a couple pick wedding photographs from the “proofs”. Then it was onto the store that sold fine china and flatware. Two men owned that and never seemed to have any customers. They would show me how they kept inventory records on 3×5 or 4×6 cards in metal boxes. Next to them was a coin store. One of my favorite places. Always seemed to be customers haggling about prices and cost and what something was worth. I would ignore most of that and look for myself at the hundreds of thousands of coins and banknotes on the “coin carousel” and peruse the items for sale. To me, it seemed like the coins and old banknotes would just go on forever and forever. I don’t think I helped Mr. Jim’s business much but I don’t think I was much of a nuisance either. Don’t ever remember breaking something in that store. It did happen in the fine china shop. Then there was a pet shop, donut shop and barber shop.

The pet shop was a standard early 70’s pet shop with an assortment of small mammals, birds, reptiles and tropical fish. I was allowed to handle the snakes and lizards and rats and rabbits and parakeets and watch how they transfer fish from aquariums to plastic bags for folks to take home. My favorite were all the varieties of cichlids, particularly African cichlids. Years later when I had my own aquariums, four or five at any time, including a couple for African cichlids, the pet shop was long gone. As was the coin store, china shop, donut shop, small appliance and typewriter repair and photo studio.

IMG_2346-1But the barber shop is still there and has remained largely unchanged. Of course the barbers and patrons from the days I would wander in and see men waiting to have their hair cut and beards trimmed are gone. If time allowed, and the line wasn’t too long, I would get myself a haircut. Gather the barber would square up with my father when he went in for his haircut.

The barber shop opened in 1962. Today, the number system they used is still in place, as are the chairs, and sinks and wallpaper. Along the back wall is a potpourri of newspapers and collectibles highlighting a presidential assassination, presidential resignation, a newspaper headline proclaiming “U.S. under attack” and the “The coldest day in Chicago”. There are Super Bowl champions, NBA basketball champions, World series champions and Stanley Cup champions highlighted in the glass cases. The headlines are yellowed as are the exact memories. The football and basketball championships seem like a long time ago.

IMG_2347It is like being in Forrest Gump with a lot more sports championship headlines other than Alabama football.

The barber shop is a part of Americana that are fewer and far between. As American as baseball, apple pie, blue jeans or Coca-Cola. Wikipedia mentions the barber shop as “…places of social interaction and public discourse. In some instances, barbershops are also public forums. They are the locations of open debates, voicing public concerns and engaging citizens in discussions about contemporary issues. They were also influential in helping shape male identity.”

Were influential in helping shape male identity.

IMG_2349-1Today, you go can go up to Walmart, get your haircut, eyes examined, pick up your photos, fish food and replace your vacuum from three years ago with another model that is 10 dollars less than what yours cost 3 years ago.

Supercuts, Fantastic Sam’s, Quick Clips and “sports themed hair cutters” dot strip malls. There is little open debate or discussions of contemporary issues over the loud music or “personal TVs” showing sports or flashing lights.

Sometimes I will walk in to the barber shop, with no “pre check-in” on an app, grab one of the 50+ year old laminated numbers torn and folded, sit on one of the old benches and wait my turn. Read the newspaper while folks talk about the weather and local goings ons.

Then it is my turn to talk about sports, the flu season, elections, peace in the Middle East and the Cubs pitching rotation.




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Category: Humor, Pathology News, Personal

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