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Nostalgia in the Barbershop

Posted by on March 28, 2012

The first time I got my hair cut by a barber I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. Dad took me down to ‘Johnny the barber’ on Bank St. In all the years of having Johnny cut my hair I never did know his last name.  And for years, there he stood, always wearing a short sleeved white smock, looking more like a chef instead of a barber. And I do remember crying on that first visit. From then on it became a love affair. And since then I’ve become enamored with original barbershops. Not the stylist’s swank venues of today. But the large plate glass windows that everyone could look through as they passed by to see exactly who was in the chair and what was happening. I’m a nostagic freak and the sight of a glass cylinder holding that bluish green gel surrounding a dozen combs brings a smile. The arm on the chair that was pumped to raise you to the right level. The strap at the side used to sharpen that straight razor. The little chrome box that spun out a handful of shaving cream, those are all trinkets that pique my interest. I loved going to Johnny’s.  And I’m not quite sure why.  I hated the hairs down my neck, despite the vacuum that always culminated the process, right before the the undoing of the clip and the lifting of the body apron.  I didn’t care much for the stick-’em that was applied to the front hairs , keeping them standing straight and pointing heavenward.  My dad only allowed me to get a crew cut. There was no other choice at that time. Perhaps my love of the place stemmed from the fact that Johnny always had the lastest of the Archie comic books. And I was more than enamored with Betty and Veronica.
When I was eight, the Andy Griffith Show debuted on our black and white 19 incher. The year was 1960. And despite Andy’s homespun philosophy, Barney’s gestapo antics, and Opie’s endearing demeaner, I found myself enjoying mostly the TV visits to Floyd’s barbershop. I loved that spinning barber pole. It was just like the one outside Johnny’s, except that his was colored. Yesterday, I met  Russell Hiatt, who was the role model for Floyd the barber. The shop still stands on Main St. in Mt. Airy, NC (there is no real Mayberry) and … a spry 88,  Russell told me that he has been cutting hair in this same spot for the past 65 years. He’d cut Andy’s hair, Opie’s, Wally and Goober, Gomer and just about everyone else in town. I was amazed with his stories, his longevity, and taken in by the nostagia of the shop. We chatted until a customer came in for a trim and took his attention away. It was a morning well spent. I felt like I was 8 again.

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