Usually on Saturday, but sometimes on other days, especially in the Summer, we would load up in the vehicle (usually that yellow-ish green ’57 Chevy, but sometimes in the old green truck), and drive over to Weber City to “get our ears lowered.” I was ever the eager traveler, and went without even asking where we were headed (if you’ll pardon the unintended pun).
I even think I remember my very first trip. It was to “Terry’s Barber Shop” in the corner of a building that has become part of Smith & Rhoten Furniture now. It was always a place of conversation. The barbers would remain quiet unless their customers were too quiet, then they would ask a question to get them started. Each customer was the center of the barber’s attention while they were on that big, ole chair, and once they were through, they’d smack it a few times with a broom, shake the hair out of the cloth they put over their lap, and take a broom to sweep up a little hair from the floor. Then they’d say “Next,” and do it all over again.
As a young’un, I just played in the waiting chairs, reading old magazines, or, really just looking at the pictures, while the grown-ups talked. I’d get engrossed in whatever I was doing, and usually when Pappaw got done with his hair cut, the barber would hand me a little sucker with a stick that made a loop back into the sucker. I loved those things.
But one day when I was expecting a sucker I was asked, “You ready to get your ears lowered?” I wasn’t sure what was meant by that. I am sure I thought, “I didn’t know you could put your ears lower.” But, being a little dab adventurous, and trusting fully my Pappaw, I walked up to the chair, where the barber lifted me up to a board that sat on the arms of the big, ole chair. I got that big, old piece of cloth tied around my neck, and some tissue paper around the back of my neck, and he turned on those clippers.
I think I gave way to the emotions of a three or four year old. I cried. I didn’t like the sound of the clippers coming close to me. Didn’t know what it was going to do. After all, didn’t they say something about lowering my ears? The barber used some scissors and clipped a little here and there, and tried talking cheerfully to me. I sat there a while getting used to that, and him, and he tried those clippers again. This time, being coached by Pappaw to be a big man, I braved my way through it and got my whole head trimmed.
Then, once the brush came out, and my loose hairs were all brushed away, the neck cloth came undone, the tissue was taken away, and somebody helped me down out of that chair. Then I got my sucker and forgot all about crying.
After that, I never offered to cry again, and went with regularity whenever Pappaw asked if I wanted to get my ears lowered. Mr. Terry, a Mr. Lawson, and a Gillenwaters man were part of that shop. Later the Gillenwater fellow talked his brother into opening a shop across from the old Cas Walker’s. Mr. Lawson was a part time barber there. We frequented this shop for several years. I remember when they put up a painting of the rapture. It was a full color oil on canvas of people flying up from houses, fields, cars, and even out of air planes, to the open arms of Jesus in the heavens. I studied that painting for years. I always wondered why Jesus was never pictured with a good hair cut. Believe me, that was the topic of discussion more than once in the 1970s.
I have lived in several places over the years, and have found that discovering the barber shop is one of my favorite things. They’re almost all alike. Different personalities, but they all serve as places where ideas are exchanged, news is digested, and hair gets shortened. A good barber has to learn how you like your hair. They ask and try to remember each time you come back. When it begins to feel like home, and I am reminded of those trips when I was a small boy, I know I’m in the right place. And my ears do LOOK lower!