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1930s Schoolboy in 1982 by Tate@mail.com
This is based on a true story:
After a lengthy audition process, I received the call from the director letting me know that I had gotten the lead part in our community musical. I would play Young Patrick, a 1930s orphan sent to live with his aunt in New York.
The two months of rehearsal went well and quickly, despite the long hours—7-10pm for 4 nights a week was a lot for a sixth grader.
As the final week approached, our costumes, which had been rented from New York, arrived. This was a first class production for the small Southern town of Dixon. The year was 1982.
I was shocked to see my costume, which I had not thought much about. My main outfit consisted of a boys blue blazer jacket, which was ok, but also a pair of knee length grey shorts, knee socks, brown Oxford shoes, and a beanie!
After the first dress rehearsal, my mom came to pick me up, and she wanted to speak to the director before we left.
"Do you want John to get a 1930s haircut?" I heard her ask the director. "Yes, that would be great!" the director replied.
I did need a haircut. My bangs were starting to get in my eyes.
"Over the ears?" I heard my mom continue.
Oh no! I had never had my hair over my ears. No boy wore their hair like that!
The director looked at me and nodded.
"And tapered in the back?"
"Yes, perfect. John will look great!"
"Mom, I don’t want to..."
"John, we will talk on the way home."
On the car ride home, my mom explained that getting a 1930s style haircut was an important part of getting into character... and that I didn’t have a choice.
The next day after school, my mom dropped me off at the old-fashioned barbershop on Main Street, where I was used to getting my hair trimmed.
Mom said, "I called Mr. Cox this morning, and he knows how to cut your hair."
I stepped out of the car and into the barbershop. The bell rang as I entered. Mr. Cox looked up from cutting hair, smiled at me, and said I’ll be right with you, John."
When the older gentleman’s haircut was complete, Mr. Cox summoned me to his chair.
"So, John, I hear that I’m to turn you into Young Patrick today, with an authentic 1930s boys’ short back and sides haircut."
I nodded. With the striped cape now tightly around my neck, Mr. Cox eyed me through the mirror.
"John, this is going to be a big change for you, but you’re going to look real smart when I’m done. I haven’t cut one of these styles on a boy your age in many years, but I had my own hair cut like this when I was your age."
I’m going to use my hand clippers on you, rather than my Osters, to make the cut truly authentic.
He turned me away from the mirror and raised the chair. Fortunately the shop was empty except for me.
Mr. Cox placed his hand on top of my hand and pressed my chin into my chest. I felt the cold steel of the clippers on my neck and they began climbing up my nape. With the rhythmic squeezes of his hand, the hair was being stripped from the back of my head. The clippers pulled my hair as they cut, but Mr. Cox went slowly and gently. It was a new feeling for me.
In a minute he was onto the right side of my head, and then the left, repeating the process to remove the hair over my ears. My heart raced and sank, as I looked at the mounds of my straight, brown hair on the cape in front of me.
I felt Mr. Cox blend the sides into the long top with his thinning shears. Then, with a comb, I felt him create a side part in my top hair. I had only ever worn bangs.
He wet my hair and began cutting the top with his scissors, then thinning shears. He combed my bangs back down, then cut them. Not straight across, but rather at an angle. The hair was hardly touched on one side, and was cut to above my eyebrow on the other! He combed it back into a part.
I heard a whirring sound and felt warm lather applied around my ears and neck. Then he shaved me and wiped me clean.
At this point he turned me to face the mirror.
"Well, John, you’re now a 1930s boy."
The boy I saw in the mirror was a stranger. His hair neatly parted. His ears fully exposed. Mr. Cox held up a mirror to show me the clean tapered back. I didn’t hate it. But it did look like the 1930s.
"To complete the look, you’re going to need to put cream in your hair," Mr. Cox said as he reached for a tube of Brylcream. "It doesn’t take much."
He rubbed a dab between his hands and then thoroughly into my hair, before combing it back into place. When complete, my remaining hair had a shine, and you could see the comb tracks in it.
You could see the skin over my ears as well. I reached out my right hand from under the cape and rubbed my fingers over my right ear and then up the back of my head.
"Feels good, doesn’t it?"
It really did. Strange. And nice.
I was released from the chair and paid Mr. Cox his $4.
"When does the show start, John?"
"In a week, and then it runs for three weeks."
"Well, I want you to come back to see me the day of the first show and then once a week, and I’ll keep it looking fresh and clean for you—no charge. You might just decide to keep it this way. It does suit you."
"Ok, Mr. Cox. I will."
I looked at myself one more time in the mirror, imagining the ribbing I would take at school, and then remembering the shorts and knee socks I would wear to complete the look.
Now nearly 40 years later, I am glad I had the strong self-esteem required to be a 1930s schoolboy in 1982! It was an experience I have never forgotten.