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Its A Gas Part II by Deke Cutter
After I had got my job (that required a short haircut) at the gas station, I took a lot of ribbing about it because short hair was not in style for guys in the early 70s. The funny thing was, there turned out to be a lot of guys looking for jobs and some of the local employers knew about Joe’s policy because they were all in the Lion’s Club together and some were in Rotary with Sal. So, anyway, all the sudden haircuts were required for more summer jobs.
I was at the gas station my first full week of the summer when Mrs. Golding came in for gas. "Oh Danny, so glad you’re here."
"Could you come over to our house after work and speak to Chip? He’s been offered a good job as a counselor at ‘Treasure Cove’ Day Camp, but the Malinsons say that the male counselors must have short haircuts. Your mom mentioned to me that you seemed to be coping well with your short haircut. Mr. Golding is going to murder him if he doesn’t take this job." The Treasure Cove was considered a "primo" Summer job. The girl counselors were always really pretty, and guys had great times. People tended to hold on to the jobs through college if they could. You got great tips if the kids and their parents liked you.
I told her, "sure Mrs. Golding. I don’t know if I’ll have much luck, but I’ll give it a try." See, I didn’t hang out with Chip. We’d gone to elementary school together and been friends, but we went separate ways. We were still friendly, but he was in a garage band and hung out with the hippy crowd. In junior high, he’d been on the track team, but he’d dropped that too. After work, I went home and showered and changed out of my work clothes. My mom was in the kitchen. I told her where I was heading and pointed to my hair and said, "coping well with it, huh?" She just cracked up.
Chip was downstairs in the recreation room of the Goldings "splanch" (Split Level Ranch) when I got there. "Hey man," Chip said, "been a while since you been here."
"Chip and Dip," I said, calling him by an elementary school nickname I gave him. That caused Chip to smile. His long shaggy hair was down to his shoulders, but he had the same goofy smile he had since we were in kindergarten. The smile didn’t last.
"I don’t know what I’m going to do man. It’s my hair, it’s who I am." Tears welled up in his eyes and he quickly turned away from me. "I’ll look like some sort of Nixon-loving hawk!" (for you young guys, people who supported the Viet Nam war were known as "hawks" and people who wanted the US to get out were known as "doves.")
"Oh, thanks Chip! Is that what I look like?" As I said it, I raised the two fingered "V" peace symbol and smiled to take the sting out of it.
Chip started to say "Danny, man I didn’t mean…" then he turned around and looked at me and came over and punched me lightly on the arm. "I forgot what a cool guy you are. Thanks for coming over. What am I gonna do? How did you go through with it? You had nice hair."
"Look Chip," I said, "I really needed a job and I didn’t have a shot at a sweet deal like Treasure Cove. I wasn’t crazy about this super clean-cut look but, I like having the use of the old man’s station car and one goes with the other."
"But don’t you take a lot of crap at school? I mean the guys in the band just won’t stop if I show up without my mane." I explained that I took some abuse from the guys and joking for about two days and then life went on. It kind of sucks not to look like most of the other guys, but, in a different way, it gives me a certain sense of individuality that is kind of cool. I asked him what he was going to do.
"My dad’s already told me that I’ll be out of the band if I turn down the job and if I’m not in the band I don’t need "that damn hippy hair," as he calls it, so I’m in for a haircut one way or another." He started to tear up again, and said, "it just that "Uncle Jake" (that’s what they call Mr. Malinson at the camp) said it has to be a crew cut!"
"Look Chip, go to Sal’s. You want me to come with you? Sal will give you a good haircut and I’m telling you man, you’ll get past first base for the first time in your sorry hippy life with those girl counselors this summer."
Chip sat and considered his options, I guess, for about a minute and then said. "I am going to hate myself in the morning, but let’s go to Sal’s and get this over." Luckily, the Goldings had extension phones all over the house, so I called my mom from the one in the rec. room and told her I’d be late getting home and explained why, while Chip brushed his hair one last time.
We arrived at Sal’s and Chip was white as a ghost. "Danny, back so soon?"
"Not for me this time Sal. This is my buddy Chip. The lucky guy landed a job at Treasure Cove for the summer, but the job comes with a requirement that his hair has to go."
Sal must have seen how upset Chip looked. He smiled a really kind smile and went over and shook Chip’s hand and gently led him over to the chair. Why don’t you sit down and get comfortable Chip. I’ve been giving counselors at Treasure Cove their haircuts for a long time. I bet you aren’t too crazy about Jake Malinson’s haircut rule are you?"
"Chip looked up and said, "no sir I’m not."
"Well, Danny knows that businessmen tend to have their reasons. Do you realize what a trust Jake and Franny put in you counselors? You are responsible for the well-being of precious young lives. That means he has looked into your background and your family and determined that you are worthy of that trust. He wants to know that you are serious enough to take on that responsibility. I don’t want to cut your hair if you don’t want it cut. So, before I cape you up, what do you think?"
Chip said: "I never thought of it that way. I’m ready to get this done Sal." Sal quickly got him caped up and gently ran a comb through Chips long hair.
"You know Chip, since it’s the end of the day, I tell you what I’m going to do. Before I give you the crew cut, I’m going to show you how your hair might look around Thanksgiving when it starts growing out. That way we won’t have to dive right in with the clippers and you’ll see that handsome fellows like you and Danny still can look good with shorter hair (I could see a look of relief on Chip’s face). "I’ll start by cutting some of this length off above your ears OK?" Chip nodded his head and Sal went to work. Sal took his scissors and starting parallel with the top of Chip’s ears he cut away the hair covering his right ear. Chip breathed in deeply. Sal stopped for a moment and said, "don’t worry Chip, this is going to be O.K. Now, I am going to turn the chair around so I can have better access to all my tools. He did so and I made sure I had a supportive smile on my face. Sal then quickly went around the rest of his head uncovering his neck and eventually his left ear. Chip still had a lot of hair, but the difference was still pretty amazing. He looked much more like one of the "collegiate" crowd than one of the hippies, but I held my tongue. Sal went to work with various scissors and thinning shears until the sides and back were about two inches long. He wet the top, combed the bangs straight up and started chopping all but about three inches off in the front and gradually taking the rest back to two inches. The cape and floor were covered in Chip’s hair.
"Chip," said Sal, "I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Jake will have you boys back in for haircuts two more times this summer, once at the beginning of July and then August. Jake lets me ease off a little on the front on that August cut and taper the sides and back a little less. That way when you return to school, you’ve already made a start on growing your hair back. Some of the fellows even take me up on my offer to touch up their necks and around their ears for free to help with the growing in before school starts. But, now let’s get back to work."
Finally, Sal combed his hair over to the side. Sal turned the chair around and said, "Well Chip, this is about how long I expect your hair may be by Thanksgiving." I’m not a big jock or anything, but the Mets had been in the (World) Series last year and we lived in the New York City ‘burbs. I burst out with "cool, you look like Duffy Dyer!" He was a pitcher for the Mets. Chip looked at me and said: "Better than Tug McGraw, I guess." That told me, he was doing alright and had kept his sense of humor. Tug was known for having one of the worst heads of hair in the Majors. I knew what was coming next and it started with bzzzzzz.
Sal turned back to the counter and picked up the clippers. "Chip, I need you to tilt your head forward." With that, Sal pushed the clippers up the back of Chip’s head leaving a strip of hair about a quarter inch long while the remainder of Chip’s locks fell to the floor. It was kind of cool watching in the mirror behind Chip as the back of this head was reduced to a uniform short length. Then Sal went to work reducing the sides to the same short length. Bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzzzz, the hair was falling. Sal had a smooth motion with the clippers and I noticed that Chip seemed to be relaxing into the experience. Sal then changed the blades on the clippers to a smaller one and started the process of fading the sides and back of Chip’s hair. I could see Chip’s eyes getting wide as he saw the hair around his ears getting shorter, but he kept quiet. Then Sal loosened the cape and told Chip he was going to clean up his neck and around his ears. He started stropping the razor and then he placed some warm shaving cream all around Chip’s neck and ears. I thought Chip might pass out, but he hung in there. Sal just left him a little bit of a tab of sideburns, telling us that was the way Jake liked it. Then he put a new strip around Chip’s neck and tightened up the cape.
I figured he’d go back to work with the clippers on top, but instead, he wet the hair down and started in the front, to cut the top with scissors. He seemed to be leaving about two inches at the front, but as he moved back, I noticed he was snipping it shorter. He was very precise and seemed to use his fingers as his guide, going back over spots and making sure the side and the middle were just so. Then he took the clippers with a small-looking guard and went clipper over comb on most of the top, except abut the front couple inches. He wet the bangs again and combed them forward and trimmed them sort of at an angle. Then he got that blower thing and blew off all the loose hairs. Next, he took a little bit of butch wax and worked it in his hands and then pushed it into the hair in front and brushed it over and up. I have to say, Chip looked completely different. But he didn’t look ugly or anything. Sal turned him around to the mirror and said, "here’s the new you Chip."
Chip looked at himself, turned left and right, asked to see the back and then slowly ran his hands up and down the sides of his head. "Whoa, that feels weird." Then he got that goofy grin of his back and said, "looks like your stuck with me all summer Danny. We’re haircut buddies now."
Chip ended up having a great summer as a counselor and like I predicted got more action with one of the girl counselors, in particular, than he had ever had. He kept working at the camp until he graduated college, becoming the head counselor (no pun intended). His band broke up because the other guys felt he was spending too much time with his girlfriend. This new law called Title IX had been passed that was opening up more sports for girls. Lori, Chips’s counselor girlfriend was going out for track, so he decided to start running cross country again. Even though the track coach let the guys have long hair, Chip got so used to the low maintenance of short hair in the summers, he never let his hair grow much longer than four or five inches again and every summer he’d be back in Sal’s chair for his summer crewcuts, dragging me along and making sure I got one too.