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The summer of 1976 by Snipped Sam
With the really hot weather we have been having recently in both the U.K and Europe, I think back to the summer of 1976 which was a scorcher. I had three different summer jobs as I was keen to save as much money as possible so I could go on a school skiing trip that winter, one of the jobs was gardening for a Mr and Mrs Harvey. At the time I was fifteen and had a lot of respect for Mr Harvey who was an elderly gentleman who knew a lot about gardening and his own was his pride and joy. I enjoyed working there and being elderly he appreciated the help with the garden. I also was very happy with the rate of pay per hour and that he always seemed to find extra jobs so I was able to earn more money.
One afternoon I arrived and Mr Harvey said that he needed to go into the town to get some things for the garden and would like me to carry them. So, we drove into town in his vintage Rover and went to the hardware store to get what he wanted and I carried everything back to the car, even the walk made Mr Harvey a little breathless. I had noticed that we had parked on the street opposite a barber’s shop and the barber was standing outside smoking a pipe. Well, I assumed it was the barber by the navy-blue jacket he was wearing, I had never been to this place for a haircut.
Once we had loaded the purchases into the boot of the Rover, Mr Harvey said we would just go and say hello
"This is young Peter, the lad who has been helping me with the garden"
He shook my hand firmly, he was perhaps in his late fifties, I had heard of him from lads at school and he had a reputation for giving very short haircuts. I found myself to be more than a little unsettled to meet him, suspecting that he was sizing me up for a haircut. After a brief conversation we left and went back to Mr Harvey’s where I got on with my assigned jobs. The following week it was a very hot day and I had weeding and the edges of the lawn to trim, I was very hot and kept wiping my brow. Mr Harvey came to check my work,
"Good lad Peter, that just how I wanted it"
"You look hot lad"
"Yes, it’s very hot today"
"Of course, you’d feel a lot cooler if you had your haircut"
"I know" I replied feeling where my hair was over my collar
"I could take you in the Rover down to see if Mr Smith is not too busy"
"Thanks Mr Harvey, but he’s not my barber"
"I’m sure he won’t hold it against you Peter"
"No, it’s alright"
Mr Harvey dropped the subject and left me to carry on with my work, it was a couple of days later that we had to go into town again to get some shed and fence treatment from the hardware store, this time Mr Harvey parked directly outside Mr Smith’s shop. We went and got the shed and fence treatment which I was going to use on the garden shed, and brought it back to the car, Mr Smith was standing in the doorway of his shop smoking his pipe. After a brief chat with him Mr Harvey decided he would have his haircut and I had an uneasy feeling as I had to go in with him and wait. For an elderly man he still had a good head of white hair and he looked really distinguished when Mr Smith had completed the job. Mr Smith actually seemed a really nice man, and had spoken to me a couple of times while he was cutting Mr Harveys hair. He was rather distinguished looking and II thought he looked as if he was a kind man even though I had heard he was a fiend for giving short haircuts. short
"I was just the junior barber here when Mr Harvey used to bring his son here to have his haircut, he was always very specific in what had to be done"
"Yes, and now he is the head barber"
"Well the only barber but that’s the way I like it"
At this point Mr Harvey was stepping from the barber’s chair, Mr Smith brushed him down and then looked over at me
"Your turn now Peter"
"But I am not having my hair cut Mr Smith"
"You’re on my time Peter my lad and you are having your haircut which I am going to treat you to"
"You didn’t think we’d let you walk back out the door without a snipping did you Peter?"
I really liked working for Mr Harvey and he paid me a good rate and I certainly did not want to upset him and I knew that Mr Smith had been keen to cut my hair the first time I had met him.
"I did think I might have to have my haircut when we came in"
With that Mr Smith and I made the solemn journey to the barber’s chair, Mr Harvey sat on the waiting chair closest to the chair I was sitting. With a firm flick of the white nylon cape it fell into position and was soon snugly tucked in with a piece of tissue in the back, Mr Smith took a black plastic comb and combed my hair thoroughly.
"So, Mr H, what’s to be done?"
"Well Bill the lad’s sitting in your chair, what do you want to do?"
"Well there is nothing as smart as a good short back and sides on a lad Peter’s age"
"Then you know what to do"
Mr Smith took his pipe from the pipe rack which was beside the chair, placed it in his mouth carefully lit it with a match and took a few puffs and keeping it in his mouth began cutting my hair.
"I am afraid that I am old school Peter, so I would always agree with Mr Smith giving you a short back and sides"
"I know" I replied quietly knowing that men of Mr Harveys generation strongly disapproved of long hair and wished to see the return of the short back and sides.
"Would you have sacked him if he hadn’t had his haircut?"
"Let’s just say when he is on my time, that is being paid by the hour, what I say goes and I expect his cooperation"
Mr Smith could clearly smoke a pipe, hold a conversation and cut hair at the same time without any difficulty, as the smoke wafted from the pipe and my fair hair fell from my head either onto the floor or the white nylon cape. They carried on chatting away as they clearly got on really well and had known each other for years. Soon my ears were once again visible with the hair that covered them requiring just a few snips with Mr Smith’s steel scissors. Well the hair was lifted up with the comb and one large snip took the first two and a half inches or so of the length that covered them then some definite snipping above my ear took care of the rest of the hair. Mr Smith returned his pipe to the rack and the scissors to the shelf in front of me and then took a spray and sprayed my hair with water combing my hair whilst he did it and leaving the front combed forward, he then took a flat razor and opened it up from its safety sheath he proceeded to razor cut my hair moving the razor downwards to thin my hair out. Having completed this he combed my hair forward again and took long steel scissors and standing in front of me snipped my fringe, then combed it into a parting. My hair was now so short.
"It’s looking good Bill"
"Certainly, suits him"
"And you’ll be pleased Peter with all this hot weather how much cooler you will be"
"I doubt if he will admit it though will you Peter?" said Mr Smith as he relit his pipe and took a few puffs on it.
"I think I would" I replied
"Well they are predicting the weather is going to be even hotter over the next few days, so the finishing touches that I am about to make will make all the difference"
I did not like the sound of this at all, especially when I saw him take some large clippers from their hook
"What finishing touches"
"I am going to ZZZZZZZZ the back and sides for you"
"But I am not a kid"
"No one has said you are, but you’re to have your hair cut short"
"But that’s really not fair"
"Somethings in life aren’t fair Peter but this isn’t one of them"
He went to place his hand on the top of my head
"Please don’t do this"
"Look Peter it’s got to be done"
"Please Mr Harvey, don’t let him do this"
I really wanted Mr Harvey to intervene especially as he was letting Mr Smith do all the talking.
"Just let him do it Peter, you don’t want to lose your job do you? after all you want to go skiing and I did promise you a bonus at the end of the summer if you work well"
"It’s still not fair"
"I know you’re not happy Peter, but we do know what’s best"
Mr Smith said placing his hand on my head and bending it far forward, he wasted no time in switching on the clippers and the cold metal touched my neck, he started to move them up the back of my head, I was really agitated.
"You are like a boy who is having his first visit to the barbers Peter, you must keep your head really still so I can do the work"
He readjusted my head and then carried on clipping, the clippers were really loud with a shrill it was as if you could hear the cogs turning, the movement was smooth and he was clearly very experienced in this operation. I knew this to be true from what I had seen of the haircuts boys at school who went to him had. After doing the back of my head he turned his attention to above my ears, tilting my head to the required position each time. The clippers were returned to their hook and I was told I could lift my head up.
In the mirror a scalped lad looked back at me, and behind me stood the barber who had done this lighting up his pipe. After a couple of good puffs, with the pipe remaining in his mouth he took the flat razor once again and shaved my neck of loose hairs and a little work around my ears as well. After a vigorous and firm brush down, he took some Vitalis hair tonic and applied it generously and then combed it though my hair giving me a very exacting left-hand side parting. He then looked over at Mr Harvey who told him it was
"You’ve got it just right Bill"
Mr Smith loosened the cape at the back and taking the powder blower gave me a good dusting with it, he then removed the cape and all my hair that had been resting on it joined the rest of my hair on the floor. As I stepped from the chair Mr Harvey was already by the till to pay for our haircuts, whilst he paid my hand explored the devastation on the back of my head.
"Hope to see you here again Peter"
"I think you just might"
Replied Mr Harvey, I chose to keep my thoughts to myself!!