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Fletch by CrewCut Ken

I was born in 1968, the youngest of ten boys to my parents who had married in 1948. Arthur, my eldest brother had been born a year after they married, with Harold the following year. Albert was born in 1952, Earnest in 1954, Percy in 1956, Frederick in 1957, Herbert in 1959, Norman in 1962 and Stanley in 1965. I too received an old-fashioned name, Wilfred, but as I followed Norman and Stanley I usually got called 'Fletch', after a character in a popular sitcom of the seventies who was called Norman Stanley Fletcher, or 'Fletch' for short. That was by everyone but my parents who always referred to all of us by our full name.

Not only was my name old-fashioned, but as a ten-year old in 1978, I looked like a boy from the 1950's. My mother had managed to maintain all of Arthur's clothes and we each had them as hand-me-down's ever since. Therefore, my wardrobe didn’t include long trousers, only knee-length short trousers, in grey worsted, which were accompanied by long dark grey knee-high socks, with maroon bands on the turnovers. The rest of my clothes included grey shirts, with a tie for school, and patterned sleeveless pullovers. In summer I wore brown leather sandals and black leather boots in winter. I stood out somewhat amongst my friends and classmates, most of which had the popular long hair, flares and platformed shoes.

The other thing that made me stand out was my haircut. My father gave the three of us still at school basin-haircuts, as he had all seven of our brothers before us. He sat a basin on our head and cut off all of the hair that hung below it. The basin was slanted back slightly, so the fringe was cut off almost at the hairline, with each side cut about an inch and a half above the ears and just dipped slightly lower at the back. It wouldn’t have been so bad for the older boys, as many others would have had haircuts like that at the time. But for the three of us we were on our own.

Norman was sixteen at this time and was starting to protest, not that our father paid any attention. However, as the summer arrived, Norman was able to leave school. He'd got an engineering apprenticeship at the same company as father. The Saturday following him getting his first wages, he took us into town for a treat. The first thing he did was go to a barber for a proper haircut. Norman got in the chair and asked the barber to give him a 'skin-head'. The barber ran the clippers without a guard all over his head, until only stubble remained. It was a dramatic difference, and although long hair was still the most popular choice by most boys and young men the mod thing was starting and shorter haircuts, including 'skin-heads' had started to appear. Norman said if we wanted, he would treat us to 'skin-heads too. Stanley jumped in the chair and got the same as Normand and I followed suit.

When we got home mother was shocked, asking what father would say. We didn’t have to wait long as he walked in the room and his eyes were blazing. He started to remove his belt and told me and Stanley to go out to the yard. We did as we were told, and he instructed us to strip. He went back into the house and returned with a bucket of water, a chair and a bag. He Instructed Stanley to place his hands on the back of the chair and bend forward. Father then gave him 'six-of-the-best' with his leather belt across Stanley's bare bottom. I traded places with him and received the same. Father then told Stanley to sit in the chair and as he did so, Father removed shaving cream and a razor from the bag. He spread cream all over Stanley's head, and wetting the razor in the bucket of water started to shave his head. He continued all over, rinsing the razor in the bucket after each stroke until Stanley was completely bald. Stanley looked as much in pain form the haircut as he did from the belting.

Stanley hopped off the chair and I took his place. Sitting on the hard, wooden chair was indeed painful; my bottom was stinging. As with Stanley, father covered my head with shaving cream and, picking up the razor started to shave from my forehead to the crown. He continued all over my head until all stubble had been removed.

Father made us clear up the mess in the yard. After which we checked out our bald heads in the toilet mirror. The basin-haircuts were bad enough, but this was something else. We stood out before, we would stand out even more now. However, this was not a short-lived haircut, it permanently replaced the basin haircut. Father would shave mine and Stanley’s head every Sunday evening at ‘bath-time’. For the rest of our schooldays. This was another three years for my brother, and six years for me.

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