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A Blast From The Past by Snipped Sam

Young Edward Johnson had begun an apprenticeship in gentleman’s hairdressing when he left school in September 1950 aged just fifteen, with a break for National Service period of two years when he turned eighteen. On his return he had returned to hairdressing and completed his apprenticeship and had for the last six months been employed as a junior barber at a very smart barber shop which was part of a gentleman’s outfitters. Being still the junior, he was closely supervised by the three senior barbers and his own hair was cut severely by his mentor the barber Mr Haycock on a very regular basis. He always looked very smart for work with his hair Brylcreemed into place, his white shirt, blue tie, grey trousers, polished black shoes and navy-blue barbers’ jacket.

The year we are talking about is 1956, Templeton’s was an establishment where a hierarchy was long established and Edwards most junior position meant that he had to make sure everything was kept clean and tidy during operational hours. All the barbers must be fully equipped with the necessary hair preparations which was Edward’s responsibility, it was his job to keep the floor swept. As far as cutting any gentleman’s hair went these would be overseen and closely supervised by Mr Haycock. Edwards chair was next to Mr Haycocks and any completed haircut would have to receive the nod from Mr Haycock.

An establishment like Templeton’s attracted a certain amount of snobbery and it would not be unusual for a customer to say I don’t want the junior to cut my hair referring to Edward. It was a Saturday afternoon when Edward was given the job of cutting the hair of Mr Dicken. Edward knew Mr Dicken all too well, as he was the history master at his former secondary modern school, and Edward had mixed feeling about seeing him.

"Good afternoon Sir"

Edward said as Richard Dicken confidently sat in his chair, Edward placed the thin white cotton napkin in place at the back tucking it into Richard’s collar. The white cape was positioned then fastened in the exact Templeton’s way all the barbers did. Mr Haycock had made Edward practise time and time again,

"You’re not putting a sheet on a bed or a tablecloth on a table…the gentleman who come to Templeton’s require and expect the very best service Johnson"

Richard’s hair was always clipped very short sides and back, with the front when combed forward being quite long but of course it was dressed and combed right back. Edward to his comb and combed Richards hair through before enquiring what was required.

"How would you like your hair Sir?"

"Very short sides and back please and half an inch or so off the top"

"Very good Sir"

Edward selected the scissors to cut Richards hair and started to cut his hair, carefully measuring the required half inch or so.

"I haven’t been here before, I thought it would be nice to come somewhere rather smart as a treat"

"That’s good to hear Sir"

"You look very familiar, were you at the Fitzwilliam Secondary School"

"Yes Sir, I was … I am Edward Johnson Sir"

"Oh, of course Johnson … I remember"

Edward knew exactly why Mr Dicken would remember him, Edward had been caught smoking and due to the headmaster having injured his collar bone Richard had been called in to do the honours. The honours of course being six strokes of the cane, the price you paid having been caught smoking, and the young master hadn’t held back and had really thrashed Edward.

"Sorry I should probably call you Edward now"

"Whatever you prefer Sir"

Richard remembered the day he had been given the job of punishing Edward for smoking, he now really felt guilty having been so zealous. The truth was he had first and foremost wanted to impress the headmaster who had in fact warmly congratulated him afterwards on a job well done. Richard was impressed what a fine young man Edward had turned out, and what a treat indeed it was to have Edward cutting his hair. The old man who usually cut his hair had a cigarette hanging out of in his mouth and just chopped away at his hair. Edward was the complete opposite, a good looking and immaculately presented young man, with the deepest blue eyes and a cute smile who took care with Richard’s hair. Of course, Edward needed to take care, his mentor Mr Haycock would be keeping a watchful eye, especially as at Templeton’s new customers had to be nurtured and there could be no mistakes. Edward was polite and professional with his client, taking great care with his cutting, Mr Dicken’s chestnut brown hair was indeed a very good head of hair, placing his scissors down and giving Richard a light dusting with the soft brush he then asked.

"You said you would like the back and sides very short Sir; would you prefer the electric or the manual hand operated clippers to be used?"

"The electric ones I think Edward"

"Very good Sir"

The policy at Templeton’s was to consult the customer, make him feel like a lord, which is why he asked Richard which were his preferred choice of clippers. When it came to his own hair there was not the quite the same procedure, his mentor cut his hair the way he thought it should be done. Edward selected the Bakelite clippers, and a fine-toothed comb, what he was unaware of was that there was a stirring in Richard’s trousers. Richard always liked this part of the haircut…he loved the short bristly feel the clippers gave, he really loved hearing the sound the clippers made too but to have this gorgeous young barber doing it.

"If I could ask you to bend your head forward please Sir"

"Of course, … and Edward … I want it done really short"

"Very good Sir"

Young Mr Dicken bent his head right down, his heart was racing as the clippers touched the back of his neck. Edward skilfully moved them up the back of Richards head to almost half way up his head, then cautiously tilting Richards head he clipped the sides first the left and then the right. The taking his fine-tooth comb he carefully blended Richards chair, because he had a good head of thick chestnut brown hair it was perfect for blending. Having completed the blending and brushed away the loose hairs, Edward held the mirror for Richard to see.

"Short enough for you Sir?"

"Well done Edward…that’s a first-class haircut"

"Thank you, Sir, I just need to shave your neck and apply the dressing to your hair"

As Edward went to take the flat razor from the side, Mr Haycock gave an approving nod, the lad was showing great promise thought his mentor. Edward gently shaved Richard’s neck and edged it slightly around the hairline and above his ears. Having wiped his neck area with a soft towel, it was time to ask which dressing Richard would prefer. A selection was displayed on the plate glass shelf just under the mirror in front of the chair Richard sat in.

"Is there a dressing you would prefer Sir, we have all the usual ones including Vitalis, Brylcreem, Vaseline and then we have the Templeton’s special pomade"

"I think I'll try the Templeton’s special pomade Edward"

"Very good Sir"

Edward took a jar of the specially blended Templeton’s Pomade and removed the screw top, taking a generous amount from the jar he gently rubbed it into Richard’s hair, whilst imagining what Richard’s hair would be like without all the dressing…all floppy he thought falling over his eyes. Richard thought what a wonderful smell the pomade had…he detected a citrus scent which was actually a West Indian lime base. Having combed his hair back and made sure it looked just right, Edward picked up the mirror again and held it for Richards final approval.

"Thank you, Edward … ten out of ten"

"A pleasure Sir"

At this point Mr Haylock was by the till with his customer, there was something Richard wanted to say whilst no one else was likely to hear

"I hope there are no hard feelings about that time when I caned you Edward"

"I took a chance and got caught Sir…you were only doing your job"

At the time Edward had thought what a mean bastard Richard was to have caned him so harshly, but now nearly all was forgiven. He thought that Richard not only charming but incredibly handsome with a confident assertiveness that he admired. But he been attracted to him ever since he had arrived at Fitzwilliam’s straight from university.

"That’s very decent of you Edward"

Edward smiled and their eyes met, the young man blushed slightly, and moved swiftly to brushing Richards neck with dusting powder, whilst loosening the cape. Richard stepped from the chair full of confidence, very happy with haircut and very pleased with his young barber.

"I trust everything was satisfactory for you Sir?"

Enquired Mr Swift the head barber as Richard was leaving

"Excellent young Edward has done a first-class job"

"Glad to hear it…if you find a barber you are especially happy with, you can of course always ask to have the same barber each time"

"Oh, I shall certainly ask for Edward again"

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