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A haircut from Mr Brown by clippered kid


So I became a teenager (turned 13)in 1972, which meant of course I was a kid growing up in the 60's, a time when barbershops were plentiful and busy. From the terraced house I grew up in there was a choice of several within a short walk. It just so happened that Dad chose to go to Mr Brown and in time I was to join him there for regular Saturday morning haircuts

Mr Browns shop was typical of the type. Lino on the floor, dark hard wooden benches under the window and along the back wall for waiting your turn and a couple of bare lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. It was'nt an inviting place, sort of dimly lit and run down looking, it was purely functional.

I'm sure Dad's choice of Mr Brown to be our barber was made purely at random. Not because of some fearsome reputation he had for no nonsense haircuts, but most likely simply because he was the nearest to our house. His shop was literally at the top of our street. However although I did'nt know it at the time, Dad's choice of Mr Brown was to prove an unfortunate decision for me in the years to come. Later as the old barbers began to lose custom due to the changing times I think some did try to adapt and compromise a little. If they could'nt leave hair stylish and modern, then they would at least leave it a little less short and severe. But others went the other way, dug their heels in and were absolutely determined not to change from the old ways. Sadly for me, in the course of time I was to discover to my cost that Mr Brown was most definitely in the second category.

I don't know exactly how old I was when I first went to the barbers with Dad but I'd guess around 3 or 4. I do know that Mr Browns would be the only place I went for a haircut from then on until he retired. We would try to get there early before it got to busy. I can remember a sign
No Unaccompanied Boys Saturday
I can even remember a time when I was to small for the chair and this padded board thing was placed across the armrests and I'd scramble up. Dad would be asked
"How's he having it" to which the reply was always short back and sides. Then when the haircut was finished Dad would be asked
" Is he having anything on it " to which he always replied yes, whereupon 2 handfuls of grease were rubbed into my shorn locks then combed over with a sharp part. From an early age I'd leave the barbers with more or less the same haircut as Dad. Clipped short, plastered to my head, the grease making it shine under the shop lights.

To be fair I suspect that making a kid look like a little grown up might have been seen as cute back then. Sadly I was still getting exactly the same treatment and the very same haircut right up until I was nearly 18 and Mr Brown finally hung up his clippers and retired just after he turned 70.

How did this happen ? Well for many years, from the time I first started going to Mr Brown up until I was 13/14, I did'nt object to going to the barbers at all. I was never spooked by the sound or the feel of the clippers. I never complained or cried. Being good at the barbers usually meant stopping off at the sweet shop after for a treat, and of course at that age the finished look of the haircut did'nt interest me in the least.

By the time I took any interest at all in the way I looked I was practically a 10 year veteran of the traditional barbers. A pattern had been established, the correct way to behave and the right things to say at the barbers had been programmed into me. Then I suppose around 14 hormones kicked in. A bit of teenage rebellion along with a beginning of an interest in clothes and music and thats were the problems started. Up until then I received Mr Browns finest 1950's schoolboys short back and sides quite happily without any complaint.

Also I have to say that I actually liked Mr Brown. He was never bad tempered or grumpy, he was calm and patient and must of had a good way with kids because I took to him from the very beginning. Even when I was older and dreaded receiving another of his haircuts I could never bring myself to actually dislike him. He was a nice old friendly pipe smoking grandfatherly type. In fact as he seemed to get on so well with my Dad I even felt like I was one of his favourites.

Sometimes while waiting for my turn in the chair he would ask me to run down to the shop and get him an evening paper. Often once in the chair I was held up as an example of a good lad who came to him for proper haircuts. While the haircut was in progress he would whisper little words of encouragement and praise for not fidgeting and co-operating fully with his instructions while being worked on.

I can even remember one night when I was coming home from school a bit later than usual bumping into Mr Brown, still dressed in his barbers jacket, outside the newsagents. We exchanged hello's and he asked after my Dad and how's school(etc). Then he eyed me up seriously and said
"It looks like you could do with a haircut to me David why not come along to the shop and I'll sort it out for you"
I told Mr Brown that I did'nt have any money but he was undeterred
"That's alright son I'll get it off your father the next time he's in. Come on the shops empty and we can't have you walking around with that mop on your head can we"
With that we headed for the shop. When we got there Mr Brown unlocked the door, took down his Back In Five Minutes sign and led me inside for my haircut. Even though I may of been one of his favourites, we both knew exactly who was in charge. I accepted totally that if Mr Brown saw me in the street and thought I needed "sorting out" then he had the perfect right to take me into his shop and do so.

You see to my mind Mr Brown had exactly the same status as one of your teachers at school. He was not just giving me a haircut, he was most certainly in charge of my haircut. In those days kids were expected to have respect for older people.
Children should be seen and not heard
Speak when your spoken to, and
If I want your opinion I'll ask for it, were typical expressions of the day. When someone older spoke to you, you gave the response they expected to hear. To do anything else was cheeky and you certainly never volunteered your own opinion. So it was with Mr Brown. He was of that generation that believed 100% they knew what was best for you and fully expected you to accept that fact, be grateful, and behave accordingly.



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