A walk down memory lane to the barber shop

The barbershop during World War II was the gathering place for conversations. Photo: AP

MISSOURI, May 29, 2013 — He had a front-row seat, as the shoeshine person, on the activities that went on in the barbershop. To make some spending money, he shined shoes on Saturdays. He got ten cents a shine and when he got a tip, he was in hog heaven.

In order to have the privilege to work at the shop, he had the following duties. Sweep up the hair during the day and at the end of the day. Make sure the magazines and papers were stacked nice and neat and were the current issues. When the gentlemen were finished with their haircut, he used a clothes brush to brush their backs to make sure there was no hair on their clothes and open the door and stated, come back again sir. He also performed other duties as the barbers dictated. Again, he considered himself blessed to have this opportunity to make his own money.

The barbershop during World War II was the gathering place for conversations and in particular, conversations concerning the war and its impact. Men talking about their relatives in the service, guessing what theatre of war they were in and how individuals were copping with rationing.

The barber was the listener, the chaplain and a person of true understanding. He did not provide specific remedies but provided the ear to listen. It was a place where the customer would just talk and in retrospect, and it provided them an outlet to get things off of their chest. This service was only a part of the barber’s job, and they did not charge the customer anymore for the service. Today we term this as multi-tasking.

The barbershop was the place to put your cards for the turkey shoot, Boy Scout and Girl Scout drives. Schools would ask permission to put their ads in the window. Again, if you think about it was one of the small town’s center of communications and in the large cities, it was the neighborhood center of communications.

It is also always amazing at the memories these gentlemen had. They knew all the athletes on the High School Teams. They remembered your name and how you wanted to have your hair cut.

In coming back to the present time from this trip down memory lane that the shop environment was the same, except for the ability to get the shoe shine and the barbers were getting a little grayer hair. Traditional shop and barber are slowly disappearing. For most seniors this is sad, as this is a part of their lives that so many who grew up starting in the 30s. So for the young readers who have not experienced the old-time  barber shop,  if nothing more give it a try so that you can add this to your memory bank as it relates to what your Grandpa or Great Grandpa got their shave and haircut down at Cleve and Mack’s barber shop.

As an aside, in the 30s and 40s you never met a Barber who couldn’t sing or tried to. Remember Perry Como?

 However, that’s from a time and place I am from-

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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.

Charles is a fifty-four-year career in technology retiring at the directors level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a free-lance columnist, published three books, over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, radio interviews, one television commercial and finally married for sixty-five years, four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great grand children. 

Charles is also a Navy veteran.

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