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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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Week 61: Who/Where are you in Lawrence County history?


Last Week's Picture: An unknown Farm, somewhere near Blaine

Submitted by Sherry King

I can be contacted at the below addresses, and your comments are welcome in the space at the bottom of this page…

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Lazer feature .....by Michael Coburn


Haircuts

You know, for the life of me I can only remember two barber shops existing in Louisa while growing up. I have a ‘feeling’ there was one on Madison down near the Brunswick, perhaps in the area that Eddie Boggs later opened his insurance office, but I’m just not sure. There had to have been more, but I’ll talk about the ones I remember anyway and maybe throw in some side stories along the way. In my memory, there was a big bright, well-lit shop with at least two chairs just behind the Bargain Store on Main Street. I list this one first because it was the place where I had my first haircut experience. I lived at the Louisa Inn at the time and this one was but a short stroll down Main Street.

Now I’m not too different than most guys in that the first haircut is a major, sometimes traumatic experience. In fact, there was a time that a haircut was traumatic for teenagers at any time. I was okay when mom took me into the shop and turned me over to the barber, but I soon became the object of many comments from the men that were either sitting around waiting for their turn in the chair or maybe just hanging out. Thinking back, my mom was apparently worried on two counts. First, that I may not like what was about to happen to me and might ‘act out,’ and secondly, that she was the only female in the shop. It would take years for me to understand the significance of that, but looking back, maybe this was traumatic for her, as well. After all, barber shops are hangouts for men and a whistle or a ‘catcall’ or two is a pretty normal sound to emit from such an establishment. I was too young to understand this problem. As a little kid it was all I could do to handle the excitement, a new experience in a booster seat, and the smock that would be fitted around my neck and draped down over my shoes.

At first I was fascinated by the design of the booster seat. It was a small chromed and padded chair of a thing that neatly fit over the arms of the big adult chair, lifting the small fry up to the necessary height for the barber to work his magic. I had already spotted all those handles, pedals and levers sticking out all around the chair. I was a little proud that I had my own special seat that put me up so high.

The first alarm went off in my mind when my wonderful dark locks began to fall onto the apron and eventually down to make a pile on the floor. Part of me was being destroyed and made waste, I thought. I swallowed and manned up to hide my impulses to cry out. I turned my gaze instead away from mom and the men lest they see my face and at once understand the fear that was already creeping up my spine. If I could hang on, I thought, I would be fine, but the barber kept moving my head around to suit himself. This was at odds with my need to maintain manly decorum, but it actually made me a little mad so that pushed away and clouded my fears. I again buckled up my spirit and calmed myself so my distress wouldn’t be apparent. Yes, I purposed to be brave and draw the respect of all in attendance.

Then it happened. I hadn’t expected it. I had never been to a barber shop before so I was clueless about the loud, vibrating noise that was approaching my head from behind! You got it. He had turned on the dreaded electric clippers. As if that in itself wasn’t enough, but he put it up to my very ear and I could feel the numbing, threatening sound. For this first trip, I was totally surprised because I had never seen electric clippers before. Now, I not only heard the noise but felt it. I didn’t know what was happening. Finally, I could not hold back. I threw up the smock and screamed! Both arms reached out from under the cover toward what I knew would be a sympathetic mother . . . but wait, she had seen it coming and had escaped to the street leaving the poor barber to attend to the problem. My support was gone! Hysteria sat in and everyone in the shop scrambled for solutions. One was found after a short pause. The barber showed me the clippers and demonstrated that they were harmless. A piece of candy appeared and I enjoyed that sucker. Thank you. From this I learned that all you had to do to get a sucker was to scream bloody murder. Over time, the barber learned to give me the sucker, first.

Perhaps that explains how and why my life has gone in the direction it has. I am slow to depend on anyone these days. I am surprised and pleased when I get support. I will always be hungry for it, but I have learned to cope, regardless. Like John Wayne I will stand even if I am alone. Even if I am not victorious, I will die like a man; a man, with any luck, holding a sucker.

My fellow classmate and writer, Delbert Caudill had an interesting experience, as well, if even a little later in life. He writes:

One of the more traumatic events of my childhood was getting a haircut, believe it or not. Doesn’t sound like much, but you never had to endure my dad’s clippers! They were not electric, but hand operated. The cutters worked on the same principle as electric ones do, with two blades shuttling back and forth, but were operated by squeezing the handles together. Each time the handles were squeezed, the blades cut and when they were released, they came back to the starting point. Still doesn’t sound too bad except for being slow......very slow. Did I mention that they had one tooth broken?”

Dad squeezed the handles to make them work, and in the process was wiggling the cutting head a little each time. It was impossible to keep his hand from moving as he was squeezing and with the broken tooth, pulling hair on every cycle of the blades. It seemed to take forever! I think those clippers pulled out about as much hair as they cut. It’s a wonder I’m not bald, but I guess the hair grew back. To make matters even worse, this was well before long hair was in. Even if it had been in it wouldn’t have been in with Mom and Dad, so we had to have haircuts regularly. Haircut day was one time that I was a little envious of my sisters. They had just the opposite problem. They weren’t allowed to cut their hair!”

What a relief it was when Dad started taking me with him to town to get my haircut. I not only got a trip to town, but the haircut was over much faster and less painfully than it was at home! Barber shops not only had barbers, but a shoeshine boy, or more accurately a shoeshine man, since he was at least as old as Dad. Barber shops and beauty parlors were strictly segregated back then. You never saw a woman in a barber shop and if a man ever set foot in a beauty parlor, he would have been harassed by his friends for the rest of his days and people would have expressed serious doubt about his manhood! The barber shop was a place for men to gather to get a haircut and while they were waiting their turn, to relax, cuss if they wanted to, swap lies and tell tall tales. No place for a woman!”

Dad’s favorite barber was John Burton. John was also an avid hunter, and an experienced bird dog trainer who came out to the farm to hunt with us two or three times each season. Since Dad had his favorite barber, I had my choice of all the other barbers in the shop. Of course there was only one other, so I got him. His name was John Justice. His grandson, Johnny Justice, was in my class at school. I always thought that would be a good name for an old western hero. “Here, riding out of the sunset to right wrongs and catch all the bad guys, comes Johnny Justice, hero of the old west!””

Well Johnny wasn’t a western hero and neither was his grandpa. He was just a small town barber, but a pretty good one. He was probably at least 70 at the time, and had many years of experience. The only thing that bothered me was after the haircut when he shaved around my ears. He had a little tremor in his hands. I could feel it when he was cutting my hair with the clippers, but I wasn’t worried about them. What I was worried about was that straight razor! Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the hand holding the razor moving toward my ear. The trembling in his hand would be magnified in the movement of the razor. As the wagging razor blade came closer and closer, I would try to not move a muscle. I don’t think I even breathed!” “When it finally reached my face, his fingers would rest on my cheek and the razor would touch down light as a feather! He would make the stroke with the razor smoothly and confidently with never a nick. He never cut me; there was just the fear of it. Even though I knew he probably wouldn’t cut me, still, every time he came at me with that razor wagging back and forth I expected an ear to land in my lap!”

Everything considered, I don’t know which was worse, the pain of the pulling hair, or the fear of losing my ears! Eventually of course I grew up and could choose any barber shop I wanted, but to this day I get a little nervous when a barber shaves around my ears with a straight razor.”

Thanks, Delbert. You know I feel your pain. A second barber shop I went to was along the railroad tracks just across from the depot. These guys had not experienced the trauma of dealing with me so they welcomed me. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any suckers. I had to grow up. Rats!

Still, there would be more hair-cutting traumas over the years but of differing sorts. One time my Aunt Shirley convinced my mother that she could save us money by cutting my hair herself. The story to follow is repeated in America a thousand times over every day. It is likely that some well-meaning person did this to you, too. She botched the haircut so badly that I couldn’t be seen in public. My mother cried and my aunt fretted and finally everybody just laughed. The laugher brought me concern so I rushed for the mirror. I saw the problem immediately and cried out that my friends would laugh at me. (Billy Elkins did) So down to the shop by the depot we went. The barber listed politely to an explanation that he’d heard a thousand times before. After the confession, that really wasn’t needed because the botched job was apparent to everyone, mom left me in more competent hands. This was my first buzz cut (the only possible cure given my scalping). I was to wear ‘flattops’ for years because I figured it was harder to mess up.

An exception was a time when a movie came out portraying some war-painted, feather-decked, whooping Indians. They looked cool! Before anyone knew it I had my own Mohawk. I was proud at grade school when my peers looked on with what I thought was envy, although I wasn’t aware of the new custom to ‘snicker in envy.’ I decided to let it grow back out.

Over the years, I was fascinated when watching the barber shaving men as they lay back in the reclining chair. They would take the straight razor and sharpen it against the leather razor strop attached to side of the chrome chair. Back and forth, constantly slapping until the barber was satisfied with the degree of sharpness on the blade. The customer’s face would be covered with a hot shaving crème whipped up in a mug by swirling a bush around and around. Hot water was used to add to the soap making warm, thick foam that was quickly spread over the chin and face. Then, little by little, the blade was used to take up the cream and be wiped on a clean towel. It was not so much scraping against the beard as stretching the skin so to cut the individual hair at its lowest possible point. The master cutter would then run his fingers across the neck and chin feeling for any offending stubble that might be left. Then the face was wiped clean and a very hot, wet towel was wrapped around the face. After a time the towel was removed and a manly lotion was slapped on the skin. A shave in this fashion might last for days, as opposed to doing it at home only to find it had to be done again by late afternoon. The four bits or so was worth it, I’m told.

It became common in the late 50’s, that small TV’s would grace the shops. Before that, while waiting for your turn, you either visited with the men, or read comics or magazines. Waiting your turn was common but a bit of a bore for a young fellow wanting to go out with his friends and play. One year, just as the World Series began, the shop became ‘electronic.’ One could go in there and actually watch the games on a real TV. It was a smart business move because men would crowd in, but knowing this was also a business they would relent to a trim or a shave, and hang around afterward. The Yankees and Dodgers would play most of those years. It was the first time for many to see a real, live game. I had lived a year in Detroit by that time and had seen many of the Yankees in person in old Briggs (Tiger) stadium.

Those two barber shops seemed busy during my school days. It is likely that they had more customers on weekends, but there was always something going on in the shops. They were famous for practical jokes, telling about past antics and follies, and poking fun at each other. I don’t remember anyone getting mad or becoming offended. To be talked about in that environment was something of an honor; a sign of arrival. While they joked and tricked kids, they were kind enough to never embarrass. If even they thought they may have gone too far, they were quick to divert to another story or choose another victim.

Like Delbert, I was warned at an early age that I didn’t want to go to a beauty salon. I only ran in and out a couple of times to deliver an urgent message or beg for a nickel or dime, but I made myself scarce. Those rows of ‘space-helmet’ like dryers whirling their song while the customer sat with curlers underneath was like something in futuristic night-mares seen in the Garden Theater. Whether brains were cooked or washed was a question I feared to ask. So, ladies, I cannot add more to memories dealing with the hair fashions of that day except to note they were before, but only slightly before, teasing. Whoa! How high can you go?

Hopefully, you have seen something that brought back a memory or two, or if not, perhaps it served to enlighten you on the behind the scenes ‘going’s on’ that surely occurred all across the nation. The red and white, sometimes rotating poles called us to a shearing or a shave and another way to meet friends and build memories.

The author is a member of the LHS Class of 1960. He is writing and compiling stories about life’s experiences in growing up in Louisa during the late forties, fifties and early sixties. He would look forward to hearing a few tales, worthy of inclusion in a potential forthcoming book. Excerpts may be published in future editions of the ‘Lazer.’ His email is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He’d love to hear from you.

 

Lazer Feature...by Liss Jones


It happened every 3 or 4 years or sometimes longer at individual houses in The Bottom…but at one house in The Bottom in particular. Several ladies of The Bottom could congregate and a the selected house to talk and hang wallpaper. I was young when it first happened and I could not understand how the women could talk a mile a minute and still hang the paper straight…but they did it several times a year…but mostly in the summer months…so the kids could easily be dispersed to some place out of the way. A good name for the meeting, could be “The Ladies Wall Papering Society of The Bottom”! Yea…why not call it the LWPSTB!

Preparation time for the next meeting of the LWPSTM started several months prior to a visit to the next house. First there was a visit to Wellman’s Hardware, or Van Hoose Lumber Company or one of the other stores that sold wallpaper, and surely a visit to the Spiegel, Sears or Penny’s Catalog trying to make a selection of the right wallpaper. With the selection made, it was time to order...then the wait for the wallpaper to arrive. In the mean time…the old paper was being stripped off the walls, especially if the old paper had just been papered over for a few years…any holes in the walls were patched and the ceiling was inspected to see if it could make it for another year…mainly because the ceiling was a booger to paper…it took determination and agility…to do at last an acceptable job…because unless the paste was “sticky” enough and applied evenly…the paper would fall…meaning they would have to start all over again.

The arrival of the paper meant more hours of preparation was in store for the lady whose house was to be visited. The first thing was to check the paper to see if it was the design, color and texture ordered and pray that enough was ordered…otherwise the papering would have to end behind the couch. If the host was satisfied with the paper and felt there was enough…it was time to cut the border. You see, back then when paper was ordered, each roll was printed with a border on the side and it had to be cut off…yup...each roll had to be
wallpaper toolkitwallpaper toolkittrimmed of its border…and yup, that meant unrolling each roll of paper then re rolling it again…it was a painstaking job as the cutting off the border had to be precise…other wise the rolls would not match when being hung…this job was entrusted only to the lady of the house…glad I was a kid back then. When this job was started...the children of the house were sent out side to play or a good time to go visit a playmate…Mothers were not to be bothered.

The next job for the host was to gather the necessary ingredients for making the paste…just as a reminder…folks didn’t run to the store to buy a gallon of paste, nor was the paper pre-pasted…paste was made at home on a stove… by boiling water and adding dry ingredients…to the right consistency. Next came the job of gathering up brushes to put the paste on with and to smooth the paper out after it was hung…if none could be found, one used old towels…but whatever was used…they had to be found. Then there was the need for something to lay the paper on so the glue could be applied…if “saw horses” were not available…the kitchen table did the job.

The day before the scheduled meeting of the LWPSTB, meals for the host’s family was prepared and set aside…because there was no time for the host lady to stop and prepare meals for the day. Come the day for the gathering for the meeting of the LWPSTB the kids were flushed from the house…to the yard, or a friend’s house…before the ladies started arriving. When they entered the front door the talking started and continued all day long…talking about something…talk about anything…everything was a target for discussion…if they talked about another lady…that was acceptable as long as the statement was paraphrased or ended with “Bless her/his heart.”

After a days work or the job was finished…whichever came first…the talking ceased and the ladies went home leaving the host’s house smelling like new paste and looking bright…a sight to see. After the host cleaned up and got the family fed…the host lady turned in early to get some well-needed rest…hoping the paper would still be hanging in the morning, for if it wasn’t the job had to be re-done…the entire family hoped it was still hanging the next morning….wonder why??????

I can be contacted at the below addresses, and your comments are welcome in the space at the bottom of this page…

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