Your Reading List

Home Barbering Lives On

“Shave and a haircut – two bits!”

And now the legacy of haircutting has extended to the next generation.

Well, probably not a shave, and probably not two bits either, even if you could wield a pair of clippers and a comb. My mother cut men’s hair for years and years in our community and was seldom, if ever, remunerated for her efforts. Nor did she expect to be. That’s the way things were back in the days when neither barbershops nor money were plentiful. It was reward enough for her to see a shaggy neighbour leave our house with his hair neatly trimmed and feeling better about himself.

The other day I came across the old pair of scissors my mother used to use and memories of her cutting hair in the front room of our old farmhouse came flooding back. She’d had no formal training in barbering, just a good eye and a steady hand. The mechanical clippers she used had to have the handles squeezed together in a rhythmical motion in order to cut the hair, and withdrawing them too soon felt like the premature loss of some hair – pulled out by the roots, according to my father.

My mother’s legacy of barbering somehow passed on to me, but by that time we owned a pair of electric clippers. When my husband and I started dating, I think one clue as to how serious he was about our relationship was the fact he let me cut his hair, under Mom’s supervision, of course. By the time we were married, I’d gained quite a bit of confidence, and a good thing, too. Compared to all those other little babies in the nursery with heads as bare as billiard balls, our boys arrived with a complete thatch of hair. As soon as they could sit up, it meant giving them haircuts, and each experience was like trying to give a universal joint a buzz cut. They tried to swivel their heads this way and that, with me trying to anticipate each sudden move. There were no disasters, just a lot of screaming and a lot of perspiration running down my back.

And now the legacy of haircutting has extended to the next generation. Our daughter in Toronto has two preschool boys. After shelling out hard-earned money for their haircuts, she bought a pair of clippers. “Two haircuts and I had them paid for!” she said. “If the boys were going to scream their heads off at the barber’s and it cost a fortune, I figured they may as well scream at home for nothing.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she’d just locked herself into an expectation that will continue every three weeks for the rest of her life. At least, that’s been my experience, but to compensate, I’ve also saved hundreds of dollars! – Alma Barkman writes from Winnipeg.

About the author

Alma Barkman's recent articles



Stories from our other publications