Back When Dad Used to Give All 7 Kids Haircuts in Front of the Fish Tank

When I was speaking on the phone recently with my son, Nick, we joked about how people were going to emerge from their cocoons after this either in incredible shape or having gained an extra 50 pounds. He said, “And a lot of people are going to need haircuts.”

This triggered a childhood memory: my father used to give us all haircuts. No, he wasn’t an artist; he was an insurance man, running his own business, trying to raise and feed seven children. He cut corners where he could. And he did it with all the grace and delicacy of a sheep shearing.

As the youngest, I was spared much of that trauma, though I do vividly recall getting plopped in a chair in front of the fish tank. It was bewildering to witness the passionate reactions of my older siblings. You’d think it was the end of the world. For my part, I still have an almost atavistic fondness for the feeling of an electric trimmer going up the sides and back of my head. The whirr and warmth of it. When I get a haircut today, a part of me returns to that time and it’s a comforting memory. But I recall how much my brothers, older and more self-aware, hated those sessions. It was rough stuff.

Dad had a kit that I remember. It was a red and white box that he kept in a closet. I did a search for vintage hair kits, and this image closely resembles the box I recall:

I asked my brother Al about it, and he wrote: “He didn’t finesse it whatsoever. I disliked hair cuts in general because of how you looked afterward. Kind of shorn looking. His haircuts were pretty crude. He would also hold the top of your head with one hand and use the other to guide the clipper. The top hand would wrench your head around when he wanted to get to a hard to reach area. I suspect I cried.”

Our beloved barber: “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Not to give the wrong impression!

Al remembers the haircuts taking place outside our kitchen door during the summer. Barbara says they happened by the swingset in the backyard. Hair everywhere (and image I also recall). She wasn’t sure if Bill or John hated them the most, though probably both. As the best looking boys, they had the most to lose.

Well, what goes around, comes around. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the victims of a lot more home haircuts in the future. Good luck, all. And remember, it’ll grow back!


 

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