In the mid 1960’s it wasn’t easy for multi-sibling families like mine to get along well financially, but somehow my Mom and Dad made it work on the salary of my Dad, which wasn’t much.
But there were times where budget cutting ideas may have went a little too far, like the “Save money on haircuts by doing it ourselves”initiative from my Dad around Easter 1966.
Off we went in the 1964 Chevy Impala Station wagon (it was powder blue), it was crowded in the car, and it’s likely I picked on my brother , and my Dad yelled, “Quit that skylarking!”, which we later came to understand meant “quit fooling around”.
Our destination was the EJ Korvette department store out on Richmond Ave, New Springville, across from “the Dump,” the notorious Fresh Kills Landfill, where the noxious midsummer stench wasn’t yet in full aromatic flavor, but it was close.
The Mall hadn’t yet been built, although the foundation and some steel were up, and I remembered the Flea market being in the old airfield airplane hanger.
Anyway, we piled into EJ Korvettes, it seemed huge, with so many items that you could easily become confounded, Mom, Dad, me at 9, my sister Brenda age 7, Brother Vincent age 6, sister Chrissie in a stroller at 4 (John and Tommy I don’t think were born yet ). We stared in amazement, and much to my parents’ dismay I tried to push Brenda down the motorized steps of the Escalator (I couldn’t help it; it looked like something from the 1964 World’s Fair at Shea Stadium)
We went past the Phonograph and 8 track section, and I took notice of some of the older girls with the be –hives (I asked my Mom was their hair fake?). In the general goods section my Dad picked out an amateur barber kit (electric shaver, razor, attachments, and brush) to cut our hair and save tons of money on haircuts.
On the way back, we stopped at Al Deppes, a festive fun and games place where we had hot dogs, sodas and (shared) fries, including fighting over the individual allotment of fries per person.
Then it was on home. My Dad volunteered to cut all of the neighborhood kids’ heads, along with his own. Boys and Girls were invited, no one was exempt.
We sat in the side yard, neighbors Richie Jackson, Billy Jones, Timmy Tichoner, Bill Hobson, Vinny, all with great anticipation and the promise of Easter chocolates for our agreeing to be part of Dad’s apprentice barber training.
One by one, we took our turns in the side yard bench by the old redwood picnic table and I went first. When Dad was finished, I had about one sixteenth of an inch of hair on my head, if I was lucky. Everyone got the same treatment, and there was so much buzzing you didn’t need Bees for the rest of the summer. Some of us looked like Marines, some looked like Army infantry, and all of noticed that our heads and scalps were breathing and venting in a way we had not noticed in years (maybe since birth). We noticed who had the largest ears (some of us were really Easter bunnies) and any lumps on scalps were there for all the world to see.
The fun really started about 10 minutes after, when a somewhat cranky Ms. Jackson questioned my Dad’s training and talent for giving her son a Marines haircut, which she described as “horrible”.
Mr. Hobson (an Ex-Navy Man, and chief mechanic/engineer on the S.I. Ferry) nodded with approval, despite his son’s belated protests. He said we all finally looked like men, albeit protein-deficient men.
Then it was Mr. Jones who came to our house with his son in tears and demanded that his son be given his hair back, in some sort of restorative way. Of course, short of installing a hairpiece, this was impossible. Mr. Jones also accused my Dad of switching the razor of his prized hair slasher, which was not true (perhaps he was just jealous of my Dad getting to shorn over a cubic foot of hair from so many kids). There was much jawing, sour words, and flailing of arms. It was very entertaining.
There were numerous gatherings in the neighborhood for years after the Easter haircuts event, but after that fateful day with thousands of hair follicles lost to compost, there was no further talk of saving money with Dad as our barber.