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A new buzz cut every week

Jun 23, 2014 - By Randy Tucker

The clippers my dad used were eerily similar to those found around the fair building during livestock shows.

One of the intrigues, not necessarily joys, of working for a newspaper in your home town is that from time to time photos and stories from your past are discovered by fellow staff members.

Last week a photo of me receiving an industrial arts scholarship from the University of Wyoming came to light after an almost 40-year hiatus. Another edition from the spring of 1975 had two of my friends, Wally Westling and Dan Runner, in a photo on the sports page as they went on a football recruiting trip to Chadron State.

What was most interesting was the identical hair style we were all wearing. Think about teenage and 20-something hair in the mid-1970s and you find shoulder length, over the collar, in all its soon-to-be-disco glory.

Hair is a receding (yes, pun intended) image to the past for many of us.

As I was reviewing a Shoshoni basketball game film in 1990, I noticed a reflective spot on my head each time the camera rolled by our bench during a game. A bald spot at 33? I sure didn't think so and couldn't find the area using a hand mirror in front of our bathroom vanity, but it became noticeable in a few more years.

During a Wind River timeout during a basketball game at the old Rocky Mountain High School at Byron I took a photo of the head coach and the varsity team in a timeout from the balcony above.

The head coach was a youngster himself but that telltale spot on my game film from years ago showed on his head as well. Tyler had an almost identical hairstyle to my son Brian, so photo shopping a full head of hair onto the top of his head was easy.

You wouldn't think anyone would notice but the next Saturday his dad came up to me and said with a grin, "Whose hair was that on Tyler's head?"

As a military child, that is (fill in the blank with Air Force, Army, Navy or Marine) brat, haircuts were an often brutal ritual. It didn't matter until the teen years for me and my friends, but about the time we all hit 13 the battles between father and son began.

Until the early 1970s the prevalent hairstyle for almost every boy in my elementary and junior high school was the buzz cut. Though far from stylish it was an easy style for those formative years when boys don't realize that showering is a good thing.

Most of us had our hair cut each week by our fathers, though sometimes a friend's mom would do the chores if dad was sent overseas. A pair of clippers, eerily similar to those found around the fair building during livestock shows, with a plastic cow catcher attachment, was all the parent's needed.

In a few minutes your son's hair was only a quarter-inch long and good for another week.

I didn't realize that there were places people went to get their hair cut until we moved from Puerto Rico to Arkansas in 1962.

My grandfather had his hair trimmed at a little barber shop in Mariana, Ark. One day he took me with him. It was 1963 or '64, and it was quite a big deal for a youngster to go to the barbershop with his grandpa.

Mariana is a small town, the seat of Lee County. The city center has a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the middle of the town square with red brick streets radiating from it. The barbershop was on one of those cobbled, red brick streets.

Though it was a half-century ago, the interior of the shop is imbedded in my memory.Three chairs, with a lot of older gentleman of my grandfather's vintage, sitting in bordering chairs and telling stories. There was even a checkers table in the corner, but nobody was playing that day.

Tabloid-style magazines on the tables must have been issues of Police Gazette.

My grandpa had his hair cut first, then it was my turn.

The haircut wasn't anything different from what I got at home -- clippers with the plastic trimming edge attached -- but when the barber shaved the back of my neck with a straight razor, that was a unique experience.

So was the Bay Rum he splashed on my face and neck when he was finished, just like the big guys.

Barbers are a vanishing breed, replaced by hair stylists who work equally well with women and men's hair.

Last week I decided to try the barber shop again. It was a long time since my last visit to one as a college student at the only shop in Laramie.

Bob's one-chair shop on South Broadway in Riverton was a trip to the past. It was quick, efficient and, as a few older gentlemen arrived during my haircut, it seemed that the old boys from Mariana had returned.

As he finished Bob the barber asked which side I parted my hair on. "I don't part it," I said.

"What are you, a hippie?" he asked with a wry grin.

Almost the same question I heard often from my teenage years, but without the headlock and ensuing angst.

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public-school educator.

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