Ask Your Barber
One of the benefits of living near a small Michigan town is that I can visit an honest-to-god barber shop--the kind that has real, heavyweight swivel chairs, a real barber pole outside the door, and real, experienced male barbers ready to apply the clippers and scissors just the way you want.
Sports posters adorn the walls in Otsego’s barber shop, where I’ve become a regular. The talk is of the fortunes of the Lions, Packers, Tigers, Red Wings, and other manly interests, including political gossip. The only change from the snip shops of my youth is that a woman occasionally enters with her husband, children, or grandchildren.
The presence of a lady or youngster doesn’t affect the conversation in the shop at all. One of the curious things I’ve observed in barber shops over many years is the absence of profanity or dirty jokes. I started my working career shining shoes in barber shops in 1946. I’ve yet to hear a serious cuss word or suggestive story. Could it be that only gentlemen get haircuts in real barber shops?
Well into the 1980s, barber shops were male sanctuaries. Rarely was a woman seen in one, a far cry from the situation now where the barbers are females in most establishments. I mentioned the lady “hair stylists” to one of the older Otsego barbers. His reaction was, “Well, the kids have to learn somewhere.”
During the first half of the 30 years we lived in Ogden, Utah, "Dick's Barber Shop" in the lower level of the old Ben Lomond Hotel was the place to go to get inside information about what was going on in the city. Dick was a good listener and had a great memory. He could provide accurate situation reports on just about any topic.
Almost all the Forest Service men who worked in Ogden got their haircuts at Dick's. He knew a lot about what was going on in the Service, and could recite an impressive list of former customers who had transferred to other duty stations. Occasionally, the barbershop grapevine was more efficient than official channels.
One legend featured a regional office employee who arrived in Dick's chair during a lunch hour. When the haircut was finished, Dick asked, "What's your reporting date in Atlanta?"
"What?" the forester asked. "I'm not going anywhere. You must have something mixed up."
The man dashed back to the office and confronted his supervisor about the transfer rumor. "Oh yes," the boss said, "I just didn't have time to tell you this morning. You've been reassigned to Atlanta."