Monday, March 1, 2010

Iowaville: Jake the Barber


"You had better sit still as a statue if you don't want your ear cut off," every kid heard in Iowaville heard sometime in their life before heading into Jake the Barber's little shack of a house nestled in-between larger brick buildings on Main Street. Rumor had it that some kid hadn't sat still and actually had gotten a chunk of his ear snipped off. Looking back on it through time aged eyes, I'm pretty positive that didn't happen because I've yet to see a pair of scissors sharp enough to cut through cartilage without offering up some noticeable resistance. More and likely someone got their ear nicked and there might have been some blood involved but too a young and naïve kid, the image of an entire ear laying on the floor was very real and very possible.

Jake's Barbershop was one of those classics right out of a Leave It to Beaver episode. It had a large chromed out chair that rose up and down with a large pedal, one of many arranged around the base. There was only one chair for the cutting and three or four for those in waiting. It wasn't unusual for you to go in and wait for a couple hours while the three in front of you had their hair cut and it really didn't matter anyway that it took that long. There was always an interesting discussion going on and if you were a kid like me, Jake always had a few comic books to read through. Best of all, you always got a big lollipop at the end.

One wall behind the chair held a large mirror that ran its length with a couple shelves below full of lotions and liquids in an assortment of colors and smells. Below that was a counter top that held the sink and a wide assortment of scissors, shears, attachments, straight razors, leather strap and a couple hair dryers. The front of the shop had large windows on either side of the door with a layer of dirt that always gave the outside a yellowish tinge and of course, a large striped barber pole held on one side of the door. If you were a female, you went to the local beautician and if you were a guy, you went to Jake.

My experiences of going to Jake's Barber Shop were limited to most. Jake used to put some sort of greasy green goo in my hair before cutting it to make it stand up. It worked well but smelled like a wet dog that has just rolled around in something that had been dead for a while. It was terrible and my mother agreed. She tried telling Jake when dropping me off, that she didn't want any of that green goo put in my hair and sometimes he obliged but more often than not, it went on and my mom would raise a stink when I climbed into the car. She finally gave up and decided to cut my hair herself. That went on for several years until crew cuts became the latest fad and after much persuading, I had my mom make me an appointment with the local beautician. Fifteen minutes later, my head felt pounds lighter and my mom's jaw dropped when she saw me without my long locks. However, always the spendthrift, she bought one of those attachment kits that fit over the end of the shears and cut my hair for the rest of my home days with the #1 attachment. Twenty-five years later, I still use the #1 attachment.

12 comments:

R. Sherman said...

There was the same barber shop on Main Street in Festus, Missouri. Probably Jake's brother worked there. It must be a chain.

Cheers.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - Since I cut my own hair, I don't know the answer but I have to ask, where do men cut their hair these days? Do men's barber shops even exist anymore?

Beau said...

I love a good barber shop. Which isn't easy to find these days... but when you do find one, it's a pleasure to have a patient scissors trim and a razor cut to clean things up.

For now I still cut my son's hair, but he's starting to get a little more particular. I tried cutting my own once... by the laughs of a few relatives, that didn't work out very well!

Eutychus2 said...

Hey, we have a franchise of that same barber shop here in Southwestern Michigan; matter of fact my grandson nearly always wants to go there when in town ... he loves the place - and believe it or not, there is actually a lady barber working there! Retro one way, progress the other I guess.
Thanks.

R. Sherman said...

I have one, although it's one hour from my house in South St. Louis.

Cheers.

sage said...

Sleepy Head beat me to it--our barber shop with the lady barber! There was also a shop like that in the town in Utah where I used to live. He was a Mormon bishop and as a gentile, it was interesting loitering around there picking up the scoop--that is until he found out who I was.

Nice story, Ed. But does this mean you still have a crew cut? And you cut your own hair? Before Murf gets here, I have to ask, "Do you do your own surgery, too?"

Ed said...

Beau & R. Sherman - I suspected them being a rarity these days was the case.

Sage - I do and I do still cut the majority of my hair. For some reason, I'm not as flexible as I used to be so I have my wife trim up the back. I also do my own minor surgery just because I hate going to doctors, even the one I am married too.

Murf said...

This made me think about the good ol' flowbee. I could see you using that contraption back in the day.

geri said...

Ed, your post reminds me of my father and his home service barber.

Tom does go to a barber shop although in the first couple years of our marriage he had a lady barber (an older woman) which I thought strange - I thought all barbers were men. He now has an 84 year old male barber and everytime Tom gets a haircut he comes home thankful that he still has his neck intact.

I still give Evan his haircut and hope to learn how to use the #1 attachment one of these days.

Ed said...

Murf - We all thought the flowbee was for losers. I'm not sure on our rational at the time but that is what we thought. I've never seen one outside of a commercial.

Geri - Does the barber still use a straight razor? I would definitely worry about my neck too if they did.

TC said...

I thank God my mother never cut my hair.

Bone said...

Reminds me of the barber I went to for years. The story goes that he had a heart attack while cutting someone's hair one day, sat down in a chair to rest for a few minutes, then got up to finish the cut before agreeing to go to the hospital.

I finally graduated to a larger barber shop where a mother and her three daughters cut my hair. Not all at the same time.

Finally last year, I discovered the clippers with the #1 guard, and haven't looked back.