Columnist relives hairy and scary times past
Danny Beit (BEE-it) was my first barber. He had a barbershop at the corner of Dominion and Emery streets in Glace Bay.
I guess I was four years old when we were introduced, and like all wee lads I had to be escorted to my inaugural cut. My mother took me.
It took some convincing, but it all worked out.
I quickly learned I could trust Danny Beit. By the age of five I was taking myself to the corner of Dominion and Emery. Yeah, a little off the top there, Danny, and short in the back. How’s the wife and kids? And don’t start goin’ on about Gump Worsley.
I went to the barber recently and there was a kid in there, maybe three years old, with his grandfather, ahead of me. I was getting the impression that the kid knew he was being duped. Nobody was telling him he wasn’t there with gramps; gramps was there with him.
He was sitting looking at magazines, playing with some toys the old dude brought along, couple Matchbox trucks. They’d play and talk and then every now and then the kid would stop and look around and then take a gander at the barber who was running the clippers up the side of some guy’s head, make a quick assessment of the situation and feel the hairs raise on his neck.
Three years old or not, he was no slouch. Something was afoot.
Then the second barber appeared out of nowhere and invited the kid and the grandfather to the other chair.
Within seconds came the pleas to courage and cleanliness, a bribe here, a bribe there, the beginnings of a brouhaha, and the kid comes down wiping his hands of the whole matter, unconvinced, tragically resolute, leading the grandfather and the other barber out the door. He wasn’t crying or throwing a tantrum. He just wasn’t having any of it.
And what could anybody do? You can’t strap them down anymore. Deliver serious but empty threats.
I should have stepped in and told him, hey kid, here’s what gonna happen. You’re going home to let your grandmother cut your hair, because you love her and trust her and because she makes awesome spaghetti. Am I right?
Big mistake, kid. Turn around.
I could have told him that after Danny Beit died, rather than hoof it up to Red Mick’s shop in Caledonia, I trusted my destiny to the bowls and clippers and combs my grandmother had stowed, with coveted and grandiose plans, under the kitchen sink.
My grandmother was famous for her spaghetti and meatballs, but could no way cut hair. Though rather than discourage her I just hoped for the best.
My uncle, who was coaching a midget ball team then, used to ask me if I got clipped at the machine shop when I’d show up maladroitly shorn to help him shag flies. Sometimes he laughed outright; sometimes he gave me a dollar, solemnly, to go grab a Coke and cheer myself up.
But the wheel of fate kept turning and eventually my grandparents moved to a seniors apartment building. No pets and no barbering allowed.
That brought me to Sandy Caume. Stylist and virtuoso. In my mind, one of the best post-Beatles, Roffler Methodera barbers there ever was.
You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear they say, but the first time Sandy cut my hair, I felt reborn and so pleased I made a beeline to Ian’s Men’s Wear and bought a whole new wardrobe anticipating a better life.
Anyway, after decades of stylists now, I’m back to the Basic Beit cut. To each his own, but me I love to feel bristly after a nice clip.
A fine haircut and a flourish of talcum powder and hope springs eternal.
Every haircut brings a new lease on life.