Cherry Pipe smoke
tall metal lace up boot
in pain but never showing it
he delighted in the singing of his granddaughter
sneaking her a mint Life Saver after a song
He always had a smile and story for me.
Grandpa’s Barber Shop
My Grandpa Al was a barber all his life. He was the eldest of 5 brothers. He had his front third of his right foot caught in a trashing machine. His foot healed but the foot was football shaped. He had to wear a special boot that laced to his knee to be able to stand and walk all day.
When I was young, My Mother was bedridden and the kids were. placed in relatives homes. I was sent to live with Grandpa Al and Grandma Catherine. I spent a whole summer there. My job each morning was to lace my Grandfather’s boot. Later in the morning, I would knock at the barber shop door to tell when lunch would be ready.
The Barber shop was a small room about 18 feet square. There was a squeaky screen door that Grandpa used as a warning to the local dogs using his front yard for reliving themselves. He had popped several with a bb gun. They would hear the squeak and take off with their tails down and yelping.
As you came into the shop, there was a board with a variety of cartoons and postcards from customers. Some were of a mature nature. Near the board was hung a large head of a 8 point buck. I always wanted to touch the beautiful brown glass eyes. Under the buck were the hoofs of the buck turned and taxidermy to hold coats. There was a large window with blinds to keep out the afternoon sun. along this window were two charis and a magazine rack holding sports and other male reading material . in the corner were comics and a smaller chair for younger customers. There was one barber chair. Behind the chair was a large mirror with many bottles of aftershave. The chair had a large strap to use to sharpen Grandpa’s straight razor. He had a bench that he could place on the arms of the chair to bring children’s heads to his arm level. He gave the first haircuts to most of his grandchildren.
In the cabinet were a half a dozen boxes of cigars . Most of the customers would buy and smoke the cigar while waiting. He also had an assortment of candy and gum for the customers breaking the habit. My favorite were the Lifesaver mints and collecting the gold rings from the used cigars.
The room had a scent of aftershave, cigar smoke and male sweat.
I was allowed into this space only by invitation and loved being allowed to wartch my Grandpa at work. He could discuss many different topics. He kept his politics out of his shop but personally, he was one of the few Democrats in the town. When the Democrat Governor G Mennen Williams came to give a talk to the rotary club, my Father invited his Father in-law and introduced him as one of the leading Democrats in Northville. Grandpa was so proud to shake hands with the governor.
It was one of the best moments of his life. He died shortly afterward from stomach cancer. I will always have fond memories of Grandpa Al.