In the 1920’s my Grandfathers were businessmen and friends long before their families were joined by a marriage. What was unique about this friendship was one of them was a Catholic and the other was a Baptist. In the small town this fact would have kept them apart, instead they enjoyed each other’s company.
My Grandfather Clifford would walk my father , Bruce across Main Street to Al Heatley’s barber shop for a hair cut. One day my Grandfather must have though his son was old enough to get a haircut without him. “Go and get a haircut from Mr. Heatley” he said ,here is 50 cents.” My Dad crossed Main avoiding cars and hourses and entered Grandfather’s Heatley’s shop. He was greeted by the smell of cigars, men’s conversation of politics and the constant clicking of scissors. The conversation quieted as Bruce moved to the corner chair where a large pile of comics waited for younger customers.
Soon it was my Dad’s turn. Al got the bench that fitted over the arms of the barber chair to bring children’s heads to his eye level. Flourishing a barber cloth like a matador’s cape he asked, “The works??” Bruce had no idea what the works was but it sounded fine to him. The works started with a head massage, then a hair cut and hair tonic and finally a bit of cologne. After he was finished Bruce gave Mr, Heatley the 50 cents. My Grand father feigned anger at Bruce. “You asked for the works, that is one dollar”, Al bellowed. “Go get another fifty cents from your father.”. Bruce slowly left the shop embarrassed by the men’s laughter heard as the door closed, when he returned to the Northville Electric shop, Cliff was writing an invoice for a customer. He looked at his son and remarked, ”Nice haircut, why so glum?” Bruce blurted, ”I gave Mr. Heatley the fifty cents but he said I owed fifty cents more because I asked for the works.”
Cliff shook his head mumbling, “Damn that Al Heatley!” He gave his son a lecture about asking just for a hair cut as he handed Bruce two more quarters, “You will sweep the store to earn this money.”
These two men continued their friendship for fifty five more years. They died within six weeks of each other. I am sure they are continueing to play jokes on each other for eternity .
Two men, one poor one not.
Living in a small town with prejudices .
They were able to bridge the gap, becoming friends.
I smile, knowing they still are.