It was summer 1954 when things finally started to come together. Officially, I was no longer a kid. After completing my freshman year in high school, I sensed the world was at my door. The days of playing up to upperclassmen was in the past. After all, I was soon to be an upperclassman.
A few Saturday nights before, as I was stepping down from the bandstand after playing third chair in the clarinet section during Slater’s weekly band concert, Chuck Fausch asked me to go cruising with him and some friends in his brother’s 1950 Chevy 2-door hardtop.
This was a big deal. Chuck was a soon to be junior. Not only did he possess a driver’s license and the use of his brother’s car, he also was considered cool.
Yep, cruising the streets with some future juniors was a major step in the evolution of upperclassmanship, yet my real feat took place a couple of days later when Roger Brown invited me to play tennis with him in Ames. Roger was also a future junior and drove a Chevy convertible. To top it off, he was super cool.
Sitting in my bedroom listening to Bill Hailey and the Comets belting out “Rock Around the Clock,” I thought about those major life happenings. I then decided it was time to develop a little coolness myself. After all, what did those guys have that I didn’t – except a year more seniority in life.
That’s when it struck me! Not only were they older, they also had another big plus – flattop haircuts. Not just flattop haircuts, but perfectly sculpted flattop haircuts.
That was the secret! I just knew it. At that very moment the town barbers – Burt and Roy – were out of my life. It was time to find a hair artist who knew the fine technique of flattop shaping.
Following some intense sleuthing, I found myself seated in a barber chair at the Hotel Sheldon-Munn in Ames, with the hum of an electric clipper buzzing through my hair. That razor was under the careful and skilled guidance of a barber who was said to be the grand maestro of level haircutting. Dick Smith was the man with the golden clipper. His barber prowess was legend.
As we searched for conversation, I finally asked, “What’s the secret to a perfect flattop?” Instantly, Dick answered, “Butch wax.”
That’s it? Butch wax. Wow, I thought it had something to do with a special diet or sleeping with a hairnet.
“So what’s the best butch wax?” I inquired.
“Gary’s and it’s made in Madrid, Iowa, but it’s 50 cents a jar.”
I soon realized having a cool haircut wouldn’t be cheap. Dick charges $2.50 a haircut. That’s five times what Burt or Roy charges. And the butch wax will run another 50 cents. All that so I could look like someone who has a level head.
Of course, I continued visiting Dick and holding on to the flattop look for the next several years. That all changed drastically when I made my first visit to an Army barber at Fort Leonard Wood.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.