It’s fun to look back 70 years but it’s more fun to look back 70 years to someone looking back another 50 years.
In the July 2, 1942 Slater News, Andrew Maland’s This ‘n That column was devoted to the barber shops of the late 1800s. Andrew had been the editor and publisher of the newspaper from 1905 until my parents purchased it in 1939.
Even though Andrew had retired, he couldn’t get the printer’s ink out of his blood. He was more than happy to help out a little around the shop and write an occasional column. Often his subject was "the good old days".
"Remember the old time barber shops that flourished through the 1890s and as late as 1910 and later in some communities? And with them the then popular individual shaving mugs that graced the walls of the average shop?
"The mugs generally stood on a long rack or shelf on the walls, and in many cases, open to catch all sorts of dust and dirt. Sometimes there were several racks, each of them holding as much as six individual mugs. Each mug held a cake of soap and a brush.
"The name of the owner was generally printed or painted on the mug and in many instances in gold letters. The more polished men, many of whom liked publicity and wanted to be noticed by the public, often had mugs of a larger size and trimmed with gay pictures.
"The more thoughtful barbers, who believed in cleanliness, enclosed the mug racks in a case, very much like a plain china closet, so as to protect them from dust and dirt.
"The shops were generally lighted by a hanging lamp or a wall lamp or two, but at that most of the shops were poorly lighted. The walls generally had plenty of pegs on which to hang your hat and coat.
"Generally in the small town shops a shave would cost you 10 cents and a haircut 15 cents. Sometimes when there was a "war" on among the shops, shaves were as low as 5 cents and haircuts 10 cents.
"Sideburns were very popular with many men through the nineties. This was true with poor and rich alike – if you wanted to be up to date.
"Some men favored mustaches, too, the longer the better. And how some of the men would twist and curl them to look their best – even when they were in church, giving the mustache the appearance of short horns.
"Some men preferred pompadour haircuts. Their thoughts were for poise and dignity and many a man looked better wearing a pompadour.Shops had few women customers There were very few women customers in the barber shops them days. If there were any they came to get a hair-wash. For a woman to bob her hair was frowned upon in every community.
"Once a woman had her hair bobbed and how it started wagging tongues. Some thought it such a serious act that they advocated that she ought to be ostracized by the church as well as society in general.
"Even a well-meaning pastor mentioned it from his pulpit, saying "it was a sin for a woman to clip her given adornment."
"Well, she lived through the "storm" and would feel perfectly at ease and in place was she living at this time. Verily – times have changed.
"The old-time barber shops with their individual shaving mugs and dirty towels are a thing of the past. As the years came and went the barber business underwent many changes, all of them for the better, until it is now a profession with a high standing and working under state laws and regulations. Many of which were worked out by the barbers themselves and made into laws by the state."
(If Andrew thought the haircuts of the 1940s were wild, I wonder what he would think of some of the "styles" of today?)
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)