Sometime in the early 1970’s, George Carlin did a poem about hair. You may remember it as a poem where all of the end words rhymed with hair, mon frère. His description of his own hair was pure Carlin and right on the numbers. After seeing a picture of myself when I was about 8 years old, I realized that I have gone through a long evolution of hairness.
My 8 year old picture shows a crop of dark, rather straight over the eye kind of hair that seems to bounce with every bounce of a basket ball. Some more early pictures show a darkish, maybe even brownish crop of uncombed, yet short locks. I barely remember any of those hair days. I have a feeling, that when I went to Dan’s barbershop on the lower East Side of Manhattan, that my grandmother had already detailed what was to happen to my hair. I never questioned Dan. After all, he was friendly with a bunch of guys in double breasted suits who wore large guns in holsters under their armpits.
Each morning, I would brush my teeth with Dr. Lyons Tooth powder, wash my face and hands and apply various greasy emollients’ to my head. My mother and sister used Pomatex, a foul smelling greenish goo that could not really be washed out of one’s hands very easily. The smell permeated my aura and did not go away until I arrived at school. At that point, my hair was as close to my head as any follicle.
If there was no Pomatex available, I would just throw on some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, or its smelly twin sister, Carbolated Jelly, made by the same company. That usually sufficed till one day when all other stickums were depleted, there appeared in the medicine cabinet, a sweet smelling substance called Dixie Peach. I believe that Grandpa Israel used the stuff on his own hair.
Since no one really spoke to Grandpa, enough to find out what his habits were, I just assumed that he used it when he went to synagogue. It was a very light smelling stuff, without the magical sticking power of the other two. I used it for quite a while until it disappeared from the medicine cabinet. It has always been a mystery to me, why it suddenly was gone. Did Grandpa Israel take it in a fit of pique, or did Grandma discover my transgression and loosed all her venom on the helpless little bottle. Soon the Pomatex was returned and the mystery slid from my mind.
High school would never accept greasy kid stuff (a favorite expression at the time). These were the days of D.A.s Chicagos, Detroits and other kinds of hair styles for teenaged boys. T.V. was then in its infancy and ads for non-greasy kid’s stuff was abundant. “ Get Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie, it keeps your hair in trim. You see it’s not an alcoholic Charlie, it’s made with soothin’ Lanolin,” or “Brylcream, a little dab ‘ll do ya. Brylcream, you’ll look so debonair. Brylcream, the girls will all pursue ya, just put a little Brylcream in your hair”
How could you miss with these kind of products. They even had hair contests at the movies to see who had the longest hair ringlet hanging down over one’s forehead. I never competed. Yet, I was right there with my D.A. and a Kool cigarette hanging out of my mouth on the corner of Continental and Queens Boulevard.
The movies had quite an effect on teenaged boy’s hair. Stars such and James Dean, Marlon Brando and later Elvis ignited hair styles and looks. Singers like Bobby Rydell, Fabian and the Everly Brothers were people to look like. By the time 1957 rolled around, I was heading to the Army where their idea of hair was a complete “baldy bean.”
That style was pretty much it until I got out of the service in 1959. However, there was one event in my military life that may have had a significant effect on my hair history. In August of 1957, I was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia at the South Eastern Signal School. It was blistering hot during that time of the year. My two friends, Don Mondschein and Jack Behlman decided to go to Savannah Beach and pick up some women.
Don and Jack were older than me. Their idea of picking up women was to find some prostitutes and pay their way into the sack. My idea, at almost age 19 was to find some nice girls at the local synagogue, get introduced as a nice Jewish boy and maybe go to someone’s house for dinner. I lost out to Jack and Don. They found their stash of professionals and I wound up walking on the beach for a few hours.
It was one hundred and ten out there on the beach. I had not thought of bringing a hat with me, military or otherwise. I burned the top part of my had and I head blisters for days. I spent a significant amount of dough on Noxzema.
No one in my family, man or woman, back three generations, had ever lost their hair. Grandpa Israel and Grandpa Sam both died with a full head of hair. Both my grandmothers did the same. My father, although dying at age 36 had all of his hair when he died. That was also true, I am told, of the generation before my grandparents. I was to become the most singular hair loser on both sides of my family.
The wedding pictures of 1963 show my forehead beyond its original line. The curls are drifting away from each other and empty spaces have appeared. By the time I was on my mid twenties, I was pretty bald on the top of my head. At first I was not even aware of the need to cover a bald spot. Since it was a normal kind of thing, I paid no attention to it.
However, I began to replace my loss of hair on the top with hair under my nose. This became somewhat annoying because I had to trim it and keep it free and clear of dry skin and suchlike. At age thirty four, I became the principal of the Kutztown Area Junior High School. One day, one my teachers came to me and suggested that I might be better off, if I affected a combover.
Combovers have another name, “Immigrant Hair,” you bring it over from the other side. It took my new barber, Bob, to get the idea that he should not cut all of my hairs ( as they say in Kutztown) and that he should part my hair and leave most of the hair on the left side of my head long enough to comb over my giant bald spot. I wore it like that for many years. However, as I became more Dutchified, I got rid of the mustache and cultivated a beard that went around my face from sideburn to sideburn. It was the Amish look which I then affected for close to 20 years.
The combover was a difficult hair do to work with. First of all, you should always wear a hat in windy weather. If you do not, you could get lashed to death by a windstorm ( happened to a Mt. Idy character named Leonard Box). Each time you take off a shirt, take a shower, go to the gym or almost anything physical, you mess up your “do.” Sleeping is also a problem. It is a period of time that confronts almost everyone who has hair. Upon arising, I had to unplaster my hair and spend about five minutes making it look presentable.
Sometime during the early part of my reign as I.U. Director in Clarion, I started to diminish the combover and got a moderately short haircut, which I sport till today. Towards the end of my tenure there, I did away with my beard, my sideburns and extraneous hair. I did start growing hair on other party of my head- my eyebrows, my ears and my nose. The barber charged no more to do these cuttings, because the rest of my head was a snap.
During the early nineties, I began to experiment with a very close haircut and found it to be the best of all possible worlds. I now did not have to take care of it at all. One visit to Al the Barber was all it took each month. I was even bold enough to get haircuts in other places in the world, even from a woman wearing a cowboy hat it Cody, Wyoming.
As my hair recedes into the background, I can still see faint dabs of brown color of days gone by. I still have dark brown eyebrows, which contrast wildly with my whitewall hair. It’s funny how all of this does not seem so important now. I guess there are more important things to do now, like take all of my pills.



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