There were only two barbershops in Clay City when I was a boy. Two were plenty.
Tess Inman’s shop looked like a 1960s barber shop in the 60s, 70s and part of the 80s. Nothing fancy -- wooden benches and a table near the window covered in old Field & Stream magazines and a wide assortment of comic books. Down the street, Phil Newkirk ran his shop. You didn’t get a haircut by appointment in those days, you sat and waited your turn.
So, you had two choices. At Tess Inman’s you’d always get a good haircut and some good smellin’ stuff slapped on your neck when he was done. Tess wasn’t known for his speed, but rather for the quality of his work, and the wisdom you could glean from the other customers. Newkirk was fast and a bit more modern. It was big news when Newkirk got hair clippers that were hooked up to a vacuum cleaner. The point was that instead of hair going down your neck and back, the vacuum would pick up the hair as it was cut. It was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone hear what anyone else was saying and most said they still got hair down their back.
For some it was a tough choice, for my parents it was easy. If you’re going to pay $1.25 for a haircut, it better be a good one that will last a month or so. And, how long it took was irrelevant. It’s a kid getting a haircut, on a Saturday afternoon. Time was not an important factor. So, I spent many a Saturday afternoon looking at Field & Stream magazines or my favorite Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos comic books.
Tess Inman’s Barber shop in Clay City, Indiana was as much as a school for me as Clay City School was. You can learn a lot just by listening and that was about all there was to do at Tess’s shop. Talk about a diverse crowd. Young and old, city folks and farm folks, you could find men and boys from every walk of life at Tess’s Barber shop on Main Street. The older men did the talking, the younger ones read comic books or pretended to read comic books and listen to the men tell stories. The conversations were almost always clean, and even if they weren’t most of the men used code words or innuendo that we didn’t get anyway. There was one old guy, whose name I remember but won’t use here since these words often find there way back to Clay City. He didn’t use code or innuendo and a young fella could learn a lot about alcohol, cigarettes and women who used both.
There was an old retired farmer who must have been in his early 90s waiting his turn one day, and the conversation of the day led a younger man to ask the old man, “John, how old do you have to get before you just give up on sex?” John, looked up with a little smile and said; “Well boys, you’ll have to ask someone older than me.” All the men laughed, so I laughed too.
I did hear my first dirty joke at Tess Inman’s Barber shop. Do you wanna hear it? This man is driving along and sees a hitchhiker with his thumb in the air, so he pulls over to offer him a ride. The hitchhiker is a Frenchman and when the man asks, “Hey fella do you want a lift,” the Frenchman says “wee wee.” The driver speeds off and says, “Not in my car.” Big laughs and big lessons, all for a $1.25 haircut.
I’ll see ya tonight at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00pm.
1732 Valley View Dr.
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