My 'hairstylists' are running a 'clip joint' operation! They give me an octogenarian senior rate of eight bucks. Two bucks for each corner of my head.

Have you ever thought about the many times you have had your hair cut? Neither have I.

Until now.

As a kid it was when Mom or Pop took me to the barber or cut my hair themselves.

(The Depression, you know.)

Later the U.S. Navy took care of my bristles. We were 'Skin heads' in boot camp, until our short stiff hair grew into a crew cut all the way.

So here I am 65 years later, a couple thousand hair cuts behind me. (On top of me?)

My thinning hair is beginning to curl a bit in the back, so obviously I should go the the barber soon. I pass a half dozen barber shops to get to my barber.

My barber for about 30 years has been John Bilak at 19th and Perkiomen Avenue in Reading. When this already baldheaded barber told me my hair has started coming out, I asked him what I could keep it in. 'Get a plastic bag.'

With John in semi-retirement, his son Steve occasionally does a job on my locks. 'Two heads better than one?'

Actually I never really liked going to my barber. Having him fooling around with my hair isn't really unpleasant, but when he is all done I never look the way I'd hoped to look. I want to look really great and I never do.

Blame John or Steve? Naw!

I figured I really looked better when I needed a haircut the worst. Some years ago my wife said, 'Hon, I wish you'd stop letting your hair come down over your collar.'

When one of the Bilak's gives me a brand-new shorn look it's not necessarily one that I want.

I always remind them, 'Don't take much off.' While he is snipping away I think he's not taking enough off. So the next morning after my shower it looks like he took too much off.

Enough about me. They are both fine barbers, 'you got to take your hat off to them.'

Steve and John can recite great anecdotes while they are pruning my locks.

One or the other tells me the following amusing incidents coming from customers.

1. A partly bald guy said, 'Since I lost most of my hair you should charge me less.'

John told him, 'On the contrary, I should charge you more for looking for it.'

2. This one I doubt: Steve said a guy came in and took off his toupee and said , 'I want a shampoo and a trim, I'll be back in a half hour.'

3. John questioned: 'How do you want your hair cut?' The customer asked, 'Could you make it a little longer in the back?'

4. Though they don't necessarily recommend products that are presumed to grow hair. Steve offhandedly mentioned a so-called hair restorer to a balding customer.

'I rubbed it into my scalp every night. My head is still bald, but I have to shave my fingers. Okay, so one hair grew, it weighed three pounds.'

5. They suggest that we beware of so-called natural and organic 'sham'-poos to stimulate growth.

John and son Steve certainly have their fingers on the pulse of the community via the conversations they hold with their customers, youngsters and oldsters alike.

John's barber chair is in a room decorated with antiques, old time photos of Reading and environs.

John is a talented artist. Check out his paintings displayed. Especially his excellent large rendering of Nancy and President Ronald Reagan.

Oh, not to mention the framed barber cartoons by yours truly

In itself the waiting room is unique. In the ceiling they have several model airplanes displayed. A testament to John's interest in flying.

(That in itself is a whole 'nother story.)

John opened his first shop some 39 years ago at Fourth and Franklin Sts. in Reading. Times certainly have changed just like hair styles.

A shave and a haircut two bits? ('Just give me a shave John, I don't have time to listen to one of your stories.')

No shave in 1970, but 85c for the clip and cut.

The story goes that when Steve went to barber school, he was a 'shear' leader. It took him an extra year to graduate because he was 'cutting' classes.

I got to ask: 'When one barber gives another a hair cut, who does the talking?'

Tell me.

E-mail: LST281@AOL.COM.

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