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Jim Bishop | Here’s to a Hair-Raising (or Lowering) Holiday

Thanksgiving Day is looming, and I’m salivating already.
It’s a favorite holiday, for several reasons. Not only do we gather as a family to ask the Lord’s blessings and enjoy savory fare, but “wish lists” appear on our refrigerator door to help launch the festive yuletide season.
At this giving-thanks time of year, I’m especially grateful for those who’ve come to our domestic aid in recent weeks – the heating/cooling service technician, the appliance (washing machine, specifically)repairman, the auto mechanic, the camera wiz. Without their intercession, life as we know it becomes exceedingly difficult.

Now, suddenly, another mini-dilemma faces me: I need a good barber (is that term still permissible to use publicly?) for a one-time appointment. Make that a talented tonsorial artist or hairstylist extraordinaire, if preferred. The reason: my long-time hair attendant, Joy Halterman, is taking a medical leave and suspending appointments for about two months.

It occurs to me that only a few different persons have trimmed my hair over the past 63 years, starting as a youngster with two lady barbers who operated a shop on East State Street in Doylestown, Pa. They helped me maintain a basic crew cut all through grade school, the procedure always ending with a dusting of talcum powder and a splash of witch hazel that trickled down my neck.

Upon deciding that my unruly, bristly hair would lend itself to a flattop, I discovered “Dave” at the colossal Plumsteadville Shopping Center north of Doylestown. He was especially skillful during a phase in high school when my flattop included growing longer hair on the sides that I slicked back into a DA. That took some creative efforts to achieve a precision look where my cropped hair near the crown met the long in back.

During my college years, 1963-67, Ira Eby was the man, a cut above the rest. He ran his shop out of the basement of his home on the north edge of the Park View campus. For the first time in my life, an appointment was required for a haircut.

Ira didn’t tell jokes while wielding his scissors, a la Roger Miller in “Kansas City Star,” but he talked non-stop on current and church-related issues and wanted to know what was shaping this college student’s world. For Ira, cutting hair was an art form, exercised with deftness and obvious pride. During this period, I tried the agonizing switch from a flattop to growing my hair longer and begging it to lie over and stay there (lotsa luck!).

It took awhile to find another barber that suited me after moving to Elkhart, Ind., following college graduation. This only time I ever had my hair restyled was at a salon in Elkhart. I paid too much (so I thought), it looked “poufy,” and I soon became content if my hair just stayed in place rather than looking like I’d combed it with an eggbeater.

When Anna and I moved to Harrisonburg in 1971, I immediately returned to regular appointments with Ira Eby. He always spent nearly a half hour wielding a scissors and straight-edge, never using electric clippers. I was paying $2 when Ira finally decided to close his shop (he even kept me on for a time after his official retirement).

I wasn’t sure where to turn next, but found the kind of exceptional service that Ira provided at a hair emporium on Rt. 33 west just a stone’s throw from our house. I started going to Joy Halterman there, then followed her when she opened her own shop on Singers Glen Road.

Once a month, Joy works her magic on my bristly, cantankerous mane. She even trims my eyebrows on occasion and each time removes some graying tufts from around my temples, making me appear more youthful – for a week or so.

Joy tells me my hair is thick (for my age). I’m just thankful to still have tresses, despite a receding hairline, and fear the day when hair grows more aggressively out of my ears and nostrils than on my pate.

I wish for Joy a swift return to her regular hair salon hours (my appointment is already in place for Jan. 8, 2009).

Meanwhile, I’ll likely either let my hair hang down (even though it’s more likely to stand straight up) through Christmas or ask my good wife to attend to my scruffy appearance. Now there’s an opportunity to be trimmed down to size, without cutting remarks.
Hair today – gone tomorrow (no parting there) …


Column by Jim Bishop

augusta free press
augusta free press