SIDNEY UNDERWOOD: REMEMBERING HARVEY STOUT - "My First Haircut"

(05/09/2013)

By Sidney Underwood 2013
As a little boy growing up in Grantsville, I remember the first time Harvey Stout cut my hair. Harvey placed a padded booster seat across the chair arms and instructed me to climb up into the seat and sit still. I looked at my mother apprehensively and saw her nod to me that I should do as he had instructed.

I was probably five years old and I remember that I did not cry. The year was 1947. I sat very still with my heart racing as the electric clippers buzzed about my head and my hair began to fall.

I remember when he had finished cutting my hair, he poured a considerable amount of sweet smelling tonic on my head and massaged it into my scalp with strong fingers. After combing my hair and removing the cape and neck band, he instructed me to look into the mirror.

When I looked I was surprised to see that my hair was parted on the right side and I didn’t care for it as my hair had never been parted before. As I jumped down from the chair, Harvey turned away for a moment and reached into a drawer and presented me with a candy sucker.

And so a routine was established that Harvey Stout would cut my hair and call me by my first name. In a few years I would no longer need the booster seat or my mother’s presence. I have vivid memories of Harvey Stout and that time and place that I would like to share.

I remember the elaborateness of his barber chair. The thing was huge and constructed of steel with chrome arms and padded with red leather. When I was sitting in that chair, I thought that this was what it must feel like to be a King sitting on his throne.

I remember the first time I watched Harvey shave someone. The barber chair was in the fully reclined position and the man’s face was completely covered with warm damp towels with only his nose visible.

I watched in awe as Harvey sharpened his straight razor with deft strokes to his leather strop never looking at the strop but keeping eye contact with another seated customer with whom he was discussing some important matter.

Harvey had a type of stool that he sat on when cutting hair and in the summertime his window would be open to admit fresh air. One could hear the traffic below on Main Street and occasionally voices would drift up during quieter moments. He had a large pedestal fan with wicked looking metal blades barely encased in a metal cage that provided cooling when outside temperatures were high. The hum of the overhead florescent lights was accentuated by the more frenetic sound of his electric clippers.

Sonny Wright remembers when Harvey had his barber shop in a small building wedged between Poe Gunn’s general store and Junior Reed’s used furniture store which sat beside the pool hall. My memory does not go back that far. I only remember climbing the two flights of stairs to the shop over the Calhoun County Bank.

Harvey was quite a sportsman. When he was all decked out in his hunting gear, he looked like a walking advertisement for Cabalas sportswear. He was so proud of his expensive Lefever shotgun.

During the middle 1950’s the “flat top” haircut was all the rage. Harvey disdained this type of cut. Of course I had to have this new cut and I started going to “Dink” Sturms’ Duck Alley barbershop.

As time went by, I would occasionally see Harvey on the street and he would always speak to me. Harvey would continue to operate his barbershop until the early 1970’s.

In later years Harvey became close friends with Geraldine Kelley who operated the beauty salon next door to his barbershop. My mother would see him there when she went to have her hair done.

According to research done by my neighbor, Mike Ferrell, Harvey Stout was born in 1901 and died in 1978. He is buried in the Lanham cemetery in Lee District in Calhoun County.

-Read Underwood's short stories about coming of age in Grantsville under People, Humor and History.


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