1920’s, east coast city.
I was a small time barber in the industrious city with boats hauling in thousands of immigrant workers from around the globe.
But unlike my buddies in the force, I really don’t care what skin color you got: just sit in my chair, tell me whatchu want, have a few glasses with me, tell some naughty jokes, and I’ll have you done in no time.
Like really, if skin dictates who you cater to then your pool of potential buyers is very small.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s the story:
So June, 1929, the Great Depression hit but I didn’t trust the Market so I was fine.
But, those immigrants, they trusted our foolish men too much.
They barely got by to make ends meet.
I was sweeping the foothold of my business when a Asian (probably Chinese or Japanese) with her three daughters came to me.
“Excuse me, s-sir”,the mother hailed,”Do you buy hair”.
“Do I look like a duck?”I joked,”Of course I buy hair”.
I took the females inside and the mother instantly bargained forty bucks (400$ today) for four heads of hair.
“Jeez, momma!”I squawked,” I think your bargaining skills need some work because I am offering a higher payout”.
She stopped in her tracks,”You are?”.
“Yes! How about a thousand dollars for all four heads”
I counted out the cash in front of her.
“Thank you, sir. Girls, in the chairs”
Two did as they were told but the youngest started balling.
I could feel the woman’s words as Asian language was used to berate the disobedient child.
Reasoning or persuasion only angered the mom and the child’s ear was pinched as the mother of all punishment marched her kin to my leather chairs and sat her (quite roughly) in the seat.
“All three ready for shave”,sternly put the mother.
I was a bit hesitant about the balling child and tried to persuade the tiger mom to calm her down.
“No”,she mocked,”She knows how hard money is to come by. Her sisters already accepted their duty and she needs to learn”.
“Ok”, I caved,”How about you wait outside and I will send for you when its your turn”.
The mother nodded but mentioned she would poke her head in now and then to make sure I was doing my job.
After she left, I sighed in some sort of relief and started with the oldest daughter.
She was probably 15 and seemed to be pack leader among them.
“You girls have American names?”
“I am Sarah”,said the oldest,”Mary is the middle girl and the balling baby is Suzy”.
The youngest seem infuriated by her older sister’s words.
I tied a striped cape around Sarah’s neck and undid her updo.
“I can just give you a short style”, I offered.
“No”,said Sarah,”Mommy said we are to be shaved bald and we dare not to argue”.
I relented and pumped up the chair,”You are loyal girls, I’ll give you that”.
“We respect our ancestors”,smugged Sarah.
I brushed Sarah’s black rivered head and put the majority into a ponytail.
I snipped off the thick braid with my sharp scissors and placed the severed braid aside.
I started chopping away at Sarah’s shortened locks until it was long stubble.
I grabbed my crank clippers and sped through the stubble, leaving only microscopic bits left.
“Ooh”,she chilled as I spread shaving cream over her dome.
Sarah seemed to enjoy my skills with a blade as I removed the bits from her scalp.
I placed a hot towel atop her head, dusted off the cape, and left to start on the next sister.
“Mary, right”,I asked.
She nodded and I began caping her when the mother walked in.
I secured the cape as the mother removed the hot towel from Sarah’s head.
Her inspection was brief but she approved my work on her daughter.
Suzy began trying to protest which angered the bear.
The mother took the child out of the chair, tipped her over her knees, and spanked her bottom.
She set the crying child and tried to start cutting her child’s hair but I stopped her.
“It’s my shop, miss. I’ll make sure she is bald before you four leave”
The mother seemed to be satisfied and left again.
“You shouldn’t have angered her, you pig”, Sarah chastised
I told Sarah to shove it and applied a new towel to her clean dome.
As she relaxed, I undid Mary’s updo and made twin tails.
She sat stone-faced in the chair as her tails were severed and her head was shaved.
To finish, her scalp received a hot towel as well.
The moment came, Suzy was on the chopping block and I had to follow through with this.
Suzy began balling again so I tried to cheer her up.
My jokes made little progress in stopping her crying but she was tearing less so… success.
I just then got an idea:
I went and got the mother. I told her Suzy wasn’t getting shaved until she was.
The mother was annoyed but took the chair in place of Suzy.
I severed the braids I made in her hair and used the razor to finish the job.
Seeing her mom get shaved did convince the youngest to get shaved so in the chair she went.
I finally shaved her scalp, completing my task.
I gave them the cash and they went on their merry way.