Ping-Pong and Playboys

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During my lifetime, I have had hundreds of haircuts. Probably one haircut every 2-3 months (less during my mullet years in college) since I was at least one.

A haircut is just that, a haircut. Really nothing momentous about them. I have had haircuts in salons as well as barber-shops. I have had women and men both cut my hair. I don’t have a regular stylist at this time – no need as my hairline recedes a little more each year.

Years ago though, I did have a regular barber. His name was Mr. Schroeder (I never knew his first name). He cut mine and my brother’s hair…in the basement of his house.

We would all pile into the station wagon and my mom would drive us to our appointments. Downstairs we would go, entering from the side door of his house. I never saw the upstairs of where he and his wife lived – but we explored the entire basement many times.

Down the stairs, and to the left, he had a barbershop set up – just like any barbershop anywhere. There were mirrors and scissors. He had a girly calendar and manly smelling liquids. Combs sat in blue liquid and cans of “I don’t know what” sat on the counter. He had an old manual cash register, which clicked when you punched the buttons.

In the middle of his “barbershop” stood his actual barber chair. It was perfect. Red leather and chrome. Not fancy, but functional. Well used and well cared for.

We – my brothers and I – would climb on the chair one at a time. Early on, we would use the booster chair so that he could reach us. Eventually, we would outgrow that. We would be wrapped in a black cape to protect our clothes and skin from the cut hair. I can still feel his steady hands tucking the piece of white tissue paper between the cape and my collar. To this day, I think of him every time someone else does this.

Mr. Schroeder did not talk much during the haircut. He had a job to do – and probably little to discuss with young boys. He went about his work, taking care of business. If we had conversations, I don’t recall any. Likely, my lack of recall is due to the fact that my attention would constantly be pulled into another room of his basement where my brothers would be – the family room.

Ping pong and Playboys – that was the entertainment set up in the family room of Mr. Schroeder’s barber shop. That was where we spent the downtime during our two-hour haircut appointments.

No cell phones, no Xbox or Nintendo systems, not even cable television. Ping pong was the primary distraction – since we could do that without getting into trouble. Playboys were the challenge…you had to look at them surreptitiously…like a thief stealing precious jewels. He had other magazines (including Reader’s Digest) but they held little interest, other than to cover up the Playboys.

We played a lot of ping-pong. You would have thought that we would have gotten good at it. Truth is that we sucked. Rarely could we keep a volley going for more than three hits. The majority of the time we spent playing the game was spent digging under the couch chasing the lost balls. Luckily the balls could do little damage to the ceramic decorations that Mrs. Schroeder had in the family room.

I’ve never been to a barbershop quite the same since. Many have girly magazines, but none had a ping-pong table or crocheted doilies. It was unusual and different. It was fun (as much fun as three boys can have getting haircuts) and memorable.

I mentioned this memory to my brothers. They both had their own strong memories of this experience. Chris still remembers the smell of the place. Joel actually came up with the title of this post. They both, along with Mr. Schroeder, helped me make this memory.

Hold hands….

 

Turn out the light

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Attention all Kmart shoppers. I grew up shopping at in Kmart. I grew up seeing the Blue Light Special.  I rode the mini mechanical rides out front and placed things on lay-away. My Kmart had a cafeteria and a deli. We would occasionally get food from the cafeteria, although more commonly getting sandwiches to go from the deli.

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Dagwood sandwiches from Kmart

They usually would be a bologna dagwood sandwich, which consisted of bologna, cheese, a little shredded lettuce and tomato, and sliced onion. I learned the value of mustard while eating these childhood sandwiches.

 

Kmart sold everything .They had toys and comic books. Many G.I. Joe’s were bought from them. They had bikes, fishing gear, and soccer balls. They had school supplies and televisions, and eventually video games. I got most of my new clothes from Kmart, from jeans to socks.

Now they are closing the final Kmart in Sioux Falls. Although the Kmart of my childhood is still open in Rapid City, I will not have one in my current home town. The brand has not been able to keep up with the changes in society. I have worked for their largest competitor and Kmart could not compete. Their brand and their name has not fared well over the years. Their buildings are old and so are their customers. I will always fondly remember the brand and the memories that I have. Unfortunately, it is time to turn out the blue light…the party is over.

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Blue Light Special. Photo credit: babyboomerflashback.blogspot.com