Cutting It Close With Sal the Barber

As a kid, I’d watch my dad put the can of Barbasol under hot water and then squeeze off a little golf ball-sized foam and spread it on his face.

He’d always dab me on the nose with it.

Then he would take out his razor, the kind in which he had to add the blade. Our apartment bathroom had a slot for disposing of the used blades. I never figured out where that hole went.

Dad also had one of those electric hair cutting kits.

Every couple of months, my brothers and I would sit in the living room for our haircuts with a smock around us. It was nothing fancy, just crew cuts for us all.

That high-pitched buzzing of the little gray electric razor seemed to make everyone’s hair stand upright and dad would just whisk it away.

I was 4 but my eldest brother was 14 at the time. Then we’d pose for a photo. I still have one of the four of us with freshly cut crew cuts.

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There came a time when dad stopped cutting our hair and we’d all walk over to the Korvette’s shopping center for haircuts. There was one barber, “crossed-eyed Joe,” who would be in charge of cutting our hair.

Getting a haircut from my dad was actually preferable at this point. The only added feature was getting a lollipop.

As a teen, I’d go to the local barber shop. I found this one gem on Olmstead Avenue that had dollar haircuts on Wednesdays.

It was a small shop with three barbers.

On Saturday, the line would be out the door because the shop had half-priced haircuts. Men would stand on line for an hour, go in and sit down for another hour and get to read the paper or magazines before they were up for their shave and cut.

One of the barbers was Sal. He was a thin fellow with a big bushy mustache.

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All you would hear is the clickety-click of scissors from the three barbers. I’d thought you could probably make a barbershop song from the noise.

I continued to go to Sal every couple of months until college. During college, my friends went to a stylist on Castle Hill Avenue. I went to her a few times but I’m guessing that my friends went for the ambiance: a well-endowed woman.

I just wanted a good haircut.

I only get my haircut every four to six months, so I’ll have it cut short and let it grow. The longest I’ve let my hair grow was five years and then I had it dyed and put in a ponytail to donate to Locks of Love.

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Somewhere in that time, Sal’s barbershop closed. The landlord wanted too much rent and it was just Sal. He used to be the only barber on the block, but within a few years there were more than seven salons on three blocks.

I caught up with Sal about six years ago at a candy store that had been remade into a salon that mostly catered to women’s hair braiding and waxing.

I saw a sign that read “Sal the Barber is here.”  Finally, I found him.

I’ve continued to see him since.

He still has a following, albeit no Twitter feed. Check out Sal Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A haircut will run you eight bucks.

Now that’s a bargain.

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