My dad, known as “Bige” Grisham, was a barber in Blanco for 60 years, beginning his career at 17 years old. Many hours of my childhood were spent in his barbershop on the west side of the Square.
I loved observing children getting their first haircut, which he always did free of charge. I always thought he should charge a big price the way some of them squirmed and cried, but he was always very patient with them. In later years, when a gumball machine was available, he gave them a penny for a piece of gum if they behaved.
All the news was discussed at the barbershop. Men would congregate just to visit, and I enjoyed talking with them. Many times I would get a nickel from one of them so I could run over to Charlie’s Confectionery for an ice cream cone.
On a few occasions, women would come in for a haircut. Lois Casparis had a beauty shop, but she only set hair and didn’t cut hair at that time. Daddy always trimmed my hair, and I liked sitting up tall on the booster seat with the striped cape draped around me.
I really enjoyed observing the shoe shining process. The shoe shine boy was so agile as he set up a rhythm with the popping of the rag. He made it appear almost like a dance as he did his job. I remember asking daddy why they called it a shoe shine because I always saw boots, not shoes, being polished.
Saturday nights should have been called “Saturday Night Live” at the barbershop. Daddy sometimes worked until 9 o’clock. I often waited in the shop for him to close up. I watched the cowboys come in to get cleaned up. There was a shower in the back of the shop that they could use for 25 cents, and then daddy, with his straight-edge razor, would shave off their heavy beards. This was always a wonder to me, trying to figure out how daddy methodically used that razor and didn’t slash their throats. There was a true art to the process. After this procedure, the steamy towels were put on their faces, and you could see the men begin to relax. Most often, after daddy groomed them, the men went to Mountain Top to the dance.
On Saturday nights when daddy closed the doors, instead of coming home, he often went to Mrs. Wall’s Funeral Home to shave a dead man. I didn’t go with him for that experience. Daddy did this without charge, and he often went to peoples’ homes to cut hair and shave those who weren’t able to come into the shop.
When Adolph Wolf joined Daddy in the shop, I saw even more interesting incidents. Mr. Wolf was also Justice of the Peace, and one Saturday night I witnessed a wedding being performed.
My daddy was a very even-tempered man who was very particular about the care of his barber chairs. My only spanking from him was when I disobeyed him by twirling around in his barber chair. I had been warned; I never did that again!
At the end of a long day’s work, there was an ample supply of hair on the floor. It was my job to assist with the sweeping.
Daddy took great pride in his work. He hated to raise his prices because his customers were his friends. There was eventually no more two-bit haircuts, but I don’t think the price was over $2.50, even at the time of his death in 1987.
It still thrills me when people recognize me as Bige’s daughter, retell a joke that he told, and tell me that their whole family got their first haircut from him.
I have daddy’s barber chair, his first razor strap, a smock and cape. Sometimes I think I can still smell that Lucky Tiger aftershave, and it takes me back to all those great memories of the barbershop on the west side of the Square.