My family had a rule: No comic books. We could read books, newspapers, cereal boxes, Time, even Mad Magazine—but no comic books.
My family had a rule: No comic books.
This rule was suspended, however, at the barber shop. My barber, Tony, kept a stack of comic books as high as the table. I never minded waiting for my haircut —if you had asked for an appointment they would have laughed you out of the shop—as long as there were comics I hadn’t read.
i was a voracious reader, with the latest Hardy Boys or Tom Corbett or Tom Swift book always in my briefcase. (Kids of today, I scoff at your backpacks.) I ordered six books at a time from the Scholastic Book Club—as a young piano student, I particularly remember a kids’ biography of Van Cliburn, who had just won the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow—take that, Communism!—and kids’ versions of bestsellers like Kon-Tiki. If comics were slumming, I didn’t care. I devoured them like forbidden fruit.
Superman was my favorite. There’s something about the infinite possibilities of superpowers to a young kid whose mom micromanaged his life. I liked Batman too, and The Flash, and even Wonder Woman. Other superheroes paled by comparison, and reading only once a month, I could never quite keep The Green Hornet and The Green Lantern straight. If I had read all of those or someone else got to them first, I was satisfied with Archie & Veronica or Donald Duck. The only comic I wouldn’t touch was Prince Valiant.
When I was in grade school, my mom took my little brother and me to Tony’s together. In junior high, she’d hand me the $2.25 and I’d ride my bike. I never minded going to the barber. The comics were always waiting. Of course, by high school I had to pay more attention to the actual haircut. Long hair was in. Not too much off the top, Tony.
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.
Suck eggs, communism!
Was the $2.25 for one or both of you?
yeah, i can smell the barbershop–talcum powder and aftershave.
and no prince valiant for me either.
This story had good pace. It started well, and kept moving well. And it wasn’t self-absorbed about the author’s hair, as a number of these “Hair” stories are.
Your aside about what you ordered from the Scholastic Book Club deserves a long posting of its own! Thanks for sharing.
Good story, John. More about books than about hair, but the barber shop as an institution is an interesting topic that I, coming from an all-girl family, knew nothing about. Surprised that you kept going in high school, and that Tony could be trusted not to cut too much off.
Oh yes, glad to hear that you read Archie comics sometimes, which were definitely my favorite.
Love the sense of time and place and your visceral love of reading…anything! And YES to all those comics. I even read Archie and Veronica (who didn’t, really?) And carrying a briefcase. Classic!