More than just a haircut
Adapted from The Vancouver Courier
and Kamloops Daily News by Nancy Carson
Do you remember your first haircut?
Was it scary?
Some children do not like it.
And they cry.
Other children sit quietly.
They are not afraid of the barber.
Most men go to a barbershop
for a haircut.
Some get a shave.
Years ago, in the Middle Ages,
barbers pulled teeth.
And they did bloodletting.
They fixed broken bones.
And they treated wounds.
Barbers were like doctors.
The Barber Pole
In the Middle Ages, most people
could not read.
So, some shops had special signs.
All pharmacies had
the same signs outside.
Most barbershops had a barber pole.
The colours of the barber pole
In Europe, barber poles were red and white.
Red for blood, and white for bandages.
Barbers washed the bloody bandages.
Then they dried them outside on a pole.
The wind made the cloths turn.
Later, barbers painted the poles
with those red and white colours.
This pole became the barber sign.
In North America, barbers
added blue to the poles.
Two barbers retire
Two barbers in B.C.
retired a few weeks ago.
Rick Caulfield, 71, cut hair
for 47 years in Vancouver.
John DeCicco, 68, cut hair
for 50 years in Kamloops.
More than a haircut
Some men go to
the same barber for years.
These men become good friends
with their barbers.
They know many stories
about each other.
Yesterday and today
In 1968, Caulfield charged
$2.50 for a haircut.
Now it is $19.
He does not talk
about politics or religion
with his customers.
Caulfield cut Bill Miller’s hair
for 30 years.
Miller says, “Rick’s a good guy and
he’s always got a story to tell.”
His customers will miss him.
DeCicco came to Kamloops
from Italy with his family in 1959.
He was 15 years old.
Two years later, in Vancouver,
he apprenticed at a barber shop
in the Italian district on Commercial Drive.
He got his barber licence in August 1962.
Soon he returned to Kamloops to work.
Customer Joe Stella said, “John cut my hair,
my kid’s hair and now he cuts my grandkid’s hair.”
A young woman bought DeCicco’s shop.
DeCicco will go in one or two days a week.
Larry McIlwain retired in 2014.
He said for 47 years
he never told a customer’s secrets.
“When I was in business,
what was said in my shop,
stayed in my shop,” said McIlwain.
“People would tell me stuff
that would just knock your socks off.
But they knew they could trust me.”
Did you know?
Barbering started in Rome in 296 B.C.
Men talked about daily news in the shop.
All free men in Rome had a shave.
But slaves had to wear beards.
The word “barber” is from barba,
the Latin word for beard.
- Middle Ages: a period of history from the years 1100 to 1453
- bloodletting: cutting a vein and removing a person’s blood to help them heal
- wounds: injuries to the skin where the skin is cut or broken
- apprenticed: worked for a skilled person to learn a trade or profession
- knock your socks off: to surprise, shock or please someone very much
Idioms using the word “hair”:
- to get in someone’s hair:
to bother someone so much that they cannot focus on
what they are doing
I can’t do my homework because my brother is getting in my hair!
- to let your hair down: to relax and enjoy yourself
Come on! We’re not in the office now. You can let your hair down!
- to make your hair stand on end: to frighten you very much
The thought of getting on a plane makes my hair stand on end!
- John DeCicco’s last day: listen to the interview
- The William Marvy Company, the only remaining manufacturer
of barber poles in North America
- What is a guild?
- Guilds of Florence, Italy
Medieval Guild Signs:
People belonged to guilds or groups with others who did the same work.
All photos in public domain