Monday, July 4, 2011

An American Classic

Happy Independence Day, everyone!!! I just got back from a crazy week + weekend of taking all five boys with me to Topeka to visit family while my oldest son, Benedict, went to Camp Tekakwitha. Even though I'm exhausted and want to hibernate under the covers, my kiddos are bouncing off the walls with firework excitement.  So, as they bounce, I might as well blog!
Thinking about the 4th of July always pulls me into a state of nostalgia.  I can't help but think of our troops, the brave men a women who won our freedom so long ago and those who continue to sacrifice to protect it. While the cultural and political climate is terribly hot right now, I hope that today Americans will pause to consider what is great about our country and be thankful, truly thankful.  Not just today, but every day - and live in relation to that gratitude.
I've always believed that the heart and soul of our country has little to do with the big name celebrities and politicians that we are so fascinated with and everything to do with the every-day people in our communities.  People who do the ordinary things in life extraordinarily well.  From teachers to farmers to waitresses to bus drivers.  They are truly the face of America.
Last week I met one of those "ordinary" folks.  His name is Cliff Rein, and he has been a barber for 52 years.
When we moved to the Garden City area last fall, there was so much work to be done, I had little time to line four boys and a dad up for hair cuts.  So, I sent them all to town for the trim.  They came home all spiffied up with wonderful stories about this man named Cliff who used to cut Steve's grandpa Jim's hair (for 50 years!).  I knew I wanted to meet Cliff, and he was gracious enough to allow me to come into his shop and take pictures and ask questions.  It was such a fun experience!
Going into Cliff's shop is a bit like entering a time capsule.  Though he's been cutting hair for 52 years, he's only been in his current location since 1973.  The experience is similar to eating at a diner that is a complete dive.  You go there for the food, and the food is so good there's simply no need for impressive atmosphere.  Such is the case with Cliffs.  When you are guaranteed a darn good hair cut,
great conversation,
and the attention of a genuine soul, why remodel??
In fact, the aged signs on the wall give it a kind of vintage flair.
I thought this one was touching.  Unlike most places that put up random signs like "No checks, please" and "Closed on Mondays" on faded paper with loads of scotch tape, Cliff framed his neatly written note.  Cliff is just plain classy.
And, there are a couple of other stand-outs that suggest that Cliff's mane mastery was achieved in a different era.  Like this blue-goo, here.  Pretty sure I've never seen that stuff before.
Interesting.  Hair tonic that looks like a refreshment you would find in the refrigerator at Quick Trip.  What exactly is hair tonic anyway??


Did he use Jeris Hair Tonic or Stephan Super Hold Stay Styled Gel (say that 5 times fast)? Hmmm.
A striking resemblance, don't you think??

Anyway, I think he put some of those goodies in the boys' hair.
Ladies, if you have sons with wild cowlicks, I can totally hook you up with some of Cliff's products! 
Despite being 81 years old and on his feet all day, Cliff never misses a beat.  He takes his time with each hair cut.  No doubt he still uses the same techniques he learned at barber school just after being stationed at Fort Bragg during the Korean War. 
When asked how he came to be a barber, Cliff just smiled and honestly told me he didn't know what he wanted to do after the war was over. So, he decided to join his brother-in-law at barber school.  They were offering free tuition to all armed forces men and women after the war.  The cost of a hair cut back then was $1.25.  Today, Cliff charges $15.00.
I asked him when the last time he raised his prices was.  He responded with a sneaky grin, "I raised them three years ago when we elected a new president, and I knew I wouldn't be a recipient of the stimulus money."  He refers to Sarah Palin as Aunt Sarah and is eagerly awaiting the next election.  Ahem. 

The pace of the shop is slow. I like it. A lot. 

The gentlemen who came in after us found a seat, a manly magazine to flip through (Field and Stream and Guns and Ammo seemed to be tops) and joined in on the conversation, which of course centered around farming, sports, the weather and politics.
Those who couldn't read, or sit still for a trim napped (on the cool retro turquoise chairs).
And others (no names mentioned) who refused to read, didn't need a trim and wanted only to spin themselves back to the 50's in Cliff's chair were assuaged by other novelties.  Sweet ones.
An hour and a half later, with a mess of blonde snips and Dum-Dum sucker wrappers carpeting the polished checkered floor, we emerged from Cliff's smiling.
And, thankful.  Thankful that Cliff Rein still likes to cut hair, hasn't remodeled, has a large sucker stash, doesn't mind having a crazy lady take a gazillion pictures and pummel him with questions, has proudly served our country and continues to do something that seems so ordinary extraordinarily well.
God Bless Cliff, and God Bless America!!

No comments:

Post a Comment