BARBERSHOP AROUND THE CORNER – GARRY ARMSTRONG (WITH NEW PICTURES)

Haircuts can be a complex problem for a guy. Nay, you say?

Yay, I say — if you’re a man of color.

Not all barbers can cut “our kind” of hair. It’s one of America’s darker secrets. If one has curly, sometimes called “kinky” hair, barbers are befuddled and sometimes nervous. White barbers. Fellas used to the electric razor and scissors to trim the smooth hair of boys, teens, men, and even older gents with fair skin.

It’s a sensitive, ethnic thing.

Growing up, I always went to black-owned and operated barber shops in our diverse neighborhoods. No worries. You asked for a summer or winter haircut. Close or maybe moderate — to accommodate the weather. Awaiting my time in the barber chair, I’d peruse the men’s magazines with pictures that stimulated my growing body. The air was usually full of cigar smoke and raunchy conversation with much laughter. One of the barbers would caution there were kids in the shop. The laughter only got louder with someone slapping me on the shoulder. I remember those days with great affection.

Fast forward through the decades. It’s 1970 and I’m a newly arrived TV news reporter in Boston. Predominantly WHITE Boston. I was living IN Boston, five minutes away from downtown businesses and the TV station. There were several barber shops or men’s hair stylists in the area.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I tried one recommended by the star anchorman whose blonde, carefully layered coif was a thing of beauty.

I could feel the stares as I entered the ornate hair salon. I waited a few, very long moments until a gent who looked like the old time actor William Powell approached me. His white barber jacket had perfect creases. He offered a polite smile while informing me his shop could not properly “address” my kind of hair. I smiled and left, quietly seething inside.

I needed a trim before making my Boston television début.  So it was that I instantly became a celebrity client at the local barber’s college. It wasn’t pretty.

Word spread quickly and I received a call from Boston Mayor Kevin White’s office. A day later, I had a personal barber. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that lasted more than 30 years.

GARRY’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF OUR TOWN AND THE BARBER SHOP


Fast forward again, maybe another 10 years. Now retired and living in small town New England,  I had no real need for spiffy hair cuts. However, I still traveled a distance because I didn’t trust any of our local barbers who didn’t seem eager to get my business.

MARILYN’S PICTURES OF THE BARBER SHOP AND GARRY


We were now living on a fixed income. It seemed silly to travel that distance and pay $40 (plus tip) for a fancy hair salon clip with my receding hairline. I summoned up my old Marine Corps courage and decided to check out a local, corner barbershop.  The classic barber’s pole beckoned me. I entered and surprise —  smiles and friendly greetings. I walked over to the available barber and quietly, awkwardly asked if he could cut “my” hair. He smiled broadly and said, “No problem, Bro”.  It was the beginning of another beautiful friendship.

Eddie knew his stuff. He smiled as I removed my hearing aids and told him I was in his hands.  Ten minutes later and I was a new man with a crisply trimmed coif that managed to hide some of the growing shiny spots atop my head.

Eddie would tell me he prided himself with his work. It was his way of saying ethnicity was not an issue. His biggest issue? Smart-aleck kids with overbearing parents. Eddie soon opened his own shop. He branched to a second operation and is a well-respected fella in our small town. Yes, I’ve recommended him to other people of varying ethnicities.

There are no men’s magazines with adult photographs in Eddie’s place. He’s sensitive to the young people who come through the door. There are lots of interesting pictures on the wall,  most guaranteed to make you smile.

If you’re in our town and need a haircut, stop in at Eddie’s place. You’ll like him.

You’ll love his prices.

24 thoughts on “BARBERSHOP AROUND THE CORNER – GARRY ARMSTRONG (WITH NEW PICTURES)

  1. It infuriates me every time I hear that fraken BS! So glad you found someone who takes pride in his work. Sounds like you made some fast friends as a result. You were handsome then, your handsome now. Tell Marilyn I said so too! snicker snicker. wink wink

    Liked by 1 person

      • Really enjoy your posts, especially the walk down memory lane. It was a saner time in many ways. People knew what to expect, a modicum of respect at least. Although I am sure you suffered on many levels due to ignorance but I’m sure proud to have witnessed your journalistic endeavours and you never allowed anything other than the best to show with such a positive attitude. I for one applaud you greatly.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Interesting that “in the moment” people enjoy but say little, seems the way of it. Later, when what they loved and enjoyed is gone, the reality sets in and they speak out. In my case, I had no way of contacting him at the time to say how brilliant he was and how enjoyable his pieces. I remember applauding though as he was the first “black man” to be “included” if you will, that I remember at least. I know that for me, it was about the quality of his journalism, not the colour of his skin which has never mattered at all to me.

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        • Covert, thanks for the kind words. You know something, I LOVED my job!! Over the years, when I talked with old friends, they’d talk about their business and financial successes, but rarely did I hear them say they LOVED their work. I was do damn lucky!! I had a job that put me in the public eye, gave me entree to the rich, famous and power players of the world. I was well paid for my efforts, and BECAUSE of my celebrity, I was able to actually “make a difference” in some of my efforts. During my “prime” years, I could pick up the phone and directly access power brokers. It was a good feeling. I was always aware that it wasn’t me — but my position as a recognized TV news reporter — that allowed me to cut through red tape and political horse manure. I used the bias and ignorance to my advantage. Hell, the crayoned hate notes just spurred me on to do even better stuff. I also enjoyed tilting windmills — it’s in my DNA.

          I’m editing my comment here to include the “in the moment” reference. I have so many “in the moment” stories. LBJ in Vietnam, “The Boston Strangler” at Walpole State Prison, Mother Theresa singling me out of a crowd, Afternoon tea with Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn and yours truly hanging with President Clinton at a Martha’s Vineyard Party, doing a sky-diving piece with just 3 hours experience, etc ad nauseum. 40 plus years of these things. “In the Moment”, you don’t fully appreciate what’s happening.

          All in all, I really did have a wonderful life.

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          • I’m thrilled. There is an happiness on your face, and in your eyes. A knowledge perhaps it was the making a difference that I saw then and now. There’s a sense of accomplishment in your face too. I’m beyond thrilled you were able to make a difference, seriously. I’m sure it’s what’s at the core for all “real” journalists who aren’t hog tied by the moneyed men. It was a time when making a difference mattered. I wished there were more with your bent today. I know I focused on the one negative how you were treated, in that story (don’t get me wrong it infuriates me still) but knowing you were the right person, got things done, is empowering and such a gift. To be in “the moment” as you say, is a gift in and of itself. It’s such a pleasure to hear these snippets of stories. You really should write a book about it. Call it “In the Moment” and add your perspective to all that was happening, what you saw and felt. How incredible a gift you enjoyed. I love it. A life well lived and never wasted. Thank you for sharing, it’s such a delight, you have no idea.

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    • Thanks, Bro Ben. It’s an encore presentation sweetened up with additional pictures from Marilyn. I know you understand my hair anxiety even if I have less on top these days. Probably less inside, too.

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    • Absolutely, Leslie. Seriously, it feels like a weight has been taken off your head although it’s sparse topside now. The sides and back are still thick and become uncomfortable after a few weeks. When Eddie trims the nape of my neck — hot lather and then a thin razor — it feels soooooo good! I usually am smiling when I leave the barbershop and feel like bursting into song. But I resist.

      Leslie, on a totally unrelated note. Speaking of singing. Last night, in bed, I was watching “By The Light of The Silvery Moon” internal sound only with headset on so Marilyn was able to read and watch stuff on her kindle and computer. “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon” is one of my “guilty” favorites. Doris Day in her prime, singing old time standards. I grew up with this music. I had all the Doris Day Columbia LPs. My radio friends used to tease me because of my love for Doris Day and her music. It wasn’t “hip”. I used to play Day songs like “It’s Magic” and “When I Fall In Love” on my late night music show called “Nightsong”. While my college pals teased me, listeners loved it. Even my Pastor called in one night and told me how “swell” my show was and he passed on his feelings to the rest of our church.

      I’m rambling out of control here..it’s magic!

      Liked by 1 person

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