Friday, October 16, 2009

Something For The Weekend?: There was no such thing as a hairstyle for the post-war generation of male youths; or the older men for that matter. The only style a barber knew was the short-back-and-sides which they had been taught, if indeed it had required teaching; in the Armed Forces. So when you had your hair cut, it was no good sitting in the chair and telling the barber how you wanted it, because he just cut it the only way he knew how, and that was that.
Here, in Upton, we had a barber whom the kid's of the locality had named 'The Major,' who had cut our hair from his shop in Moorland Way, probably since he'd been de-mobbed. Once he'd done the business, which took all of two minutes flat, our head would be shaven to the skin around the sides and back, leaving a huge mop of hair, literally untouched, on the top. Now and again he'd thin it out or cut it back a bit, but by-and-large it looked something akin to a hedge that had gone awry, or perhaps a bird's nest. As a treat, The Major had two bottles of 'Bay Rum,' which he would shake fairly liberally onto our hair, and massage it into the scalp. Depending upon his mood, before doing so, he would either say; "I'll put on some 'Davy Crockett'" for you, or "I'll put on some 'Robin Hood.'" The bottles were unlabelled anwyay, so whatever you had, it didn't really matter.
And when a neighbourhood friend noticed the hatchet job you'd had on your locks, he would ask which one The Major had chosen for you? And depending upon which one he had told you he had dispensed, it was regarded as something of a status symbol, because The Major had chosen it. And of course, Fess Parker's portrayal of Davy Crockett was far more manly than Richard Greene's portrayal of Robin Hood; so if you got the 'Davy' you were regarded as being favoured by The Major in a way not unlike being blessed by The Pope. And besides those two, Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto were the only other televised childhood heroes we had.
Now and again, we would be waiting for a haircut and The Major would be cutting a man's hair. And when he had finished and dusted the chap down, The Major would ask: "Will there be something Sir will be needing for the weekend?" If the chap said there was, or nodded, both he and The Major would enact this clandestine handshake, during which The Major would pass a packet of 3 condoms from his hand to the customer's; who would briskly pocket them. At that time, the 3 condoms cost half-a-crown, or two shillings and sixpence, 2/6d, or 12.5 of todays p; and it would be added to the price of the haircut, of course.
That was the way it happened, in that very descreet manner, yet today condoms are on sale and right in front of the till in every chemists shop, in most supermarkets, in every pub and bar toilet on the planet; and no doubt EBay as well.
One of my favourite punk-era bands were Radio Stars, who have a rather good compilation CD out, titled, funnily enough, 'Something For The Weekend,' which was perhaps chosen in due reverence to this largely forgotten question, because the last place we would find a 'packet of Johnnies' as they were known then, today, is in a hairdressers.