This picture reminds me of the Coke machine at the barber shop where I went for hair cuts as a child. The Broadway Barbershop had a machine like this one that dispensed 6 ½ ounce bottles of Coke for 6 cents. Deposit a nickel and a penny, turn the crank, and a classic green, contoured glass bottle tumbled noisily down the innards of the machine to the little knee-level door below. The purchaser removed the cork-lined bottle cap with the machine’s built-in opener, releasing a little puff of gas and the familiar pop/sigh sound, accompanied by the clink of the bottle cap hitting the inside the collection box.
My barbershop was located below street level on Broadway, just south of Main Street and under what was then Pryor’s. Otis Roberts and three other barbers in white coats greeted patrons as they came through the door. If a minister came into the shop, the first barber who recognized him as a man of the cloth would sing out, “Hey, Preacher.” Years later I came to understand that this was the universal signal to barbers and patrons alike to be careful what they said. As a young child, however, I was oblivious to this subtlety and to the kind of conversation that made it necessary.
While we waited our turn in the barber chair, we could flip through the worn-out pages of an ancient Field and Stream magazine or watch the shoeshine man work his magic on the shoes of a customer seated high in his chair. The shoeshine man applied the polish and rubbed it in with his bare hands, and I marveled as I watched him brush shoes, first with one hand, and then toss the brush expertly into his other hand and continue on the other side. Then he would do the part I liked best – the final buffing and popping with a shoeshine rag. I never could make a rag pop the way the shoeshine man did. I can still remember the faint smell of shoe polish mingled with the more predominant odors of lanolin and talcum powder in that barbershop.
“Next,” the barber would say. Sometimes the insurance salesman from the office next door would pass his turn to the next person, saying, “I’m not in a hurry.” Indeed he must not have been because he always seemed to be there when I went for a haircut.
When I was a young child, the barber always put a board across the arms of the chair to elevate me to the proper cutting level. I suppose the day he didn’t have to use the board was the second proudest day of my barbershop life. The proudest day was when, for the first time, he lathered up the back of my neck and shaved it with a straight razor.
Below street-level on Broadway, where the barbershop was located.