Sunday, July 17, 2011

Godspeed, Red Allison

There were two barbers in Burk, Johnny Veach's dad and Red Allison. We always went to Red. In the back corner of the shop when there were no customers, Red would paint landscapes. Red wasn't the more popular of the two so he frequently had time to paint and I was always fascinated with his paintings--I fancied myself a person that could draw but it was really just one of those delusions we all tell ourselves because we need to feel there is something we do well and I was pathetic at baseball and had never heard of football. That was before I took up photography to make up for my lack of drafting skills. Red didn't use "artist" oil paints; times were too austere for that. Actually he seemed quite proud of the fact that he bought his oil paints in small cans at the hardware store and that if you wanted you could use the same paint to paint your house. Maybe that is why he was closer to Paint-by-the-Numbers than Rembrandt or even Grandma Moses, but I still enjoyed Red's art. He was, after all, the only real artist that I knew. Everyone else had to work all the time to make ends meet. Anyway, the paintings at least let me enjoy a trip to the barbershop until I had to get into the chair. I hated his haircuts. True they were only a dime for kids but he would never cut it the way I wanted it. He cut it the way Dad wanted it--even when Dad gave me the dime and let me go by myself, "just a little off the sides" to Red meant scraped to the bare skin at least two inches above the ears in order to postpone the next trip as long a possible. That was probably because it kept me from interrupting his painting for a month instead of a week. Maybe that is why I have hair hanging over my ears most of the time now; I was psychologically scarred by Red's haircuts. I remember when Red raised his price to a quarter. Nobody did ninety-nine cents back then because people were smarter. Prices were nickels, dimes, quarters, two-bits (that was fifty cents.) They would think, "what an Olaf" if someone tried to pass off a dollar as ninety-nine cents. When I go back home the next time I think I'll look to see if the building where Red had his shop is still there. I doubt it.


  1. Gary, I enjoyed this one. I could relate to some of your comments - my equivalent to Red Allison was Fay Ramsay and she never failed to leave me in tears after one of her "dos". She only had one style for all ages, and I never looked more like my grandmother than after a trip to the beauty shop! I know my Dad was not pleased to spend his hard earned money on us girls, only to see us come in crying after each wash and set. HA

  2. Just think what the coddled generations are going to miss out on when they are our ages. What an unmemorable dull life they live. All they will be able to complain about are their parents. LOL