Exactly What I Wanted

Back in the Fifties, it became very popular for a young guy to have a "flat top" hair cut. Some of my friends had great looking flat tops and I decided, after much reflection that I would get my hair cut in that most popular style of the day. Each day I would look at my friends and get closer and closer to sacrificing my longer hair for that popular "flat top" look. There was just something about it that looked masculine. It looked tough. The girls liked it.

Well, one day I was working at my father's furniture store and I decided, after long reflection, that I would walk down the alley behind the stores and go to Walker's Barber shop which was just around the corner. I always got my hair cut at Walker's. My personal barber, Mr. Walker was the best in town I reasoned and if anyone could fix me up with a good looking flat top it would be him. Besides, he had been cutting my hair since I was a little kid and he would know exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it to look. I patiently waited my turn and when it came I sad down in the big barber chair. Mirrors were all the way down the wall behind the chair where the barbers stood. I sat down and Mr. Walker said: "O.K. Bill, what will it be?" I immediately said I wanted a crew cut. He said, "are you sure?" With full assurance that I wanted a crew cut he commenced to perform his duty. Now, this is how it went. He cranked up the clippers and started on the front of my head right in the middle. He followed the contour of my head with each succeeding pass with the clippers. Like mowing a yard. My thoughts were that this seemed odd since I wanted the top to be flat but I reasoned that he had probably put a clipper guide on the clippers which were picking up the hair and cutting it flat on top while he followed the contour of my head. I was confident of that since I could not see what was going on. Well, when he had finished, he took the white protector from around my neck and spun me around to see my "flat top." The only thing was, it wasn't a "flat top." My eyes almost bugged out of my head. My stomach suddenly developed a cold spot in the middle. My head was spinning. To my horror, Mr. Walker had given me exactly what I had asked for....a crew cut. I had asked for the wrong thing thinking a crew cut was the same as a flat top. It isn't. I can guarantee you that! I sat there with this shocked look on my face while trying to act if all was well. Mr. Walker said: "well, Bill, is that what you wanted?" With all the genuine assurance I could muster up I said, "Yes, sir, that's exactly what I wanted." I paid my barber and walked dejectedly down the street to the alley and then down the alley to my fathers store. When I walked in the back door everyone looked at me as if I were crazy. I felt like I could dangle my legs off of a cigarette wrapper. I was lower than low. My hair has always been something that I have kept neat and groomed all my life and now this! My mother said something that was comforting when she saw the mistake. She said: "well, there's one thing about it. Hair always grown back!" That's great! What about the meantime. I immediately put on my baseball cap and swore not to take it off. I dreaded going to school or anywhere else for that matter.

But,....Sunday was coming! We never missed Sunday School and church at First Baptist Church and no matter how much I begged, I had to go. I felt like the whole world was looking at me and laughing. I went to the Intermediate Department which was my Sunday School Department. We always had a general meeting of everyone in attendance before we broke up and went to our classes. I felt like a sore thumb. Our department leader looked at me and said: "Bill, don't you want to take your baseball cap off in the Lord's house?" My instant reply was "NOMAM." I wasn't about to take if off and reveal my "crew cut" which I thought was going to be a good looking "flat top." All my buddies were in attendance sitting there with their flat tops looking at me and wondering what in the world had happened. When we went to our classes, the guys in there asked me why I had gotten a crew cut. Sitting there with my hair about 1/8 th inch long, I repeated what I had told Mr. Walker. "That's exactly what I wanted." God will have to forgive me for lying in church but I wasn't about to tell them that I had made a mistake and didn't know the difference between a crew cut and a flat top. It made me feel a little better though when I went to school and all the girls said they thought my crew cut was "cute." No it wasn't. What do girls know about how guys want their hair? Nothing! Anyway, mother was right. Hair does grow back but it couldn't grow back fast enough. I can guarantee you one thing, though. It didn't take me long to learn the difference between a "crew cut" and a "flat top."

One good side effect of my mistake is that I noticed years later that all the boys who wore flat tops for a long period of time all turned out to be bald. I think the sun cooked the roots of their hair eventually killing the roots and making them bald. Mine grew out in a few weeks and I combed it over like I had always done. Today, I have a full head of hair and I contribute it, in part, to my mistake that day in Walker's Barber Shop. "O.K. Bill, what will it be!" "I want a crew cut." "Are you sure." "Yup." Well that little mistake was brutal for me but it proves an old saying..."All's well that ends well." I have hair and most of my "flat top" friends are bald. But, I can still remember the time I horrified at my "flat top" and how I had to muster up the wherewithal to say: "Yes, sir, that's exactly what I wanted."

William F. Harrell

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