In the summer after my first grade year, I spent a lot of time listening to WADE, 1210 on my AM dial from Wadesboro. Sitting at our RCA all-band radio, on the table beneath Mama’s prized oval mirror, I was happiest when the announcer introduced this 1949 summertime favorite:
Money, Marbles and chalk sweetheart
But I still feel like I am pore,
For my Money won’t spend and my marbles won’t roll
And my chalk won’t write anymore.
“Mama, you know what I want to be when I get big?” I asked.
“No, son. What do you want to be when you get big?”
“I want to be on the radio.”
She paused. “Maybe you should become a DJ”
“What’s a DJ, Mama?”
“A disc jockey,” she said. “An announcer, who plays records, and talks about them on the radio.”
Edward, my Daddy’s first cousin, had an air-shift at WADE at the time. He also had a big, deep, authoritative voice, that made you want to listen to what he was saying. He also had an authoritative look.
Edward was tall, which I was not, he was polished which I was not, and bald — in a male pattern sort of way — which I was not, at the time. As I thought about the matter, I concluded that although I could not change shortness, nor could I force urbanity, I could bring about Edwardian baldness.
I knew that Mama kept her good scissors in the sewing machine drawer. I couldn’t let her see me take them, for if I did she’d say, “Leon, I can’t let you play with scissors — you might fall down and poke your eye out.”
Then she would take them away, holding them points down, so if she fell she’d just stab herself in the toe.
But she would be really pleased when she saw my new look. So, I snuck over to the Singer where I found the good scissors in the top drawer. I must have lifted them out between thumb and finger, then eased them to the floor, and pushed them ‘til I got to the radio table. Then I put my thumb and finger into the handles again, with the points down and lifted the scissors to the top of the radio.
Then I climbed up on my stool, to look in the mirror over the radio. I took the scissors in my right hand, then held up my bangs with my left and began to snip. After a few mis-snips, I decided to cut only a few hairs at a time. When I finished the first row, I moved to the next, and the next until I got midway between my forehead and my crown, then rounded off the back corners of the bald spot, just like Edward’s. But the hair, where the bald spot would be, was sticking straight up.
About the time, I heard Mama coming.
“I wish I had my cowboy hat,” I said as I got ready to bolt for cover.
But she stopped in the dining room, then turned around toward the kitchen, and did not hinder me until the haircut was done.
After I made the final pruning, I leaned back to admire my work.
“That looks just like Edward,” I said, smiling. “Just like him.”
When I finally pulled myself away from the mirror, l swept the clippings off the top of the radio onto a piece of blue Horse tablet paper, and threw them in the trash can. Then I slid the scissors back to the sewing machine drawer.
“Mama, I got something to show you,” I said.
“I’m back here,” she said, “got my hands in bread dough.”
“Look Mama,” I beamed as I strode toward the kitchen. “I look like Edward.”
“That’s good,” she answered.
“I’ll look just as soon as I wipe my hands,” she said.
“Oh my Lord, Leon,” she said when turned and saw me. “What have you done?”
“I cut my hair to look like Edward,” I beamed.
“Oh,” she sighed. “Your hair, your hair,” she said as she ran her fingers across my bald spot. “All your beautiful hair.”
“I’m sorry Mama,” I said. “I didn’t think I’d make you cry. I thought it made me handsome, like Edward.” I paused. “Don’t be sad,” I added, as I patted her hand. “My hair’ll grow back.”
“I know it will, son.”
“It will. I know it will.” Then she asked, “Where did you put the clippings?”
“In the waste can,” I replied.
Although I don’t remember her doing so, she must have retrieved the clippings, then kept them to remember what her son once looked like. She didn’t get after me about sneaking her scissors, but she did get her pocketbook and hustle me down town.
“Please keep this cap on in public,” she said in the dry goods store. “Don’t let anybody see your head like that.”
“Can’t I just wear my red cowboy hat?” I asked.
“Not to church,” she said. “You need to wear this one to church. But you will need to wear your cowboy hat the rest of the time,” she said, “until your hair grows back.”
When Daddy got home, he said, “What you been doing today, son?”
“I gave myself a haircut, Daddy,” I said. “Do you like it?”
“You look pretty good for a 6-year-old bald-headed fellow,” he smiled.
“I wanted to look like Edward.”
“Oh,” he said. “Well you did a real good job of that, son,” he chuckled. “You look a whole lot like him.”
“What did your mother say about it?” he said after a while.
“She wants me to wear a cap, daylight and dark,” I answered.
“Let me go talk to her,” he said.
When he came back, he said, “Let’s go see Edward.”
We walked across the street, and up on his front porch. Then Daddy whispered, “Hide behind me, ‘til he comes to the door.” Then he knocked.
When Edward came out, Daddy said, “I got something to show you.”
Then I jumped out. “Hey, Edward,” I said.
“Hey yourself,” Edward replied. “You’re the best looking bald headed gentleman I have seen all day.”
We all laughed.
At Sunday school, Mama told my teacher the reason I needed to wear my cap in class. But as soon as class was over and we walked outside, I asked the boys to follow me around the corner of the building.
“I’ve got something I want to show you,” I said. Then I took off my cap. “Tah-dah,” I said.
“Whoa,” they grinned. “You look like one rough customer.”
When the girls showed up, they asked “What are you boys doing?”
“Look at his head,” said one of them. “And you’ll see.”
“Bald headed boys don’t appeal to us,” said another.
“It probably won’t ever grow back, either,” another may have observed.
But as far I was concerned being bald was just OK. I didn’t care if my hair never grew back, for I liked my new look, and was sad when Daddy took me to Mr. Clifford’s to ask him to make the top of my head look boring again.
When we got back home Mama said she liked this haircut better. I guess I just wasn’t cut out to be a DJ.
Leon Smith is a contributing columnist to The Anson Record. Write to him P.O. Box 124, Marshville, NC 28103.