Charlie the Barber, Tiny, and Me
April 22, 2021
When I was 5 years old, in June of 1967, we got a new addition to our family. Not a new brother or sister, but our first dog.
To an only child, it was like having a new sibling. The puppy was part Chihuahua and part rat terrier. It was so little that he easily fit into the palms of my dad’s hands. With his light tan coat, large ears, and big, soft brown eyes, he looked like a fawn as I held him close and christened him “Tiny.”
Tiny and I became practically inseparable. I developed a separation anxiety and was afraid he would run away. It was a comfort to cuddle with a furry friend every night and fall asleep together. One morning, however, I awoke to quite a surprise. During the night, my new puppy’s chewing need had arisen. Unbeknownst to his sleeping master, Tiny had chewed the entire seat of my pajamas away.
Tiny and I had other adventures together. When he lost his puppy teeth, I greedily gathered them from the carpet and put them under my pillow, somehow fooling the tooth fairy into giving me extra quarters.
One afternoon, my mom sent me down the back alley to Charlie Hauser’s barber shop for a crew cut. Less than a block away, the shop was easy to spot because of the colorful barber pole out front. As a child, I enjoyed going there because I got to sit in a special chair that spun around. There was much to see on the counter top with a large antique mirror behind me – tall glass jars of combs and scissors, soaking in clear alcohol. Colorful bottles filled with spicy aftershave. Bushy brushes in shaving mugs of creamy, white lather.
When I arrived at the shop, it was a slow afternoon with no customers. As I climbed upon the chair, Charlie tied a cloth around me and started buzzing with his clippers. He was very kind and very easy to talk with. A consummate professional, Charlie always gave each customer his complete attention. As a child, that made me feel special. Charlie asked what was new at our house. I breathlessly told him all about our newest family member and our adventures together.
As the barber continued cutting my hair, I started envisioning Tiny at home without me. I could see him standing, putting his front paws against the screen door. With his weight against the door, he was able to jar the door open and slip outside. Next, I pictured him running down the sidewalk and out into the street in front of an oncoming ...
Throwing off the long cloth covering my neck and shoulders, I jumped down from the chair in the middle of my haircut. Running out the door, I announced that I absolutely must go home that very instant.
Before he could stop me, I darted up the alley toward my house. I was quite a sight with a half-crewcut, frantically racing toward home.
In no time, I barreled through our screen door into the kitchen where my mother, at the sink, glanced up, looking confused about my wild haircut.
“Whatever is the matter?” she asked, seeing the frantic look of worry in my eyes, and hearing me out of breath.
“Where’s Tiny? Where’s Tiny?” I called out, my teary eyes searching the kitchen, where there was no dog in sight.
“Tiny’s in the living room, for heaven’s sake!” was her answer.
I ran into the next room, relieved to find my dog curled up contentedly on the living room sofa. I gave him a quick hug, pecked my mom on the cheek, and then out the door I darted, racing back to the barber shop.
There I found Charlie, sitting beside an empty barber chair, patiently reading the newspaper, waiting for me to return for the other half of my haircut. I climbed back onto the barber chair and Charlie cheerfully finished the job. Best of all was the sweet, clean-smelling talc from the brush that tickled my neck at my haircut’s completion.
As I skipped up the alley back to our house, I looked forward to reuniting with my dog, knowing that Tiny was safe at home, and that more adventures lay ahead of us that day.
Editor’s Note: George Dempsie writes from Williamsburg.