I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.
I have to tell you, what I thought to be a breeze in collecting men's hair tonics from the 1940s and 1950s that were no longer manufactured, turned into a monumental task. Pure hard work, to be honest with you. Out of seven selections that I looked at, the websites' advertising said prices are available in 2017. I almost choked. When I was a kid, I remember my dad using Vitalis on his hair and I thought those days were over. Apparently not. I am not suggesting in any way that you charge like a PCP-crazed rhino and try to find a bottle of this product. That is not my aim.
But what is my aim is just to give some props to those frontrunners of men's hair oils and tonics that paved the way back when men were men and not apologizing for it. So you are thinking, is this narrative about real men? Kinda sort of. A little bit of both--talking about how my dad and other American men in the 1940s and 1950s reacted when they filled their hand with the hair oils that were manufactured in America and caused our dad's, uncles, older brothers and even that retired Postal Worker to change in front on their medicine chest mirror while we watched in awe.
I want to brag a little on my dad. I knew him for 89 years and in those years, I NEVER seen the man with uncombed hair. And friend, he had hair that any balding man would instantly covet. His hair had waves on the left and he took pains to keep those waves in the public eye--at work, stores, and in church. Dad was, in my opinion, just like your dad, a well-groomed guy. I was so proud of my dad when he had finished his morning ritual of shaving, combing his hair with his choice of hair oil, checking his appearance one last time--then lighting a brand-name cigarette while getting his tin lunch kit and headed off for eight hours of solid, honest work.
To prove to the editors at HubPages, who are sticklers for detailed hubs, I am not even going to list those men's hair tonics and oils that are no longer manufactured. I can be strong as Flash Gordon. And while I am in this department, the top photo of actor, Cary Grant serves one purpose: for you, the young men of America who still do not know what a well-groomed man looks like. Look at your own dad right now. Do you see him looking anything like Grant? No? He just thinks that his life will be easier if he just lets his hair do its own thing, am I right?
When my dad was in his five-morning ritual that began at 5:30 a.m. and finished at 6:30 a.m., his hair oil smelled great and that aroma would drift through our home and even my own mother, a prototype Southern Housekeeper, liked the smell of his hair tonic. My thinking was: dad was wearing this hair product when he dated mom. That had to be the key to their happy marriage. I think if dad had just thought of it, he could have carried his favorite hair product to work and keep it hidden in the glove compartment. My dad and others could have really used my thinking in these days--for in 2017, no one wants to listen to my thoughts like giving praise to Hair Oils that Made America Great. No one. Men today are way too regimented like rats running in a maze to catch a bite of cheese to take time to let me talk.
I'll bet you that the late Jim Morrison, front man for the Doors never had that problem. Even if he were high on mescaline (a hallucinogen) or just whiskey and managed to talk . . .strangers listened to this creative genius. Then looked at their wife, girlfriend or best buddy in an awe-struck facial image. Morrison was that deep. So was Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in that way. I can only wish now that I was more like Thompson--but without the dangerous mescaline, heroine or any thought-altering drug.
Throughout my dad's work day, he never let his hair be without it looking sharp as a male model in an early hair tonic ad. I can tell you that early magazine ads did their part in promoting brand name cars, trucks, food, drinks, alcohol, and even hair tonics and oils. Safe and easy to use. No dangerous fumes lifting from the earth to the Ozone. In these decades, the 1940s - 1950s, America was living in a eutopia that society did not recognize. Life's daily routines were mind-numbing as the drugs that I have openly condemned for the benefit of some young person who might be sneaking a peek in your HubPages account. BEWARE, parents.
I, being obedient to my dad's example of getting dressed for my day when I was at age 11, I followed his every step. I took my bath, but I didn't have to shave for my facial hair had not started growing thanks to sleeping male hormones, but when it came to my hair, man alive, did I use dad's brand name hair tonic to the fullest. I went a bit further because my thinking was this: if one handful will cause my hair to shine and be easily-combed, what would two heaping handfuls of this hair tonic do? As I massaged this oil into my hair I had dreams of the pretty girls in my class and watching their reaction upon getting to school and enjoying how they would crave my attention. I was ready for action.
Jumping on my school bus was a morning treat. My friends were on and ready for school and most of the students were laughing, sharing news about TV shows, sports and music. But the very moment, the exact moment that I looked toward my friends near the middle of the bus, a silence filled the bus. For a moment I thought that someone had fainted. Even my bus driver, Mr. Rufus Sanderson, normally a man of few words, spoke: "Young man, what is that dripping on your neck?" The the waves of harsh laughter came at me. My face was a tomato red. I swiftly rubbed the excess oil from my neck and rubbed it into my jeans. Smart move, huh?
From the time when I boarded the bus to the time we arrived at school--my friends just sat and stared at my head. I overheard whispers: "Is Kenny's head got a leak?" "Why is Kenny's hair shining?" And "Did Kenny's doctor put this greasy stuff in hair because he has a disease?" You know how cruel kids can be. But you also know how honest kids can be too. I just tried to not get anymore attention and just pretend that I was studying my History book.
When we arrived at school, I allowed the students sitting around me to depart first. That way I could blend into the crowd toward the end and not be the butt of some bad jokes that were said at my expense. A flirty girl, Janice, started to touch my face, but said in a loud voice: "Ewwwww! This grease stuff is nasty! Will it make me sick?" Then she laughed as she walked away. Okay. I figured that the ice was broken. My friends had to get use to me looking grown-up and acting manly. It was due to happen.
Things got worse as I walked into my fourth-grade classroom. The few students stopped whispering and like the students on my bus, just stared, punched their friends and pointed at me. Then was the time, I thought, to really get into my adolescent show business routine. I winked at them, snapped my fingers and sat down in my desk so smoothly that Bobby Darrin would have been eaten by the Green Monster. I looked suave. I looked smooth. All due to me using two handfuls of my dad's brand name hair oil.
Every hour of (that) day seemed like cold molasses being poured onto biscuits. Slower than a snail. Funny thing. As our teacher, Mrs. Rosa Bowling, was lecturing us about New Math or New something, I felt the distinct touch of something that was slowly dripping down my forehead and down my face. I dared not move for Bowling might get angry and make a laughing stock out of me. So I thought that the very moment when Bowling, who lectured while standing, would turn her back to where I was sitting and lecture the other side of our room, and that would give me the opportunity to take my right hand and quickly brush off the excess hair oil that was dripping on my face and it would go to the floor and I would not be chewed out.
That opportunity afforded itself and my right hand, like perfect Swiss timing, went to work and with one quick motion, I rubbed the oil from my forehead, hair and neck . . .but not into the hardwood floor, but on York Taylor who was sitting behind me. And I knew the exact moment when he was bombarded with the men's hair oil. I heard him curse underneath his breath and I knew that I was in trouble. But I sat still and continued to look at the Math book. A few of the students in the other side of the room who Mrs. Bowling was lecturing laughed when I drained the hair oil from my head and face.
Talk about a blessing. It was now 10 a.m., that Magic Time for any Grade School Student: Recess. And I was ready to hit the playground running and finish ridding my hair of that name brand hair oil. But . . ."Kenneth! I need to see you for a moment!" Mrs. Bowling snapped. And I knew trouble was brewing for she was a pure Southern Belle and a woman of her upbringing never snapped. But this time she did.
I sat near her desk as I was told to do. "Kenneth, I have but one question. Just what is that stuff you have in your hair?" Bowling asked looking a hole into me.
"Uhhh, well, ma'am, it is my dad's hair tonic and I had to use a lot to keep my hair from not laying down and that is the truth," I said.
"And you didn't notice that the collar of your shirt and on your shoulders is covered in that oily stuff?" she said looking very angry. I thought I was dead.
"You march your butt down to the boys' rest room and you make sure that all of that nasty oil is OUT of your hair before you come back into THIS room. Do you understand, Kenneth?" Bowling stated and she had tears in her eye. Was it because she was sorry for me or angry at me for being so dumb?
I never brought my Men's Hair Oil Disaster ever again.
That was . . .until my dad started using some stuff in a bottle that said "Shave Lotion" on its side.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery