Harold was the town barber for many years, working out of a tiny one-chair shop on main street. You could sit in the leather seat—or on the board placed across the arms if you were a little kid—and stare into infinity as your image bounced forth and back between the big mirrors on facing walls. The marble shelves beneath the mirror behind Harold was like a barback, bottles of various tonics and smell-goods sparkling in their reflections.
Those waiting for their haircut spent their time in chairs borrowed from an abandoned theater. They could read comics or mild men’s magazines. Mostly they talked about weather and farming.
The thing Harold will always be remembered for was his nickel rebate. It happened to be a pair of my cousins, Charlie and Frank Just, who as rambunctious kids started the tradition. They were bouncing around one day under the control of no one, their dad likely down the street at the drugstore or talking with someone at the International Harvester dealership nearby.
With no adult supervision handy, Harold bribed the kids. He offered them each a nickel to go get an ice cream cone after their haircut, if they’d sit still and be quiet. That was the best deal they’d heard all day, so the brothers were good as gold.
Harold might have forgotten about the nickels, but the Just kids didn’t. They expected it the next time they came in for their $1 haircuts. Further, they spread the word about the sit-still bribe among all their friends. Harold was on the hook for ice cream nickels from then on.
The tradition became so expected that some parents tried giving Harold 95 cents instead of the posted price of one dollar. Harold wouldn’t have it. Haircuts were a buck. The nickel belonged to a kid who worked hard at sitting still.
Harold Brighton often said that he could have bought a Cadillac with all the nickels he gave away over the years.
When Harold closed up shop and retired, my son, Jarad, was just about ready for his first haircut. I talked Harold into opening up the shop one more time so I could get the picture below of Jarad’s first haircut, and Harold’s last. It’s one of many treasured memories I have of a man famous only in Firth.