I Left It at the Barbers



My father’s new theater was the Cinema 1 and 2 in Brockton, Massachusetts. The building was in the parking lot of the Westgate Mall. Its back was right up against the cloverleaf of the freeway. So it was a good location. And a popular one.

A spacious lobby sat in the center, with a long concession stand at the back as the focus. Doormen stood guard over the entrance to the theater auditoriums, Cinema One on the right and Cinema Two to the left. And inside ushers with flashlights would escort you to your seats. I would soon join their ranks.

But for the time being I would only pay visits, usually by walking from our apartment about a mile away. I had a bicycle, though I don’t remember ever taking it on the long trek to the theater.  One memorable time was after a heavy snow fall. The snow plows, as was their duty, had all been out early, especially in the mall lot. So there were long mounds everywhere, at least five feet at their summits. And a whole series were pointed in the direction of my travel. So I would trek to the top of the snow pile in my shoes (I still had an aversion to boots and hats), and traverse its length like Lawrence in the dunes of Arabia.

The mall had two large department stores, a Bradlee’s and a Gilchrist’s. Dad tells me there was a Plymouth bank where they made their deposits, and a Chinese restaurant, with whose owner he traded passes for takeout.  I only remember the barbershop.

By this time I no longer sported a Roman haircut, but I was still an oddity in that I parted my hair on the right.  I would instruct him to mind the part, taper the back, and oh yes, since one ear was higher than the other to take that fact into consideration when balancing the length between both sides. And one other thing, when using the razor on the back of my neck, watch out for the mole in that vicinity.

This was only an invitation to the barber to tease me. Come time when he put the clippers away and took out the razor, he would ask me, you sure you don’t want me to remove that for you? A mildly funny jest until one time he actually did it. He sliced it clean off. So along with the mole I left a little blood at the barber’s.

It was all an accident of course. Or was it?


Honors are for Skipping


I only spent one year in junior high. I’ll explain.

We moved to Brockton Massachusetts the fall after I graduated from Saltonstall School in Salem. It had been unsettled where I was to attend high school. I had been invited to check out St John’s Prep school in Danvers, a Catholic secondary school. I am not sure how the referral came about. My folks drove me out one day to visit the campus and meet with the staff and instructors. They felt a private school would be a good choice over Salem High School.

But it all became a moot point when my father’s company (General Cinema Corporation) transferred him to their new twin theater in Brockton. We were now south of Boston, instead of north. The town had been a shoe making mecca in its heyday, no vestige of which remained that I saw.  It was also the hometown of boxing great Rocky Marciano.  I never saw him either (he was living in Florida by that time).

The Brockton school system was different.  My ninth grade there was the “senior” year in West Junior High.   So I was moving from the oldest grade in Salem to Brockton without a loss of “status.”

I was placed in the advanced class, the honor students, because of my grades.  As such we were expected to take a language course this year. I chose French, for one of the scheduled times dove tailed with mine.  It didn’t last long, however.  One day.  You see it was a second year class, and I was totally unprepared for it. How I got in, is a mystery. Instead I ended up in a first year Latin class, for which I have been eternally grateful ever since – not only because it is the root language of so many others, but also for its valuable help in thinking logically.  And it deepened my understanding of English grammar and vocabulary also.

I made some friends who despite my new kid in town status took it upon themselves to show me the ropes, especially as to what extra curricular activities to sign up for, to the end of skipping class. Two of my new friends, John M and David D played tennis, so I took up that sport too.

The time out of class for tennis, didn’t hold a candle to that which came with signing up for a school play. So, I was strongly encouraged to try out for the musical L’il Abner.  Thankfully it was a small part, as a Dr Krogmeyer (only one line) and I did not even have to look towards the audience. I still remember the line – “Oh, Dr. Finsdale, I don’t want to seem stupid, sir, but just precisely what is a mass spectrographic isotopic double diathermal diaphonoscope?” And I was able to recite it without tripping over my tongue.  And glad that I did not have to sing it.

I had no idea at all of ever writing a musical. That would all come later. Much later.