Styles in the 50s were blown away

SHORT back and sides was about as imaginative as most barbers were, until the mid 1950s when the trend to be more fashionable started and teenagers wanted to look like the film and pop stars of the day.

SHORT back and sides was about as imaginative as most barbers were, until the mid 1950s when the trend to be more fashionable started and teenagers wanted to look like the film and pop stars of the day. A Tony Curtis cut or something like an Elvis Presley or James Dean style became more popular.

The 'Old School' of barbers were more used to a military cut and thought the new trends were not for 'real men'.

There were no appointments at the barbers, you sat and waited, often for hours, to get a trim. As a schoolboy I used to be sent to Gordon Meadows who had a shop at 187 Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, opposite Hatfield Road.

As well as the traditional cut, I used to watch fascinated as he performed the other old skills of a barber, including shaving and singeing. Singeing was the strange practice of a burning taper being moved over the head to seal the ends of cut hairs. This seemed to do little more than make an awful smell. After a hair cut he would rub a strange potion into my head called Bay Rum. After all this it is little wonder my head is now bald and in more need of a polish that a trim.

I featured a photograph from the 1930s of a row of shops in St Margaret's Street, Ipswich, which included Payne's barber shop.

John Fitch of Kesgrave, who is still cutting hair at the Barbers Shoppe in Tacket Street, has told me of his early years in the trade at Payne's. John said: “I started there as an apprentice aged fifteen in 1953. This was a couple of decades after the photographs published in Kindred Spirits although the road had changed very little in that time. My wages were one pound and ten shillings (£1.50) per week. I was probably one of the first apprentices to get paid. Prior to that apprentices paid a master barber to learn the trade. It was three years of very long hours and hard work. There were four master barbers in the shop and five chairs. The spare chair was used by the boss or for me to prepare customers for shaving”

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“Payne's was the barbers shop in those days. On Saturday mornings when we arrived at the shop at 8am it was not unusual to see a queue stretching beyond Botwood's Garage to Majors Corner. This often meant the shop had to remain open until 8pm. As I was the apprentice and had to clear up it was often 9pm before my day ended.

“The only services on offer were a 'short back and sides' or a shave. We had customers who came in three times a week for a shave, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I had the job of lathering the customers after they had their faces wrapped in hot towels. While my boss, Jerry Moose, did the shaving while I would lather the next customer. I used to watch fascinated as one regular elderly customer, who had many warts on his face, was shaved. After his face was lathered he would look in the mirror and remove the soap from the warts so the barber could skilfully shave around them.

“During my apprenticeship I was sent to London to a top hairdresser, Cyril Packer, to further my skills. He offered me a huge wage to stay and work for him, but I was bound by the terms of my apprenticeship. I came back with skills unseen in Ipswich. I am proud of the fact I was the first hairdresser in town who had been trained in blow waving etc.

“As the trend for new styles evolved through the 1950s young lads used to ask if we could offer the latest cuts. I used to say 'not only can I do it. I probably invented it!

“Mr Payne was not sure if his older customers would feel comfortable with me blow waving men's hair among his regulars, many of which were First and Second World War veterans, so he gave me a chair upstairs in the ladies section for the new service.

“We had trolley bus wires outside and the buses ran very close to the shop. Often the overhead power arms would come of the power lines and hit the shop roof sending tiles flying into the road.

“The shops in my time there had changed a little from the 1930s photograph. Next to Payne's in my time there was Nichols fruit and vegetable shop. There was a curious little shop called Pat's. The lady there used to sit in the window and mend nylon stockings.

“There was a watch and clock repair service, Cox's sweet shop, Taylor's cycle shop, and the huge garage of Botwood's. On the opposite side of the street was a public toilet and cycle park. One day the girls from Nichols fruit shop came running into the barbers to tell us their shop was on fire. We called the fire service who where were then based just around the corner in Bond Street. We stood outside and watched with some surprise as they drove straight past ringing their bell. We did our best to put the fire out until they came back!”

“54 years later I can honestly say I have never regretted going into the trade. I have met some wonderful people, many of which have become good friends. I am still cutting after all these years. It has been happy and full of laughs.”

• Memories of Mr Sadd's barbers shop in St Margaret's Street, Ipswich, have come from Eddie Clowe of Hutland Road, Ipswich.

Eddie said: “In the 1940s and 1950s I lived near the Ipswich town centre, I knew all the shops in St Margaret's Street. On the corner of Coleman Street where the estate agents is now, was Mr Swindon's butchers shop, which he ran with his son John. Next door to that was Mr Sadd, a gent's hairdresser. Mr Sadd had no electricity and his lighting was by gas mantel. He cut our hair by hand clippers. He always had a 'ciggy' in his mouth and the ash used to drop down our necks! When he finished he always gave us two sweets and a sausage roll. He only charged six pence (2.5p). If we went across the road to Paynes, they used to charge 9d with no extras

“Next to Sadd was Mr Gould pork butcher, a big red-faced man, always very jovial and we got some very good 'dripping' from him, which tasted wonderful on toast. Next to his was a wet fish shop. In the summer the windows of the shop were open to the road with plenty of dust flying around!

“Nearby was Mr Olley, a greengrocer. As boys we used to go in his yard, at the side, and he gave us orange boxes, sometimes we took them home and chopped them up for kindling for the fire, or found a set of old wheels and made a cart.

Each of these people operated for a number of years and the shops only disappeared when the owners died.”

• BRICKWORKS and wartime activity in the Dales area of Ipswich has brought many memories from readers to the weekly Kindred Spirit feature.

Simon Martin of Dales Road, Ipswich, lives in the former base for the Ipswich 'Dads Army.'

Simon said: “What is now my parent's house was used by the Home Guard during World War Two. You can still see where they banged their hob nail boots outside the back door.

“The house was the first to be built at the top end of Dales Road in 1935. The Bofors gun, mentioned in a recent Kindred Spirits, was mounted at The Grove close to the junction with Henley Road.”

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