Lies parents tell

For one reason or another; parents tell young children lies. Usually this takes the form of a white lie designed to protect the innocence of the youngster against the big bad world and the pitfalls that can trap the unwary.  Perhaps the word “parable” should be used.

There were two stories I remember my father telling me that come into the category of “lies or parables told by parents” and concern my early life in Penn. 

Perhaps the most horrific in a gothic kind of way was that he always said that he “kept a box of little boy’s ears under the sink in his shop”.  These ears were, supposedly, the residue of small boy’s who “did not sit still” during their haircut.  For some reason I totally believed this story and often used to peep under the sink to see if the box was there.  There was a box although upon reflection it probably contained the materials that dad used to clean the floor with.

The second story concerns the herd of sheep that grazed in the field at the junction of Manor Road and Penn road.  Much of the area was still farmland and I think the field in question became part of Manor road school playing field and part was lost to the dual carriageway.  One day I noticed that the sheep were no longer there and I asked where the sheep had gone.  Not wishing to go into the gory details about how they had probably ended up surrounded by mint sauce and new potatoes, he concocted this very tall story about how their teeth had all fallen out through illness and how they had died of starvation as they couldn’t eat the grass.

Penn Village from an old postcard.

The barbers shop

Dad’s barber’s shop was typical of a lot of the barber’s shops of the time.  A small room equipped with a sink for washing hair and of course the “barbers chair”.  On the wall hung straps etc, which were used to sharpen his razors.  A large mirror faced the chair with a double-handed hand mirror hung by the side.  There were also assorted tapers for “singeing” hair on the nape of the neck after cutting.  

It was often thought that a singeing prevented the recipient catching a chill after his haircut. There were also cards with combs on for sale and various bits of equipment such as the hot towel box and various scissors for trimming, thinning etc.  There was also the obligatory broom for sweeping up the remnants of hair.  A large glass jar containing some kind of antiseptic wash stood on the cabinet for keeping the combs in so that they would be germ free when used on the customers.   On hooks would hang his clippers, hair dryer and the scissors.  “Horst Mann” or a similar name made the clippers and they came with various attachments for trimming and styling.  There were assorted adverts and pictures on the walls.


Horace and Barry the hairdressers

As previously mentioned Horace was not the only barber in the family.  His brother Barry also worked in various barber shops around the area.  When talking about their work they would often compare notes as to the “quality” of the clients including those with lice.  One golden rule was that children were not served on a Saturday, as it was a busy day.  The phrase, if I remember correctly, was “ come on Monday my son, we don’t do little boys on a Saturday”.

Barry ran a shop in Owen road Penn Fields by the junction with Rayleigh road.  Having contracted polio as a child, and having to wear a leg brace, hairdressing and his other occupation of playing piano in pubs suited his infirmity.  He was a wonderful self-taught musician who could hold an audience with most types of music.  As I recall, his “Piece ‘d resistance” was “moonlight sonata or moonlight serenade”.

Penn Road near the hairdresser's.

As well as shop duties Horace also doubled as a hospital barber and he would pedal his way up to the Royal hospital where he would shave patients prior to their operation, not something that many people could do.  Sometimes this would mean unearthly hours on his bike peddling up the Penn road to the Royal hospital.

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