here were just 2 of us in the shop when it all started. Me and the kid in the chair. Haircuts, $2.50 for adults $1.75 for kids under 12. The kid was probably easily 13 or maybe 14 but I was certain he had been coached by his mom to say he was 12. It was 1961 and seventy five cents could go a long way. He was my first customer of the day and I could just tell that his fine spring day was going to wonderful, that was until Wally from the bakery next door burst through the door.
“Hey Steve! Turn on your TV. The Russians put a man in space!” Before I knew it, Wally was out the door and heading down to the next shop, to spread the news. I was proud of my TV. It was a Zenith console and it drew in customers I didn’t know I had. I walked across the shop and turned on the TV. While I waited for it to warm up, the kid joined me. I glanced at him and he held up 2 dollars. “Sorry Kid, we’re not done yet, I was just turning on the set.” As if he was sentenced to the electric chair, he hunched over and he dragged himself over to the chair and climbed back in.
I found CBS on channel 2 and adjusted the antenna until both sound and picture came in. It was some kid named Walter reading off of the teletype machine. I could almost hear it in the back ground.
“Russian Space Agency…..Captian Yuri Gagarin….Circling the Earth….Vostok 1…..No response from the White House.”
Wally was back, and watched along with me and the kid. A few minutes later another customer came in and paused along with us to watch the news.
“Holy Mother of God” said the new comer. Wally and I nodded in agreement.
“I hear he’s over Kansas right now!” Wally cried. “He could drop a bomb on Topeka if he wanted to. We’d be at war for sure, then. We may be now for all I know.” I could hear a bit of panic in Wally’s voice and I tried to hush him.
A mom with her 3 boys walked in, and the boys squirmed in front of us, just to see what we were watching. I heard her gasp, as she dug her fingernails into the shoulders of her youngest boy. This was more than I’ve ever had in my 2 chair shop.
We were a small crowd now, 7 of us around the TV, watching history unfold before us, perhaps even the fate of our country or the world simply because there was a single communist flying over our beloved Kansas. I never did get to finish that kid’s his haircut. For all I know he still looks like one ear is lower than the other.