Big Rapids holds the bulk of my childhood memories. Saulte Ste. Marie and Faribault each have some of my memories, but Big Rapids dwarfs both of them.
In all those years living in Big Rapids there were only two places I’d generally get my haircut: Dan’s and Brown’s Barbershops. The two places were very different.
Dan’s Barbershop was by far the more interesting of the two. Located next to the feed mill, it was not the most cultured of places. The building was small, and I doubt it could have fit more than two barber chairs, which was fine, since there were only two guys who cut hair that I can remember.
Stepping into the store was like entering the back woods. Copies of Field & Stream were strewn about a small coffee table, and a few chairs and a sofa were available for customers to wait their turn. A Rubik’s Cube sat next to the magazines hopelessly twisted into an unsolvable mess. Other peg board games were there as well.
Mounted on the walls were small animals, birds, and fish of various sorts. Apart from the peg board games, this provided much of my entertainment while I waited. I’m not sure what kind of person decorates a barbershop with ermines, ducks, trout, and antlers, but it didn’t seem to bother any of the other customers.
My favorite aspect of Dan’s Barbershop was the bathroom. I never worked up enough courage to use it, or even to look inside, given the strange appearance of the rest of the place. I don’t even know if it had a toilet. The door itself was covered with a poster and a hand-drawn, cartoonish lumberjack with a long handlebar mustache carrying a double-bitted axe and the words, “Pee here.”
Over time we gradually started going exclusively to Brown’s. The building was bigger, conversation was nicer, there were more magazines, and a TV always turned to golf. Besides, I could get a decent flat-top or crew cut, my preferred styles.
I became a bit of a regular at Brown’s even after I was old enough to drive on my own and chose where I wanted to go. My last haircut before my wedding was at Brown’s. And my last haircut before moving to Indy. Two of the more important events in my life were predicated by a visit to Brown’s, and that makes it special to me.