#62 Shave & Haircut

AmperArt #62 Shave & Haircut

 #62 Shave & Haircut
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Andrew J. De Simone
December 31, 1899 – March 29, 1962

Daddy's Gravestone

ANDREW J. De SIMONE
Beloved Husband & Father
1899 – 1962

Before I release AmperArt #100 with a big celebration later this year, I wanted to include in the first 100, two specially-numbered pieces of my artwork to honor my mom & dad, both of whom I love & admire, & from whom I inherited my talent:
My mother, who died at 84 years old on February 13, 2001, for whom I created #84 Love & Devotion, issued this past February 13.
My father, who died at 62 years old on March 29, 1962, for whom I created #62 Shave & Haircut.

This was to be issued March 29, the anniversary of my father’s death, but computer crashes prevented that. So I spent an entire day writing & editing the story about my dad. I have stripped out everything that has little to do with Shave & Haircut, or barbering, and will publish that for Father’s Day. Then you’ll read, besides knowing my father as the barber, why my childhood was so rich with happy memories & abundant love. That part of the story, however, will begin with Mother’s Day. 

(#84, the tribute to my mother, is actually the 98th AmperArt created & this one, #62 for my father, is actually the 99th one created—the edition numbering does not relate to the order of issue. The next AmperArt will be #100, both in edition number & issue. I have no idea what the theme or title will be.)

barber shears

Daddy was a barber. Hence the title of this piece, Shave & Haircut. Being a barber was, to me, very special. I got to visit him at the shop which was walking distance for my mother & me from our house in Glendale, California. I loved the smell of the barber shop, always a spicy fragrance of tonics, & my dad “wore” that scent when he came home from work, along with the menthol of his Kool non-filters and Lifesaver mints. And his warm smile & silver hair. Here’s what I remember & what I’ve been told about my dad:

Born the last day of the century—my dad’s incredible birthdate. He was born in Sicily December 31, 1899 & came “on da boat” to America when he was 6 months old. The family settled in Chicago. What’s remarkable about his birthdate (besides being born the last day of the century—the century before last, in fact) is that his age was always the same as the year, to the day. I was born in 1951, & Daddy was 51. He died March 29, 1962, & he was 62. (I find that fascinating. If he knew his age he knew what year it was, & vice versa—a memory device I could use as I get more & more forgetful.) 

Daddy grew up in Chicago with his four brothers & two sisters, was smitten with a waitress from Indiana 16 years his junior (& left her tremendous tips, she told me), & chased after her to Los Angeles. They got married & I was born several years later. I have always liked waitresses (& left them big tips)—like father, like son.Barber comb

Daddy had his own barber shop, although early on upon settling in Glendale, he had a partner—his brother Sam. Those are their actual business cards in the picture below. Very special thanks to my brothers for scanning and sending me images of the business cards, and to my sister for keeping them safely stored. There were four barbers among the brothers: my dad Andrew J., Samuel J., Anthony J., and Michael J. My dad’s middle name was Joseph, so I assume the other brothers were too. (I have no idea who Joseph was in the family ancestry, except that was their father’s middle name as well.) The brothers grew up in Chicago, then relocated near Los Angeles. 

We drove to visit each of Daddy’s brothers who were all barbers, frequently on weekends. I’d play with their children & enjoy some spectacular dinners, both Italian & otherwise. I enjoyed being among the grownups as they conversed & laughed with each other. (I recall lots of cigarettes, cigars & Miller High Life—as well as Sinatra, Perry Como & Vic Damone on the radio.) I enjoyed all my cousins at those visits—Rosie, Chuck, Steve, Cindy, Irene, Ronnie & Michelle.

Another relative (whose family had nothing to do with barbering) we visited frequently was my cousin Mary Ann, who was always there to take care of us when Mom was in the hospital, or to help out in any other way she could. Her father, my Uncle Carlo, tended his garden where I tasted the best tomatoes in my life. He also brined his own olives, sending large jars home with us, & to this day that is a cherished flavor I wish I could experience again.

Those are good memories, hanging out with the aunts & uncles & cousins on the weekends.

Daddy had two sisters & one other brother, none of which were barbers or stylists. I have fond memories of all my aunts, uncles & cousins, on both sides of the family. I will tell you about them when I release a future AmperArt titled Aunts & Uncles. It will include my cousins as well.
Shaving brush

As for the barber tools, I loved the sound of the scissors with their constant snipping rhythm. There was the smell of the tonics & the talc, which Daddy “wore” home every day after work, smelling so fresh & crisp & clean. That was mixed with Spear-O-Mint Lifesavers & the menthol of Kool non-filters. A wonderful, memorable combination.

Barber tools and business cardsAfter each haircut I’d get dusted with a fluffy brush full of lavender talc, and then the best part of all (besides my dad’s soft voice & friendly smile): The Massage. Wow, I have never had a better head-&-neck massage since those by my dad, with the machines strapped to his hands that vibrated every finger deep into the scalp. His massages were wonderful with just his fingers alone, but with the Oster massagers it was amazing. (I inherited one of them, and used to massage my cat with the motorized device. As soon as he heard me turn it on—they were quite loud—Woofer would jump on my lap & start purring immediately. Most cats react to the electric can opener; mine to the electric massager.) I enjoy giving a good massage—and I’m always told “Don’t stop!”—so I wonder if I inherited that from my dad.

One barber tool I didn’t care for so much was the barber strop. Daddy was a good father, kind & gentle, but in those days it was normal for kids get a whipping with a belt when we acted up (I was the king of acting up—still am). Well, Daddy didn’t need a belt—he had something far more effective, the barber strop: two thick pieces of material, one leather & one heavy fabric, used for sharpening the straight-edge blade. Zowie! That stung! It’s pictured near the bottom in the photo of the barber tools—shown far smaller & less intimidating than in real life.

Straight-edge razor
I enjoyed visiting Daddy’s barber shop. I’d walk to there with mom, or Daddy would drive me to be his “assistant” at the shop. I would sweep up the hair on the floor, but I’m sure I scattered it more than anything. It was fun playing with the barber chairs, raising & lowering & swiveling them with the levers. Of course Daddy would pull out the booster seat to give me a haircut, and after he finished I’d give him a penny to tip him like the grownups. Doesn’t sound like much, but in those days, the 1950s, a good tip was ten cents. Remember the ditty “Shave & a Haircut, two bits”? Two bits meant 25 cents, and I recall haircuts in those days weren’t much more than that—well, double, but still only 50 cents. I don’t know how we ate so well, steak just about every night with full-on salad, vegetables, potatoes & dessert—unless Mom made her incredible vegetable beef soup, or lasagna, or spaghetti & meatballs, all from scratch—on a barber’s salary.

Getting back to barbering, I soaked up how my dad interacted with his customers. He was gregarious, cheerful, and always had kind words. I enjoy dealing with clients, and I often think maybe that’s part of my dad’s  influence on me. Mom’s too, as she was a waitress whom everyone loved. One thing I surmise is that I get my artistic talent from both my parents: the conceptual & lettering side from my dad (who had beautiful handwriting) with the whimsical influence of Italian heritage; & the design aspect from my mother (who told me once she would love to have been an architect) with the logic & exactness stemming from my German heritage. As for my perfectionism—that’s just a character defect.

AtomizerDaddy always had a box of Lifesavers (twelve rolls) in his barber shop. In those days they were used as breath mints. He usually had Spear-O-Mint, but sometimes Cryst-O-Mint. I liked those; they were Cryst-O clear. (My favorites, though, were Butter Rum & a strangely minty Choc-O-Late, which is no longer made. Every Sunday Daddy would take me, and eventually my brothers & sister after they were born, to Sav-On Drug Store to stock up on the usual for the week: First, each of us got a nickel ice cream cone, & there was a lot of ice cream on them for just a nickel. What I remember most about the ice cream counter was the beautiful red & white sign with just a touch of green, spelling out Carnation Ice Cream with an illustration of a striped carnation—the type that’s white, rimmed with red. We had all sorts of carnations growing along the side of our house. To this day the striped carnation, just like in the ice cream sign, is my favorite flower. 

After the ice cream cones, we would head to the candy aisle where Daddy would get a box of Lifesavers for the barber shop. I don’t recall if he’d grab his carton or two of Kools on our Sunday errand, or get them from the liquor store across from the barber shop. Most likely he sent a kid over to pick them up and would tip the kid as much as the cigarettes cost. He was like that.

Finally, back in the candy aisle, Daddy would pick up a Cup-O-Gold candy cup which was a special treat he’d give Mom. Sometimes she would share hers with me. They are delicious (like a Reese’s peanut butter cup but instead of peanut butter there’s marshmallow and almonds in a cup of chocolate) but hard to find. Once in awhile I see them & when I do I stock up.

Barber comb

Daddy died at 62 (in 1962) from emphysemia, & I’ll never forget the eerie wheezing sound of the oxygen machine he sat at for 15 or 30 minutes every day for the past months or years of his life. They weren’t silent portable devices like they have today, but a large metal apparatus with shiny steel arms & a huge floor-standing tank with knobs & guages & a horrifying mask. I can still hear his tremendous coughing echoing in the tiled bathroom, especially in the morning as he was getting ready for work. I understand he had malaria as a child, but no doubt it was the Kool non-filters that killed him. I have never smoked for that reason. (In those days, the mid-20th century, smoking was the norm. But our mom quit eventually, & lived to 84.)

Towards the end—prior to the stroke that caused him to go blind for the last days of his life—Daddy’s health was getting progressively worse. But he kept suiting up & showing up to take care of his loyal customers. (My dad would dress up in a crisp white shirt, suit & tie everyday that he served his customers, then add a white barber smock over that when he got to work.) His customers were truly loyal. As his health deteriorated so did his haircuts. Shabby as they were, his customers would have no one else cut their hair. They simply loved my father. That’s one of the finest testimonies I have ever heard about anyone. And right before he took his last breath, he told my mom to grab an envelope out of his coat pocket & give it to his brother. It was payment in full for a loan. My dad had integrity. 

I may or may not have cried between his passing & the funeral; I don’t remember. Was I trying to be brave, now “the man of the house” at just 10 years old? Did I not truly comprehend my father’s life had ended? I’m not sure. But I vividly recall bursting out in tears upon seeing Daddy lying still in the coffin. It finally hit me. I can actually feel that moment right now.

After Daddy died & we were cleaning out the barber shop, we discovered proof of what a typically stubborn Italian he was. Mom brown-bagged his lunch each day, and sprinkled a little Adoph’s on his sandwiches. (Adolph’s was a salt substitute, as Daddy wasn’t supposed to have any salt which he loved as much as the ton of sugar he put in his coffee.) In the back room of the shop—you guessed it—we found a one-pound container of Morton salt!

barber shears

Daddy, you were the fuzzy warmth of the gray sweater you always used to wear & the crisp scent of tonic, mint & menthol. You were kindness, love & integrity. I wish my brothers & sister could have known you as I did, but then I wish I could have known you longer as well. You live in all of us, I can tell, as I see your honesty & and generosity & kindness in all your children. I admire you & I love you.  I’m proud to be your first-born, too, the spoiled brat that I was (and still am).

Carnation


chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at DesimoneDesign.com, my commercial graphic design website. It’s mostly about design, typography, printing, publishing & marketing, but on occasion I’ll divert to a sideways topic that just can’t escape my ranting & raving.


Production notes for #62 Shave & Haircut:
Original size: 20×30 inches

Programs: Adobe Illustrator (ampersand), Photoshop
Font: Rockwell
Ampersand: hand-drawn
Credits:
All barber-related images: depositphoto.com (modified)
Daddy’s gravestone: photographed by Robert DeSimone
Business cards: archived by Roslyn Clark, scanned by Andy DeSimone & Robert DeSimone
Carnation: someone’s garden
You may repost the image. Please credit AmperArt.com.
To download a full-size high-resolution 11×17-inch poster, click on the image.

For professional graphic design, please visit Desimone Design.

Desimone? Damn good!

#70 Candy Canes & Silver Lanes

70 Candy Canes & Silver Lanes


#70 Candy Canes & Silver Lanes
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Do you recognize these lyrics?

I borrowed a few words for AmperArt #70 Candy Canes & Silver Lanes from this song that was popular when I was growing up:

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
by Meredith Willson

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five & ten glistening once again
With candy canes & silver lanes aglow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev’ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots & a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney & Ben;
Dolls that will talk & will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice & Jen;
& Mom & Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well,
The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
& the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.


Song from 1951

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”  was written in 1951 (the year this AmperArtist was born) by Meredith Willson. The song was originally titled “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”. It has been recorded by many artists, but was a hit for Perry Como & The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra on September 10, 1951, & released on RCA Victor as a 45 & a 78 (kids, you know what that means? —no, it’s not pixels per inch). Bing Crosby recorded a version on October 1, 1951, which was also widely played. —from Wikipedia

Although I’m glad I found a song with the lyrics Candy Canes & Silver Lanes in the first stanza, I like the middle part best where the melody changes, playfully & humorously describing how the holiday affects the kids & parents.


Origin of the Candy Cane

According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church on Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. He asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. —adapted from Wikipedia; full story here


ChazHeadXmasHat

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” vividly describes the Christmases I remember as a kid: the candy canes & silver lanes (I think that’s describing the silver garland decorating store aisles), the five-&-ten (we called it a dime store & they actually had lots of stuff for a dime, a nickel, even penny candy. Duncan’s was very conveniently located on our path to and from school.)

Christmas to me used to shimmer with lots of silver: the tinsel which my mother so carefully placed onxmas cookie silver balls the tree; the shiny little round nonpareils on the Christmas cookies that she baked (a decoration that was always special to me, but they’ve been discontinued due to the ingredients — funny, no one’s dead that I know of from eating them); and of course, the aluminum Christmas trees popular in the 1960s, with their magical color wheels. Yes, we had one, as well as white flocked, pink sprayed, & then plain ol’ artificial green throughout the years. The year we went back to a real tree somehow felt more like Christmas again.

Merry Christmas to you, my AmperArt Subscriber.

(more…)

#51 Salt & Pepper

51-salt-pepper

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Daddy died March 29, 1962, over a half century ago. I was 10 years old. He was 62.

Now I am 62.

You can imagine March 29 this year has been on my mind a lot lately. I am healthy, still feel young and strong (until I do something stupid at this age), so it’s hard to imagine my dad looking like such an old man when he passed away at only 62 years old.

But he always looked like an old man to me, and I loved him for it. That’s one reason I’ve always respected my elders. You see, my dad was 51 years old when I was born. Already he had salt & pepper hair, and still a full head of it in the casket. That’s how I’ve always seen and remembered him: with this beautiful, wavy salt & pepper hair that I wanted when I grew old. Well, I have it. Mine’s more solid gray, but that’s okay. It still reminds me of Daddy. (I never called him Dad, always Daddy as I was only 10 when he died. So if it sounds silly that I still call him Daddy, well that’s okay…it just sounds right to me.)

I could tell you a lot about this man I loved and admired, and I will. But one thing that is absolutely fascinating is that Andrew J. De Simone was born December 31, 1899. That’s the last day of the century before last! Which meant he was always the same exact age as whatever year it was—to the day. That’s why it’s a little confusing to comprehend he was 51 when I was born in 1951. And he was 62 when he died in 1962. (more…)

#57 Early & Late

57-early-late

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You’ve heard the expression “always early, never late.” Or is it “never early, always late”? Well, the other day I was both — which inspired AmperArt #57, Early & Late.

I was going to meet a new friend at the movies, and she said she’d be there at 7:15 (the show started at 7:25). Not wanting to make a bad first impression, I arrived at the theater at 6:55.

Only to discover I had forgotten my wallet. (more…)

#38 Form & Function

Form follows function, form meets function, form & function. It’s all about efficiency, simplicity & aesthetics.

Lamps that double as sculpture, sculpture that you can sit on, even a cool graphic that’s really a calendar. Probably the most ubiquitous example of form & function is the wristwatch. The rarest could be the 3 that doubles as an ampersand (sort of) in the latest AmperArt edition.

Form & function is everywhere: our clothing, a building (although some are so ugly they are merely functional, & some are so poorly built they don’t really function).

Another example of form & function is a beautifully decorated serving of food. How about some writing instruments? And of course my favorite, my Mickey Mouse coffee mug. Fun to look at & very functional.

chaz sez:
Movie Night

Recently I discovered the IMDb, or Internet Movie Database. It lists the top 250 movies by popularity according to the general public, and it is constantly fluctuating, especially re-ranking the newer flicks quite frequently.
I have traded in my habit of reading several (actually, too many) chapters of suspense and mystery novels every night that I’m not pushing pixels, for watching every movie on the 250 list.
So far I have been truly delighted with oldies like Charlie Chaplin’s “On the Town,” Laurel & Hardy in “Babes in Toyland” as well as the later Disney version starring “Anette.” I’ve enjoyed “The Sound of Music,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “Harvey“–a real delight. Also saw for the first time “The Godfather”–surprisingly, since I’m Sicilian. Pazienza!
But the most alluring and captivating movie I saw from this list–or from my entire life on this planet–is “The Fountainhead” from 1948. It expresses exactly how I feel about design where every surface, angle, color and detail must have a damn good reason to be there. The movie is about not giving into society, not giving up your principles, living your dream in the face of ridicule and even condemnation–just because one artist is too brilliant for the masses. The movie also features mid-century modern architecture, my absolute favorite (aside from futuristic architecture–but back then it was futuristic).

Perhaps you’ve guessed that movie inspired my “Form & Function” AmperArt piece.