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Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: A Close Shave

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I guess a memory can come from anywhere. That fact was proved to be true on Thursday as Doug and I discussed his recently shaved beard that he grew in support of the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, Doug’s team spirit only carried them so far and his team was defeated. So it was that on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, a day that will forever be remembered by the Sokolowski family as the day daddy became recognizable again, Doug had a shave.

Doug did the deed with class, at Dick’s Barber Shop here in Sedalia with a straight razor. As we discussed this important matter on Thursday, I began to remember some of my own shaving memories. Several of these memories came when I was a young sailor. As I have written before, I went to boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill. in 1955, when I was just barely 17 years old, and with years to go before I would be able to grow a beard (or so I thought.) One morning, as our company stood in formation for inspection, the drill instructor, an old Chief Petty Officer named Pinkus, glanced at me as he walked by, then stopped and came back to me staring intently at my face.

“Miller,” he said. “Did you shave this morning?”

“No Sir,” I said in the squeaky voice of a scared recruit.

“Why not?” He asked, glaring now.

“ I-I don’t have anything to shave, sir!”

“In the Navy you shave every morning, understand?!”

So it was that every morning I lathered up my face and ran a razor over it removing nothing but the lather. I think I used the same blade all through boot camp.

The next hairy memory happened aboard my ship the USS Hawkins. As a young sailor overseas on my first Mediterranean cruise the night before we pulled into a great liberty port, I noticed a slight growth of hair on my chin, that only showed in the right light. At that point, I figured it was time to start shaving for real, if for no other reason so I could put on some aftershave lotion to empress the girls. The next morning, I purchased an electric razor, and before liberty call, I shaved.

As I was dressing a short time later in my compartment, I noticed some of my shipmates looking at me strangely, something that began to bother me when they also began to laugh and point. I should mention that like many teens who went through puberty late, my skin was as soft as a baby’s behind back then, which is why I took the sailor who ran ship store’s suggestion and bought one of the latest Norelco razors with the circular cutting heads that he said would be gentle on my soft facial skin. As my shipmates continued to laugh and point, I decided I had better look in a mirror to see what was so funny. To my horror, I saw my face with circular red marks all over it, the same size as the heads on the razor. One of my shipmates said it looked like I had been hugged by an octopus. The problem turned out to be the method I used to shave, which was more like dabbing the razor against my skin instead running across it in a smooth even manner. Needless to say I did not go ashore that day or the next. The swirls which looked like a round rash for several days finally did fade away, but not before we were at sea again. I took a lot of ribbing about that incident, and I ended up giving the new razor to one of the older sailors who had tougher skin. I do own one of those triple head razors now, but then again my skin is decades older than it was back then, and I no longer have to worry about getting those round swirls on my face when I shave.

As I said, Doug got a professional shave with a straight razor to get rid of his beard. Fortunately, a straight razor never occurred to me as a young sailor, which is probably a good thing. Just think about how much damage I could have done to myself with one of those things.

Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri Memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’

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