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Woodworking: Neither tight-fisted nor poor

Overheard at Selah Vie, formerly known as The Dish and the Spoon at the table reserved for the Selah Vie Sages, that coterie of discussants who argue about asphalt vs. cement driveways and the effectiveness of Metamucil vs. All-Bran.

Your chronicler has been out of the loop so long at resorts like Kinnic Rehab and Village des Pins in Sarasota, he has little to say, so must depend on the other Sages who wisely abstained from breaking their legs.

The first Sage recalled a parent who had a real affection for money—as long as it stayed in his wallet.

"He was so tightfisted," the Sage recalled, "that when we were kids he forced us to make do with two old television sets, one which had a picture but no sound and the other which had sound but no picture. Coordinating the two was a real challenge."

Another Sage piped up. "My mother wasn't tight-fisted, but she was poor during the Depression, so poor, she made our gravy out of wiener water."

And yet another: "My old barber in St. Paul was neither tight-fisted nor poor, but didn't like to part with his money, especially to crooks along University Avenue, where his old shop was located. So what was his solution to the robbers who inhabited the thoroughfare? He simply got hold of a St. Paul Police officer's coat and hung it on the coat rack. No officer, just his coat."

The barber story got this chronicler's creative juices flowing. Well, not really. The story got the chronicler's father going. This was quite remarkable because my father passed on to the great barbershop in the sky more than 20 years ago.

That chronicler had lots of barber stories to tell, which is quite remarkable because he lost most of his hair by the age of 25.

—By Dave Wood

Nothing ever evaporated through his bald pate and he sported an incredible memory until the day he died. He recalled his days as a bartender at The Antique.

"Every morning Coach (not his real name) ordered three fingers of Corby's rotgut, straight. With a shaky hand he'd grab a bar towel, wrap one end around the glass of booze, throw the other end around his neck and pull with his free hand. The glass would glide smoothly to his gaping maw. He'd down the drink in a gulp, leave three quarters and go off to shave Charlie Melby, the town's banker."

When dad was a little boy, he remembered the same coach and his barber partner, Marty.

"They purchased the first radio in town and installed it in the back room of the barber shop. Every day, they'd catch the Cubs game, find out the score over the air and place bets on the outcome, which didn't reach Whitehall until the next day when the Milwaukee Journal was delivered. The fellas made a tidy sum until Charlie Melby bought the town's second radio and then the jig was up."

Seventy years later, I dropped in on dad and he had a big grin. He was still patronizing the same shop and that morning he'd received a phone call from Myrtle, the wife of Marty's son, the last barber in town, who was 90 years old.

"Myrt called and asked me if the rumor she had heard was true, that her husband would get to talking when he was cutting a head of hair and forget to finish the job. They say folks have to go to Blair to finish it off. If this is true, I want to reimburse you fellows. Of course I told her no, that wasn't true."

"Well was it?" I asked.

"Of course it was true, but I always sort of liked to get over to Blair, where I've got lots of old friends."