I was at an event this past weekend with a self-proclaimed "damnyankee" named Sue who was raised in Michigan. If you ask me, Sue has been here long enough to become a naturalized Southerner and, judging from the way she devoured her plate of Pippin's barbecue, I'd vouch for her in a pinch.
We had a pleasant conversation about how Conyers and things in general have changed since she moved here many decades ago. I think she and her family arrived just in time to celebrate the Bicentennial. At some point, the conversation turned to hair tonic. I was extolling the virtue of Michigan's beauty -- especially the upper peninsula -- and told Sue a story about the time we took our children to Sleeping Bear Dunes. My kids wore themselves out running up and down the sand dunes and felt like they could fly.
Sue started laughing and told me a funny story about the time her brother, during a family outing to that very place, was running so fast down one of the dunes that he lost his balance and tumbled head over heels for many yards. The thing that made it so funny was that he had pasted his flat-top into position with Butch Wax that morning and for days after was still brushing sand out of his hair.
Those were the days. I wish I had all the money I have spent over the past 55 years trying to keep my hair in place and keeping up with the latest fads. And I do remember Butch Wax. It was pink and came in a small jar. If you had your hair cut in a flat-top -- and everybody did in the late 1950s -- the Butch Wax would make it stand straight up. It would make it smell, too, but I was 6 the last time I had a flat-top and didn't really care if my hair smelled funny or not.
From Butch Wax I graduated to Vitalis. Something makes me want to say that it was yellow. You could pour a little Vitalis in your hand and rub it through your hair and comb it and two days later you could see every comb track and every hair would still be in place -- and your pillow case would be saturated with oil as soon as you placed your head upon your pillow. And I only said "placed" because I never can get the whole lay, lie, laid thing right. That is pretty ironic because Vitalis' iconic ad slogan was, "Are you still using that greasy kid stuff?'
I think that slogan was a direct attack on Brylcreem, which advertised that "a little dab will do ya!" They also had a catchy little jingle. "Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya. Use more, only if you dare. But watch out, the girls'll all pursue ya. They'll love to run their fingers through your hair."
I used a little dab of Brylcreem before every single date from 1966 until 1970 and nobody -- not even Kim Puckett -- ever ran their fingers through my hair. Go figure.
There was also Wildroot Cream Oil. "Use Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie. Keeps your hair groomed neatly and naturally all day."
Come on now. Compared to having a girls fingers running through your hair, looking natural was a pretty empty promise.
By the time I graduated from high school and matriculated at the University of Georgia -- hallowed be thy name -- greasy hair dressings and pomades had gone out of style and styling mousse was still light years away. Everybody wanted the natural look -- shaggy and not greasy. Many of us spent a lot of money on hairspray to keep our hair looking natural. That didn't work particularly well for me, either.
About 15 years ago, I started losing my hair. First it started turning gray and then it started turning loose. From the time we were married, my lovely wife, Lisa, has fussed at me about rubbing my hair too hard after I showered. She insisted that drying my hair too vigorously was making it fall out. I am certain that heredity had a lot more to do with it than vigorous terrycloth action.
Now I "style" my hair the same way I have since 1974. I wash it, towel it dry and brush it sideways, with a part on the left side. The part in front falls over my forehead. I don't try to paste it up with Butch Wax or stick it in place with Vitalis or greasy kid stuff. The hair in back -- well, the hair in back disappeared many years ago.
But there is one tiny little bright spot to my cancer treatments. The Lupron injections, which I get every 12 weeks, destroys my testosterone and zaps my energy -- but it apparently causes hair to grow on the back of my head. My wife noticed it first and my hair dresser, Anna, confirmed it. I don't have any zip on my fastball, but I am growing hair in my bald spot.
Somebody find out where I can get a tube of Brylcreem. I ain't done yet, Charlie. I wonder if Kim Puckett would be interested in running her fingers through what's left of my hair.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.