May 7, 2013 — I’ve never shaved my head or looked like a ripe bowling ball — until now. Oh, back in the good old days of the 1950s my brother and I used to get pretty-close-to-shaved military style, high and tight, buzz cuts every couple of months. It was the style in those days, and if we could convince our dad to take us to a real barbershop and get a flattop, we were living. But we were mostly poor in those days, so we usually got an old, holey towel, a rickety stool in the middle of the kitchen floor and mom pushing the noisy, whirring shears.
As a guitarslinger wannabe at Fresno High School a few years later, I wanted my hair to be as long as I could grow it. Unfortunately, my alma mater was hair hostile. We students constantly struggled against a strict dress code that was lifted a year after we graduated. A boy’s hair was deemed too long if it touched his ears or his collar.
So, I always used a big scoop or two of Brylcreem to grease my hair back and keep it off my ears. If all went well, every few months my hair would be all one length and stretch all the way to my collar. I’d get away with this for a while, but sooner or later my hair would slip over my ears, and I’d get busted.
If I had been just a little bit smarter, I probably could have made things a lot easier on myself. You see, the grooming standard relaxed a bit for those poor, pathetic souls who were obedient, quiet and didn’t cause any big, giggling disruptions, but that was a difficult standard for me to maintain because I was too busy trying to discover some kind of fun that would give me a reason to be at the school in the first place.
The opportunities were endless if one were creative. For example, you’d be surprised how far you can stretch a piece glass tubing if you have a Bunsen burner burning bright blue, a couple of co-conspirators and a teacher who’s not paying attention in chemistry class. We concocted several batches of messy, bubbly stuff, too. Why, one day a friend of mine created a whole new stench that cleared the second floor of the building for the rest of the afternoon! Legendary glory.
I’d always get nabbed in the middle of some situation, and rather than deal with my antics and me directly, the teacher would just march me to the dean of boy’s office. I immediately knew what that meant — another stupid meeting with the hair police.
I’d endure all sorts of ribbing from my classmates as I sat there nervously for an hour or so on the long bench of shame near the doorway waiting for my mom to arrive so the three of us could have a probing and serious discussion about my appearance. No amount of pleading would ever convince my mom my success as a rock star totally depended upon the length of my hair.
Instead, we’d go into the dean’s inner office and plop ourselves down on a couple of hard chairs positioned across from his desk. He’d rant and rave and poke the desk with his index finger, and mom would just agree with everything he said.
“Oh, yes, I can’t imagine what’s gotten into him,” she’d say. “You’re right, this is completely unacceptable. He’s absolutely pathetic. A disgusting embarrassment, I couldn’t agree with you more. Yes, something must be done immediately. Of course, Mr. Scambray, I’ll take care of it right away,” etc., etc., etc.
After the first time I knew exactly how it would end. I’d get kicked out of school for the rest of the day, and I could return the next day if I had an acceptable do. Yuck. We’d go home, and it was mom, the holey towel, the rickety stool, the noisy clippers and me in tears. Again.
Anywho, last week someone suggested someone from the paper should participate in the upcoming St. Baldrick’s cancer research fundraiser. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to become a shavee. To tell you the truth, I’m not all that crazy about shaving my head, obviously. The thought of it raises lots of issues for me because I’m kind of partial to my hair, although I don’t wear it all that long any more. And Cindie doesn’t seem too crazy about the idea either. (She said she doesn’t know what I’ll look like bald.) But dismissing those concerns as irrelevant, I’ve decided to join in this effort to help raise a few dollars for cancer research just the same.
Let me be serious for a moment. I suspect nearly every family has had some encounter with cancer. The disease claimed my dad when I was a kid. A generation later my uncle’s son died of the same disease. Recently my brother and my sister-in-law survived cancer surgeries, and two brothers from a family I’ve known most of my life succumbed in the past few months.
When my dad was sick, my uncle sent him to the top blood cancer doctor in the country. He told my dad he had some good news and some bad news. The good news was they knew what treatment he needed — a bone marrow transplant. The bad news was it would be about 20 years before doctors figured out how to do that procedure.
Today, bone marrow transplants are common and many people survive blood cancers because of them, especially the little ones. These advances in medical science cost money for research, and every little bit helps us move a tiny step closer to a world where we all can finally be freed from this dreadful killer.
I hope you will join me and support me in this fundraising effort. No donation is too big or too small. You could drop off a donation at the front desk at the Lassen County Times office, 100 Grand Ave. in Susanville. Checks should be made out to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
You also can find more information at stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/10146/2013/ or by calling (888) 899‑2253 or the Diamond Mountain Casino at 252-1100. If you’d like to donate over the web, I’m on the Diamond Mountain Casino team, and I’m listed as Samuel Williams.
Thanks for your help. I truly appreciate it, and so will those who may be saved in the future because of our humble efforts today. They may never know our names or what we did, but they certainly will enjoy the difference we made in their lives. Frankly, I can’t think of better reason to shave my head.
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