SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio - My father was not one to mince his words.
"Get a haircut," he would shout. "You want to look like something when school starts. He said it every August until I was old enough to agree with him and find my way to the barber's chair on my own.
Barbers are standing in their windows watching the line of kids walk through the door. Usually, the kids are on parents' orders to trim away the hair from summer's growth.
"I can tell when it's back-to-school time," said barber Joey Collins.
"The kids start piling in," he added, pointing to a line of boys waiting their turns to get into one of Collins' three chairs at Joey's Jazzy Clips Barbershop in Shaker Heights.
"I don't really like getting a haircut, but my mom told me I had to," said one 9-year-old boy who sat waiting for the next open chair. Insuring he followed orders, his mother was with him, also advising the barber exactly how much hair to trim away.
Joey's Jazzy Clips, on Lee Road at Van Aken Boulevard, is one of several Cleveland-area barbershops participating in the Barbershop Literacy Project. In a corner of the shop, there is a wide collection of educational books and magazine all geared to the younger set. While waiting, boys usually thumb through a book that has caught their attention. That is the goal of the project.
However, the barbers in Joey's Jazzy Clips also play a part.
"We tell them to do good in school and to keep their grades up," Sterling Jones said. Robert Hodges, in the next chair, agreed.
"Education is key to these boys and we want them to know we support them in their studies," Hodges said.
One by one, the line of boys sitting in the waiting area of the small shop diminished.
However, soon another group of boys came in. They, too, were under orders to haircuts.
Collins said he could almost change his calendar's page by the numbers of boys walking in for haircuts. He often sees them during the summer months, but as the August temperatures begin to dip and the commercials for school supplies air on the barbershop television, he knows the customer numbers will increase.
"We love it when the kids come back in big numbers," Collins said. Two chairs away, Hodges echoed that point.
"All the kids are also excited to get back to class."
That made one of his youthful customers grimace.
Grimace or not, it is back to school time. And back to the barbershop, too. Just as my father told me years ago, it still rings true.