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The week's stubble needed to be removed and the slightly peppery scent of Old Spice added to his face to mix with the Sweetheart soap smell. It was shaving day.
Our bathroom didn't have a sink and mirror to stand in front of while he tended to his weekly ablution. The bathroom was small, with only a flush toilet and a bathtub, a room with a little window dressed with a frilly white curtain.
He shaved at the kitchen table. Once a week after supper and the table being bare, my father took out his "stuff".
His stuff consisted of a white and red metal box with a lid, in which he kept an old coffee mug with a broken handle. In the cup was a round cake of white shaving soap about 1 inch thick when it was new and thinner when it was well used. A brush with a wooden handle lay beside the cup and sometimes it had the dried soap crystals stuck on it, left over from the previous week's shave. The razor with a screw on handle was there too, open and ready for a blade to be put in. A box of Gillette double edged blades and a stypic pencil finished off the contents of his box.
He carefully set a red steel cup filled with hot water on the table and rested a round mirror against it. Next to the mug was a 6 inch length of toilet paper. He always nicked himself during the shaving process and after dabbing a dot on his face from the pencil, he stuck a small piece of paper over the cut until the bleeding stopped. Sometimes he nicked himself in 2 or 3 places and had little hunks of paper hanging on his face. He looked so funny then.
My father's beard wasn't a heavy one but the week's 1/8 inch brown stubble was shaggy looking. It was uneven, some places having a heavier hair growth than others. And it was pricky.
Before he shaved, I remember that I liked to rub my young girl's cheeks against the pricky growth and feel the scrub against my face. It felt good and I took in the clean Sweetheart bath soap scent.
Dad always took his time shaving. It was a slow and methodical undertaking. My brothers and I knew not to bother him because he was in his own space for 15 minutes or so. This was his time and his alone. He ignored whatever we might happen to say to him. We did watch him though as he wet his brush in the hot water, swirled it around on the round cake of soap, looked at it to see that it was soapy enough and if it was, to gently slowly swirl the lathered brush on his face. He was giving himself a lingering facial massage. Maybe, for a minute, he daydreamed about a young sweetheart's fingers gently caressing his cheeks. It was a sensual lathering.
After the shave when he'd removed the dabs of toilet paper from his face and rinsed off the leftover soap at the kitchen sink, he was approachable again. We could talk to him and he would answer.
Old Spice was the only aftershave he used and he used it liberally. He washed his face all round with it and rubbed some into his neck, over his arms and into his hair. Oh, how I loved the smell of that after shave.
When he smelled so good and with his face so smooth, again I'd rub my cheeks against his. I'd nuzzle deep into his neck. I inhaled him. He was my Dad and I loved him dearly. I remember.
I'm 67 years old now and Dad has passed on. In his later years, he refused to own an electric razor. He refused to have one of "those fancy razor things". He refused to try a new aftershave. He was as much a part of Old Spice as Old Spice was a part of him. I remember.
Fortunately, after his passing and things were upside down, I remembered to take the by now battered and dented white and red metal box with all his "stuff".
And whenever I catch a whiff of a gentleman's Old Spice aftershave or cologne, be it even for second as I pass by a stranger on the sidewalk, I remember and it gives me a tender warm feeling.
The power of scent can't be touched or seen but it can be remembered and felt.
On a lighter note, my son now has his grandfather's beaten up metal box and he uses it for his shaving needs. He uses an old fashioned double edged razor too, his choice after having tried many of the currently marketed shaving systems. He wrote a thriftyfun.com piece about it called Saving Money Using Double Edge Safety Razors.
I've kept the red hot water cup. It's mine and I remember.
Source: My Memory Museum
Shaving! One of those things most of us guys do. A necessary evil. It's nuts how much we can spend on razors these days. "But we have no choice if we want a good shave!", you may say. Well actually we do. Remember the old style razors you may have used or seen your dad or Grandfather using way back? The "double edge safety razor" is what I'm talking about. Not the old fashioned straight razors from Little House On The Prairie or the first Godfather movie but the type with the thin, flat double edge blades that came in the little boxes and you install them into a re-useable handle. Ring any bells? Guess what? You can still buy and use them! More on that later.
Starting around WW2, pretty much everyone owned a safety razor and just bought the flat DE (double edge) blades for it. Incredibly cost-efficient and sensible. Then by the mid 70s Gillette wanted to make more money. They once had the market share for the DE blades but by this time their patents on the blades had long run out and there were too many companies making blades. Profits were down. The solution was to invent a superior way to shave and convince people through savvy marketing that they needed it and all of a sudden the way we had been shaving for years was obsolete and un-cool. Of course anything superior costs more (and makes more profit). This superior way to shave was the proprietary cartridge razor system that is mostly used today in our wealthy part of the world. So precious are these blades that they are commonly locked up and require permission and a chaperone to buy them! Ha!
So the question must be asked. "Do we really need multiple blades with space-age coatings on a pivoting head with special lubricating strips to get a good shave?" In my opinion, no way! I personally feel that I get a better shave using my DE with less irritation than with a high-tech expensive cartridge blade. Of course like a lot of things, there is a method and a certain learning process to using a DE razor. Some blades and handles work differently for different people so there may be a bit of trial and error involved to get started. It's not rocket-science or anything, there is just a learning curve and it can take some practice to master. Most DE shavers choose to use quality shave soaps that they whip up into lather using an old-school shave brush and bowl. The term wet shaving is used to describe this. Google or Youtube the term and you will find more than enough info.
This brings us to the reason I am writing this and posting this here. Cost. DE shaving can be the cheapest way you will ever find to stay well-shaved (and along the way maybe turn a chore into a bit of fun!). There are many razors, blades, brushes, soaps, etc. out there and you can spend as much or as little as you want. Amazon and eBay are flooded with this stuff. Even Walmart has a basic brush and soap. Good quality German made handles can be had for $30 which will last a lifetime. Blade prices can vary. You can find 100 packs of good blades for $15 shipped. The blades I like cost $30 shipped for 100. You can usually get several shaves from a single blade but it can vary wildly based on the blade choice and beard/face type. I get 6 shaves per blade and shave every other day so my 100 pack for $30 will keep me shaved for 1200 days! Wow! Thats over 3 years! $10 per year after buying my one-time $30 razor and some shave soap. 30 cents per blade that lasts me 6 shaves. 5 cents per shave and these are the more costly blades. You get the picture. This is how it should be.
Thanks for reading this and I hope you found this blurb interesting. If after reading this you decide to look into wet shaving/DE shaving a bit more you may be surprised to find out how much of a come-back the DE shave is making. In this age of over-priced/over-hyped consumerism I was happy to discover this low-cost solution to another daily expense. Not to mention the environmental impact the switch can make. And with that I conclude. Good luck and Happy S(h)aving!