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Sunday, July 17, 2011



To those of you who don’t know what “Musical Pictures” is or was it was a radio program that was only broadcast here in Kanawha County, WV. And it was a program for grade school students:  The late Bill Richardson [the weatherman at that time for channel 8 here] would play a famous music composition and then ask us to draw what we heard. I first heard it in the fourth grade and remember that after it went off [the teacher turned off the radio] my teacher would hand out drawing paper to us and we had to draw a picture about something from the music.

Since I always loved to draw, I was in heaven! And I was eight and had long hair halfway down my back. This was my first time at this grade school—Highlawn Elementary as I had transferred from another school for my parents and I moved to St. Albans, WV. It was the typical school for back then: Wooden desks nailed down to the floor and placed in rows—remnants of a hundred  years before apparently. Every desk had an inkwell and every desk had a kid behind it except for the last desk [wish I had that one after what happened to me!]

So here I was drawing a scene [can still remember it. I drew a red brick house and some kids beside it]when I felt something on my hair and then a sound. Knew that sound! It was scissors and the boy behind me, John, had cut my hair. Turned around to see a big wad of my hair on his desk and then felt the back of my head. He had cut off my hair right smack in the middle right up to my neck! Well, my teacher saw it too and John was promptly pulled up to the front of the class and paddled.

And here I was with long hair on the sides and way short hair in the back. I was mortified. Mortified all day and the day seemed to have no end. And he was still sitting behind me and I wouldn’t look at him. When the dismissal bell rang, I headed for home which was a long hike up the huge hill across from school—South Walnut Street. My babysitter was there and she went haywire and called my mom at work. I can still hear my mom’s words on the phone to me to this day. Both of my parents worked [not typical for that time] and when they got home, I was taken out in the backyard by my mom wielding a pair of scissors. Had to sit in a chair and she promptly cut off my hair on the sides and I wound up with a haircut that only can be described as a bowl cut.

Sick to my stomach. Hated it. But there was nothing else that my mom could have done; it would have looked quite stupid to walk around with long hair on the sides and short up to the neck in the middle. [In today’s world it would have been great—cool and I  would have been in style but not then—ever.] Remember going to bed sick to my stomach and dreaded going to school the next day for two reasons: I hated my hair and school pictures were going to be taken!

Sometimes you just have to live with what has happened to you; I did and survived the rest of the school year. But when I got my school pictures back, I looked like an idiot; the group picture was worse. Stuck out like a sore thumb with my hair going every which way.

I was with this same group of kids till we went to junior high school at St. Albans Junior High. Some were still in my homeroom while others got separated into other rooms. In the middle of the eighth grade, my parents decided to move to Charleston, WV and I hated it. Didn’t want to leave St. Albans but what choice did I have? None.

Whose grandmother lived close to mine in Charleston? John, the hair cutter! I would go on to see him for years and he always apologized for cutting off my hair and by that time I could laugh about it—sort of.  Forward in time to when I was teaching school and lo and behold, my school,[J.E.Robins] along with Lakewood Elementary in St. Albans were chosen by the board of education to partner in a whole language program. I was so excited about this program and our staff met the Lakewood staff. One woman had a familiar last name! She was married to John! When I introduced myself and told her who I was she said, “So you’re the one!” Guess that John had told her that story more than once. Both of us laughed and developed a long friendship.

Several years later, I had a student teacher [I had many] named Angie. She was impressive from the start; we were talking and then she told me that she was engaged. Asked her who and it was John’s son! And then she said, “So you’re the one!”

If you are wondering if John and I are still friends, yes we are. Off and on I talk to him or his wife on the phone. And I am friends with  his daughter-in-law who was my student teacher! But when anyone brings up those two words “Musical Pictures” I am thrown back to that terrible day of getting my hair cut off and after that, I never liked “Musical Pictures” again—ever. John will remember that day as well. But he did apologize a gazillion times!

Sherry Hill

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Sherry, for an opportunity to remember what was one of my favorite times in grade school - Musical Pictures! Of course, I never had any personal disasters with it like you described. But, I also underwent what was an upsetting haircut at age 11. My huge, long braid was cut and I was given a more "modern" below-the-ear bob. I never had shoulder-length hair again until I reached age 62 when I decided that I very much missed having a long ponytail or braid. Without mentioning my current age, I'd like you to know that I still have long hair.