I was visiting my Dad in Thornton, Colorado last year when I made this portrait of him. I asked my Dad what it was like growing up without hair? He never really talked about it with me. He’s from the silent generation. I always knew how much it bothered him, so I asked him about it, this is what he told me.
My hair just fell out one day when I was 10 months old, no one knew why. That was in 1935.
I grew up very poor on a farm in Windsor, Colorado just south of Ft. Collins and west of Greeley. It was just farms and patches of dusty dirt out there and my family didn’t have the doctor visit because it cost too much money.
I was very self-conscious of my appearance and I always wore a hat except when I went to Church on Sundays. I didn’t like going to church because grown up people would walk up and rub the top of my head and throw comments at me. Everywhere I went people looked at me. I hated that so much.
When I got a little older, we moved into town, onto 5th street in Greeley and my Uncle gave me his bike. My Uncle Art rode that bike to work when he was a railroad man for the Union Pacific railroad. The bike was old and it was manufactured before the war. I was surprised it didn’t get donated to the war effort and melted down and used for war metal. That bike might have wound up as part of a gun barrel on a Sherman tank to kill Nazis or blow the head off Hitler but it didn’t, my guess is because my Uncle Art needed it to get to his job.
One day a guy from the Lions club pulled up in a big mercury sedan. He stopped me on my bike and asked me questions about my hair, my appearance, and my history. I never understood why people cared so much about the way I looked. He asked where I lived so I pointed to my house and he walked over to my Mom and they vanished under the shadow of the screen door.
After the man left my house I thought I was in big trouble. My Mom sat me down and said the man in Lions club was upset because I had no hair and I always wore a hat. He said the Lions club would raise money to buy a toupee for me. I guess the Lions Club members didn’t like looking at a bald kid wearing a hat riding around their neighborhood on a bike that should have been melted down for war metal.
The Lions club raised the money needed for the toupee and one day after school my Mom picked me up in our 1940 Ford and I went into town to get fitted for the toupee, see.
It was a strange hairy thing and it felt foreign sitting on top of my head, and it was so hot from the tape or glue. I missed my hat. I wanted to simply be left alone and wear my hat and ride my bike, but a guy in the Lions Club ruined that simple pleasure because he had a problem watching a bald kid in a hat ride a bike around his neighborhood.
Imagine that? He had the problem with me — and he had hair! I did not have single hair on my head and I never would.