Retired hairdresser Norm Wrightson says he still laughs about the day a mouse popped out of a client’s mop of hair at his barber shop in Fremantle.
“This guy comes into the shop and he’s about six foot-six and he has more hair than you,” the sprightly 89-year-old chuckled, pointing to this journo’s tangled curls and bushranger beard.
“Fedele, one of the hairdressers that used to work for me, put a comb through his hair and a white mouse jumped out. It was the guy’s pet mouse.
“As Fedele was a very excitable Italian, you could only imagine his reaction.”
After 60 years cutting hair at his now-iconic William Street shop Mr Wrightson downed the clippers in 1999.
He still affectionately remembers his dad Bob opening the place back in 1933.
“There were two chairs—my father Bob and my grandfather Ernie were both hairdressers.
“The rent was a pound a week, but there was a barber shop on every corner so you had to be pretty good to stay in competition.
“I left school when I was 15 and my ambition was to be a hairdresser and musician. That’s exactly what happened. Dad retired and I eventually took over the business in 1973.”
“I go back and play in the band and there is blood everywhere. I got home and I’m bent over the table and my wife is taking glass out of my bottom.”
The Bicton local says he still could cut it today as a barber, 14 years after hanging up the scissors.
“You wouldn’t believe it but from the time we started the style has come back practically exactly the same,” he says. “When I started it was all short back and sides. We went through the whole works—the flat top, crew cuts, mohawks—we did everything.”
Mr Wrightson says when he was approached by current owner Morteza Shojaee to celebrate the 80th anniversary of his old digs he was expecting a low-key event.
“I thought he meant he would take us to a restaurant, but he said he was hiring out the town hall,” he laughed. “I thought, gee this is ambitious.”
So Mr Wrightson rang up some muso mates including the original vocalist of his orchestra The Norm Wrightson Band, Dane Gorn, to see if they would dust off the smoking jackets for a one-off show.
Norm Wrightson’s Hairway Salute to Fremantle shindig is at the Fremantle Town Hall this Sunday (October 27) 1–5pm. The nostalgic arvo will feature the George Franklin Big Band, the Zing Swing Dancers and a few surprises.
Mr Wrightson, an accomplished saxophone and clarinet player, says he still remembers the wild nights playing at Victoria Hall in post-war Fremantle.
“Mum would be in the ticket box, dad would be taking the tickets and my brother was the chief chucker-outer as they were called in those days,” he says.
“If there was any trouble I would put the sax down and help him. On this particular night he was in strife so I grabbed the bloke and he smashed the table behind me.
“I go back and play in the band and there is blood everywhere. I got home and I’m bent over the table and my wife is taking glass out of my bottom.
“Fremantle was an exciting place then.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER