1. The horseless carriage. 2. Electric lights. 3. Sliced bread. 4. Fifty stickers on a one-year-old.
***** No, this is not a “which doesn’t belong, and why?” but rather a “what do all of these have in common?” kind of thing. The answer could be: great achievements of the 20th Century. It could also be: items found on Main Street, U.S.A.® But the answer is a combination of the two. Knowing this, you may dissect the items above and state, “Okay, 1 and 2 are pretty obvious. I see these all along Main Street, and they were significant inventions of yesteryear. Sliced bread? Alright, in any given restaurant along Main Street, I guess I can find that. But ‘fifty stickers on a kid’! What the heck is that?” Well, not only can one find this nutty phenomenon on Main Street, but it is also an invention of epic proportions! An explanation: have you ever seen a kid get his first haircut at the barber? It is usually tragic. If the child is not screaming his head off, he is staring ahead, stone-faced, trying not to allow the quivering lower lip of his fear sputter into an all out explosion of razor blade horror. So, when I tell you my wife and I flew to Walt Disney World® from New Jersey for the sole purpose of having our one-year-old son Dean’s first haircut at the Harmony Baber Shop, you might imagine that our enthusiasm and expectations of a lifelong memory were tempered slightly by the distant fear that our son might have a meltdown observable from Kennedy Space Center. But stubbornly pursue this experience my wife and I did, and as all three of us walked through the main gates of the Magic Kingdom® Park at 8AM on that fateful day last week, the butterflies in our stomachs were a happy confusion of giddy anticipation and mildly anxious nausea. (Well, actually, my wife and I felt these feelings – my son was busy staring at balloons.) Can you picture it? One of those muggy, yet cool, mid-spring Florida mornings…the overcast skies tempered by that beautiful Disney-vanilla smell thing going on. The only sounds are the low hum of the Main Street vehicles crawling among the sparse, yet building crowds and the echoing din of the Ragtime compositions so common to this land. And while a few misguided folks ruin the serenity by sprinting towards the horizon to get on attractions with a current wait-time of “5 minutes,” the majority of the populace moves at a slow pace with coffee, cake, and turkey legs in hand. This was the scene as the three of us slowly sauntered over to the barber shop for our appointed time. As we approached the shop, I stopped and took a breath. Years and years of imagining this day – the day I would take my first-born to have his or her first haircut in the haunting yet sublime shadow of Cinderella Castle – had come to fruition. My wife asked if I was ok. Ok? Ok??? Yes, I was most certainly, “Ok.” Whether this boy in my wife’s arms was going to purr like a kitten or roar like a Barbusol-ed lion, nothing was going to ruin this experience – an experience I knew Dean would someday appreciate himself, even if he did get the diaper scared off of him during the process. So forge ahead we did…past the Walt Disney World Railroad; along the thoroughfare with the Chamber of Commerce, vehicle garage, and City Hall; and around the various merchandise and snack carts setting up for the day. What greeted us was a quiet and sleepy alcove in which the barber shop resides; stained glass, gas lamps, and peace are the atmospheric attributes of the entrance to the shop. And once inside, period cast members in traditional turn-of-the-20th Century costume enhance the sensation of gaiting into a chop shop with your great grandfather while reading the paper about the Pirates acquiring Honus Wagner or the latest Rag to hit the music circuit. Shawna was our barber, and she could not have been a better host for our Dean; we approached check-in, gave our name, and within seconds, Dean was propped up on a booster seat…with about four-dozen stickers all over his body – all before we could warn her about Dean’s periodic shyness. But this was not Shawna’s first rodeo, and she was several steps ahead of us before we even walked in. You see, there was a method to her madness, and it was yet another example of the “should never be shocked anymore but sometimes am” preparation of the Disney Cast Members. For while this was our special moment, the hair stylists of the Harmony Baber Shop blend magic and pragmatism into one brilliant stroke: they treat every occasion with fresh, spontaneous magic without forgetting the lessons learned from doing a billion other “first haircuts.” The stickers, as it were, seemed like a thoughtful gesture to make the baby in the chair happy, but the reality is, they also served as a brilliant distraction for Dean while Shawna plied her sharp and scary blades near my kid’s head! No crying…no staring into the horrific abyss…just picking (and eventually eating) the Mickey stickers strategically placed all over our son! How smart is that! The result was a unforgettable family moment mixed with Disney pixie dust and service expertise…in short, a perfect experience. The package of the “Harmony First Haircut” is reasonably priced (approximately $20) and includes enough swag to give the most unsentimental of Disney fans – if they exist — a sense of “Aw-shucks” appreciation: 1. clipping’s of your child’s hair with magic dust, 2. a certificate, and 3. a special set of Mickey ears. And at the heart of it is that genius…that Disney savvy. All of the theming and sensitivity to make Mom and Dad emotionally gratified and keeping junior from screaming like a banshee. All thanks to a smile and stickers. I’d say that level of smarts is definitely on par with sliced bread — at least! – if not the horseless carriage itself. Hmm. But maybe not the electric light. Not yet. They still need to devise a plan to stop Mom and Dad from crying to achieve that level.
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
Rich McNanna is a seventh grade language arts teacher and avid Disney, baseball, and food fan from Westfield, New Jersey. He is a regular columnist sharing his passion for Disney food experiences and an avid listener and reader of the WDW Radio world. He and his wife dream of one day purchasing a Disney Vacation Club membership so that they can take their baby boy to the greatest place on Earth at least once a year…just for the churros.