Little Fred’s Haircut
Fred was the youngest of Lafar and Beula Atkinson Ruppe’s children. He was named Fred Atkinson Ruppe after his Uncle Fred Atkinson, but was called “Little” Fred for years, even after he was grown and married. Since Fred and Little Fred were always at the same family gatherings, the name was needed and used often, and it stuck, even after he became over six feet tall.
About 1935, when Fred was 9 years old, his family moved from the Cherokee Creek Community in South Carolina to Cliffside. After the move, Little Fred would return to Cherokee Creek in the summer to visit for a week at a time with his Uncle Fred’s family, and they would take the dogs out hunting.
During one visit, Little Fred had spent the week with his Uncle Fred’s family, and was to have a haircut on Saturday before returning to Cliffside on Sunday afternoon. His Uncle Fred was the community barber, albeit unlicensed, and there was usually a waiting line for the barber chair in the front section of his hallway. Since his clippers were manually operated, he was not limited to that area, and during hot weather, often cut the mens’ hair in the shade of the oak tree in his front yard.
Fred had just finished giving someone a haircut when his wife, Emma Huskey Atkinson, called them in to eat. Intending to cut Little Fred’s hair after they finished eating, Fred left his comb and clippers in the seat of the chair under the tree. Little Fred finished eating first, went outside, and sat down to wait for his uncle. He picked up the hand clippers, idly working the scissors-like handles back and forth to see how the clippers worked. He then turned them around and put them up to his forehead, and before he knew it, had taken a clipper wide swath of hair out of the middle of his hairline.
There was no way to repair it, other than to cut off the rest of his hair. This offered Fred, ever the inveterate prankster, the perfect opportunity to play a trick on his sister, Beula. Fred carefully cut all the hair off the top of Little Fred’s head, leaving only a fringe of hair a couple of inches wide above his ears and neckline, in perfect imitation of Lafar’s balding head.
When his parents arrived to take Little Fred home, Fred informed Beula that he had given him a Lafar Ruppe haircut rather than a regular one, and called him out for viewing. Beula was very upset with Fred until she learned of Little Fred’s unauthorized use of the clippers, then was ready to take a switch to him. Since his joke had gotten the desired rise from Beula, Fred talked her out of using the switch and clipped off the rest of Little Fred’s hair, leaving him with what he called a “buzz cut.”
More about Little Fred
When his Dad acquired a little green 4-wheel-drive Jeep, Fred’s bragging that it would climb the school steps led to a bet. He not only won the bet when he drove the jeep up the steps of the school, but it seemed to impress the girls as well.
Little Fred went into service in 1944 at age 17, but for some reason does not appear on Cliffside’s list of veterans. This is possibly because he talked with the recruiting officer in Forest City, and was sent to Asheville to be inducted. He intended to go into the Navy as a Seabee, and although he was sent for basic and Navy Seabee training in Camp Perry, Virginia, the need for construction personnel was less than the need for regular sailors, so he ended up as a sailor on board the USS Torrance (AKA 76), an attack cargo ship.
After his short leave at the end of his basic training, Little Fred had no furlough until about three months before he was discharged, so he spent his time on board ship or on the base. As a result, he had no place to spend his pay. He accumulated his money, and when his ship entered a port, he would send all he had saved home for his parents to put into the bank.
His ship, after supporting the invasion and capture of Okinawa, sailed to Guam, where it was in dry dock for maintenance and repairs when atomic bomb was dropped and the war in the Pacific Theater ended.
When the war ended, Fred returned to work at Cliffside Mill, and lived with his parents in the house at the bottom of the hill on South Main Street in Cliffside. A year after he was discharged, Fred used his savings in the bank to help build Lafar and Beula’s brick house off Hwy 221A, just south of Cliffside. In order to raise additional funds, Fred and Lafar rented some land on which they raised cantaloupes and watermelons and other truck crops to sell. In addition to farming, they both worked in the mill at Cliffside while building on the house, so had little time left except to sleep.