'HANDLEBARS' ON PARADE
ALAN'S 'FACE FLOCK' ASTONISHES THE EXPERTS
A COLLECTION of England's finest moustaches, of all shapes and colours, including one which may well set up a new world record, invaded Copthorne on Sunday, when members of the famous Handlebar Club came to play their annual match with the village cricketers.
For those who are uninitiated into the mysteries of this exclusive club, which boasts
150 selected members, it should be explained that it is laid down in the rules that
applicants must have a moustache which attains the length of at least five inches "at
rest," or six inches or more "agrin," and must have "graspable
The objects are to further the growing of moustaches, and by that they mean real ones, and not those growths affected by some youths and known among the members as "Cow's eyebrows" and "Hollywood halos."
Despite the gaiety of the members on Sunday when they arrived at Copthorne, there was
an air of underlying sadness for their "Prime Handle-bar", or the possessor of
the longest moustache of all - George Hoffman - had recently left for Canada.
There were, it is true, moustaches among the other members which rank with the best one could hope to see adorning the upper lip but although perfect in density and texture - important qualifications - they fell short of George's span of 8½ inches even when angry or surprised.
A dark horse, although his moustache was ginger or should we say auburn, was waiting at
Copthorne, however, and when Alan Gear was spotted, nearly a score of moustaches twitched
Alan, holder of the D.F.C. as a Battle of Britain pilot, hails from Redhill, and the other members had not seen him for a year. Twelve months ago, he admittedly had a fine specimen of "lip lichen," or "face flock" to use an alternative of the club, but it was hardly worth a second glance.
Now the members could not tear their eyes away, and by unanimous vote they appointed him the new "Prime Handlebar" there and then on the cricket ground.
No one had thought to bring along a ruler or tape measure, and guesswork is not encouraged in matters like this. One of the wives came to the rescue, however, with the aid of a six-inch nail file, and after a considerable amount of unfurling, it was duly recorded to have the amazing span of 10 inches, an all-time record.
Mr. Gear has been carefully cultivating this moustache ever since 1942 when he had a wager with a R.A.F. colleague to see who could grow the longest. It has been getting bigger every year and of recent months has mad remarkable strides in all directions.
Raymond Glendenning, of B.B.C. fame, is president of the Handlebar Club, which was
formed two years ago, and Jerry Colonna, the film star, is American president.
The founder vice-presidents are Bill Hooper and Jimmy Edwards. Bill Hooper is better known as "Raff," the famous cartoonist, and creator of the character everyone knows in the Air Force, namely "Pilot Officer Prune." Jimmy Edwards' broadcasts have an audience of millions.
The "Handlebars" arrived at the cricket ground, following lunch at the Duke's Head, and before facing the demon bowling of the Copthorne cricketers hastily fortified themselves with a crate of beer. Their umpire was Flight Lieutenant Tony Dobson, the original "Pilot Officer Prune."
Baron Christian de Beer had a bottle of beer in one hand, and a huge pipe weighing a pound or two in the other. The case to hold it was bigger than a miniature wireless he brought along as well, and what with one thing and another, perhaps the reporter can be excused for asking his real name afterwards and finding out he already had it!
As members of the Handlebar Club made a rapid procession to and from the wickets, small
children gazed in open-eyed wonder at some of the finer specimens of lip growth.
One young girl seemed to doubt the reality of the jet black adornment on the face of jovial Noel Henkel, the club's secretary. Her gaze of utter disbelief changed to wonderment when she could no longer resist standing on tip-toe, giving it a tug and finding it was a fixture.
"Raff" handed to the "Observer" of a copy of his funny little book
"You Can't Laugh It Off!" which is termed a history of the moustache. This book,
which has sold thousands of copies and raised many more laughs, deals with every aspect of
the moustache, in such chapters as "The Dawn of Down," "Advice to the
Expectant Moustachee," "Deformities of the Moustache" and "Whiskers of
It might well be termed the official handbook of the Handlebar Club, and it gives some excellent advice to those who are hoping to gain membership.
"Raff" points out that if a growth is not doing well at the start, it is seldom satisfactory to accept a cutting from other wearers. Grafting is far from successful, he says, and is a ticklish business at best.
Heavy drinking during the growing period is discouraged, as constant swamping of new shoots can lead to that sad state seen in hardened drinkers known as "Booser's Droop"
The book points out that on no account should the hopeful grower allow himself to receive great shocks. If the hairs are allowed to stand too often on end, they will stay that way, and become known as "Shocked Flock."
If in the advanced stages of growing a "handlebar" the aspirant develops a staggered step, and a tendency to stoop forward, it is nothing to worry about, but only nature adjusting itself to take the extra weight on the face.
"Raff" also deals with pests of the moustache. During the bird-nesting season he advises that small mirrors or bright tin lids attached from ear to ear on a piece of string are the best deterrent against feathered friends making a nest in the moustache when the wearer is taking a nap in the open.
For night sleeping he says a camphor ball in each nostril will prevent attack by moths, and lastly, a weekly spraying with a powerful approved insecticide will save any trouble occasioned by green fly.