“Barbershop: Where you get news, commentary, humor, and advice, along with a haircut.”—sign in a barber shop
“Barber Shop,” the sign in the window proclaimed. The fact I was strolling through a mall a couple of weeks ago when the sign caught my eye didn’t seem right. Could be because my barbershop memories predate malls.
The sign boasted an image of a red, white and blue striped pole all right, but no real barber pole was in sight. Any resemblance to the “Artistic Barbershop” in Mount Pleasant where I got my flattop trimmed growing up in the 50s and 60s was slight.
Chris Durant’s haircuts were six bits when I began frequenting his shop in the sixth grade. That was up to a whole buck and a quarter by the time MPHS granted me a diploma in 1966.
Appointments? You couldn’t get one, even if you wanted to. You just walked in, took a seat, joined the conversation or grabbed a comic book or magazine, and waited your turn. Protocol was an unspoken system. When Chris shook his cape with a pop and called out, “next,” someone would fill the seat. Every patron knew when it was his turn.
The bonus for a kid was a piece of Double-Bubble gum and a chance to read the latest issue of Popular Mechanics while waiting. Or, sneaking a peek at Esquire when none of the grownups were looking.
Another great thing about Chris’s barbershop was its location, right next door to the Martin Theater. Parking my red bike in the rack in front of the movie theater, walking next door to the barbershop then catching the Saturday matinee with my new haircut was one-stop shopping before the term was coined.
Some years later now living in Center, I followed the trend of replacing barbershops with an appointment at the beauty shop. In my case, it was more about the fact that I married a hair stylist and have entrusted her with the care of my hair ever since—what’s left of it.
After the “Classic Cut” salon closed, the building became “Boyd’s Barber Shop” when they rented the location to longtime barber, Boyd Adams.
However, the reality is that the decline of the traditional barber shops like Boyd’s has left communities with few examples of what a barbershop once meant to the male population—a time when they were social centers where regulars waited for a shave and a haircut, a trim, or just spent time sharing stories and jokes.
Jokes were commonplace in barbershops and no topic was sacred. Politics, religion, the government, local gossip and more were all fair game. Laughter was also aimed at those present. No guy expecting to be called a regular could take himself seriously, nor be excluded from the good-natured ridicule that accompanied the buzz of clippers and the smell of talcum powder.
Regulars also recognized that the guy behind the chair was more than just the local barber, he was a political commentator, a news reporter, and always patient to hear confessions while cutting hair.
The barbershop also served as a common link between blue-collar workers and white-collar professionals. However you earned your living, when you entered the barbershop, you were just one of the guys.
Now that I think about it, most of the above pretty well describes Boyd’s Barber Shop in Center. Plus, you’ll get trimmed by a barber that has clipped the hair of patrons from presidents to Presley—Elvis that is.
Maybe we should all get one more trim at a real barbershop before they’ve all left the building.