Oct 132011

I went to get a haircut Wednesday morning at the Gandy Barbershop. It’s owned by Steve, but Tony, a British guy, is the barber I use. I try to be the first one there when he comes in at 9am, and he’s usually a little late. Because of that, we have a running joke going.

When I was paying and getting ready to leave he showed me a framed article by a local Tampa Tribune columnist, Steve Otto, which talked about Tony and the barbershop. Apparently Otto also get’s his hair cuts there.

It got me thinking about my earliest memories of going to the barbershop. Of course I know I went as a little tyke before we moved to Kings Mountain, but the first memory I have of going was to Central Barbershop right downtown on Mountain Street, beside Griffin’s Drug Store. They’ve moved now to a small shop in a little development around the corner on Battleground Avenue. They don’t have a website, and all I could find was that it’s now owned by Phillip Mosier.

I don’t think I know Phillip, and I can’t believe I can’t remember the name of the guy who owned and ran the barbershop. I do remember that Pat Tignor worked there for as long as I went. Pat was Gene’s brother, and Gene was the fire chief in town for a long time. The place was a lot like Floyd’s Barbershop on the Andy Griffith show.

They had a few somewhat padded chairs covered in a green vinyl, and some of the old-fashioned metal chairs most people use outside (painted green), and TV…which was a crucial part of the experience, as lots of guys went there just to watch a baseball game in the afternoons, or a football game on Saturday’s. It was kind of the bookie joint as well. During the World Series they always had a betting pool going on. There wasn’t danger of getting busted for anything though. Most of the lawyers and police officers in town put a dollar or two into each game.

I’ll probably be accused of being a chauvinist, but it was a place you could go to see men in their natural habitat. They didn’t do women’s hair…that was for the beauty shop. You could get a shave, but they didn’t wash hair or do highlights. Crew cuts (also known as flat tops) were probably the most common cut. Sometimes they had a shoe shine guy with the big high chair. I remember how big (grownup) I felt the first time the barber decided he no longer needed to sit me on the booster seat thing. It was a right passage…”today I am a man,” or at least that’s how I felt.

Gandy Barber is a little like that. It’s full of sports stuff, a couple of newspaper sections lying around on the chairs, and the obligatory TV showing some ball game or one of the morning talk shows. I’ve run into the Base Commander for MacDill Air Force Base, and lots of other military people come there due to the proximity of the base.

These old barber shops are, I’m afraid, becoming another casualty of the homogenization of our culture. I hope I can keep finding a good old-fashioned barbershop. It’s just a place where you feel a little like you’re part of  real community, a place where you know the barbers, their families, a little about their lives, and not a place in a mall to get a “mc-haircut.”

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