Other Voices


The barber shop is almost a thing of the past, but in former times it was an integral part of every small town. In addition to cutting hair and shaving off beards, it was the information center of the community. It was the mens gossip center, the political forum and the place to hear the newest jokes. And without a doubt, it was a place that made men look a little better. After a visit to the barber shop, almost everyones looks improved. In my youth, all this improvement could be obtained for 15 to 25 cents. In those very early days, there was a jingle that went this way: “Shave and a hair cut, two bits”. It is hard to imagine those low prices, when faced with the price charged in the fancy hair salons of today.

As I have mentioned, every small town had a barber shop. In some, there were two or three shops, and some shops had more than one chair. In our town of Sardis, we were blessed with several barbers over the years. I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember Mr. Furman Parkerson and his son Matthew. Their shop outlasted all the others. But I remember Mr. Sim Reeves and Bryan Bohannon both had barber shops here for a while. Besides these barber shops, I have heard of others, but I don’t remember them or the barbers.

As I said, the Parkersons shop lasted the longest of any. They were probably in business for fifty years or longer. In those early days, many barber shops had bathing facilities. Some had bath tubs and some had showers. The Parkersons had a dressing room and a shower in the back of their shop. I made a trip to Sylvania once with my Dad when I was very young. We where going to visit my granfather. We found him in the back of the barber shop. He was soaking up the suds in a big bath tub of hot water. Because many homes didn’t have indoor plumbing, many men availed themsevles of a bath for the enormous sum of twentyfive cents. Lots of men visited the barber shop on Saturday evening where they got the ‘works’-hair cut, shave and a bath. After a bath and a good coating of hair tonic, they came out smelling swell.

The wives of these men welcomed them home with a hug and a kiss. They were spic and span and ready for church on Sunday. They also brought home the news of the week, but few recited the new jokes they had heard. One or the other of the Parkersons cut my hair for many years. It was always a pleasure to visit their shop, and to hear their tales and opinions. They had opinions on almost any subject one could bring up. Though they weren’t always right in their opinion, they usually had a canny insight into the matter.

Along with the barber shop and bathing facility, the Parkersons also had a ‘pressing club’, later to be known as a dry cleaners. If one did business with the Parkersons one had no excuse for being sloppy. One could visit their shop and come out with ones hair slicked back and a crease in their pants. A clean shaven man in clean clothes was ready to greet the ladies. But, alas, the days of the barber shops are closing fast. In these days and times, neatness of appearance seems to be a thing of the past. Some men still shave, some still get hair cuts, but many seem to care about neither. I believe most keep their bodies clean, but neatness of clothing escapes many.

This old boy longs for the days of the barber shop. Days when barber shops were visited on a regular basis. Days when men took pride in their appearance. I miss the barbers and I miss their shops where one could receive more up to date news than one can get from television. The atmosphere, the gossip, the news, just the good old jovial nature that exuded from the old ‘Candy Cane’ barber shops. I fear those days are gone forever.

You can reach F. Leslie Jenkins Jr., Burke Banter Boy, by email at: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.