Friday, May 21, 2010
Mineral Ridge, Ohio, had just one barber and that barber was my grandfather, William Carl Robert Meinzen -- or Bob Meinzen to the adults who knew him. His daughter, Audrey, remembered that he had set up shop in 3 different buildings during the years that he was a barber in the Ridge. I remember only the last location, pictured above, on Main Street across from the high school.
Grampa worked long hours at the shop. He opened in the morning and remained there past dinnertime, into the evenings. He carried his lunch with him when he left in the morning, but Gramma always made dinner. When the grandchildren were old enough, one (or sometimes two) of them carried it to him hot and he ate it at the shop every night. From Gramma’s house, they walked up Furnace Street, turned left onto Main Street, and walked about two blocks. To me, carrying Grampa’s dinner was a great responsibility, a sign of trust conferred upon the grandchildren, and almost a rite of passage. Unfortunately, Grampa retired before I was old enough to have the joy of taking his dinner to him.
In the early years, before washing machines were easily available, Gramma washed by hand and hung to dry all of the towels and aprons for the barber shop. What a lot of laundry that must have been! I’m sure that one or both of them cleaned the shop, too.
I don’t remember Grampa’s exact method of cutting hair, though I believe he used a comb to raise the hair, then scissored off what was above the comb. It seems that there was one style of haircut in those days: short. The boys and men in the family had Grampa cut their hair. The girls went to Grampa only (and not willingly) on the rare occasions in which there was no money for a “beautician” or in an emergency. For me that emergency happened when I was about 5 or 6 and my sister persuaded me that she could give me a great haircut. It didn’t go so well and I was to be sent to Grampa for a haircut. However much I didn’t want to go, there was no way out. Despite the pleading cautions to Grampa not to cut my hair too short, it didn’t go so well with him, either. It grew back.
His accouterments of barbering included scissors, of course, plus razors and leather straps to sharpen them; water, shampoo, towels; shaving mugs and brushes. What else? I can’t remember, though I’m sure there were other instruments. I really didn’t spend much time at Grampa’s shop nor was I observant of his tools. I don’t remember a sign or a barber pole in front of the shop, but there were large front windows which gave a great view to the school and its playground and lots of light for his work.
Grampa learned barbering while a young man living in Steubenville with his parents, Henry and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen. As far as I can remember, no one ever mentioned where he learned the trade. A search of Steubenville city directories of the time reveals no barbering schools, so perhaps it was through an apprenticeship that he learned. He was first listed as a barber in the 1911 city directory, at which time he would have been 18 or 19. In 1913 he was a barber working at 838 Sixth Avenue, Steubenville, listed as the shop of George Leo. By 1916 he was married with one daughter and was a barber at the shop of D. Herlinger in Warren, Ohio. The family moved to Mineral Ridge between 1918 and 1921 and he set up shop there.
I did not really appreciate this photograph until I scanned it and was able to view it enlarged several times. It was interesting to see the Spartan wall decorations: all of 4 advertising calendars and a painting of a horse! I always wondered what year the photo was taken. Now I know not only the year but the month, too.
I had forgotten that Grampa wore a tie and dress shirt to work. Looking at the photo also reminded me of how Grampa always rolled his sleeves up to the inside instead of the outside. It makes sense to do it that way: hair fell away and stayed at the shop instead of into the fold to travel home with him.
I have to wonder about the conversations at the barber shop, especially considering that Grampa didn’t really talk much. What were the topics of the day during those years? The U. S. was not yet at war, but no doubt there was discussion of what was happening in Europe. Did other topics include sports? Local news? Were his customers primarily from the Ridge or did men travel from other areas because they liked his haircuts? It looks like there’s a radio on the table at the back left. I wonder if it was tuned to a music station or if there were talk radio stations at that time. I wish I could jump back in time....
Oh, I almost forgot. Grampa did charge two bits, though I think by the time he retired the price for a haircut (without a shave) had gone up to four bits.
I hope one or several of the grandchildren will chime in on the comments to add the details I’ve missed or improve the accuracy of my memory.
Do you have barber shop memories or relatives who were barbers?
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