Mens haircut 65 cents

Published 6:04 pm Monday, August 9, 2010

How many of you men can remember getting a hair cut for 65 cents, a shave for 20 cents and a shoe shine for 10 cents?

Those were the prices when Mr. Pete Gibson starting cutting hair around the first of 1947.

This story is about a legend as far as barbers go. After 63 years of cutting hair, on March 13, 2010, Pete decided to hang up his clippers and quietly ride off in his little white truck to Holly Hill to spend more time with his family and Myrtle, his bride of 55 years.

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To tell this story accurately it is necessary to begin before the year 1947 and tell you a little bit about Petes Dad. John was a lifetime barber in Columbus. In 1943 he received 35 cents for each haircut and with these earnings he supported a family of seven. One of the reasons to include John in this story about Pete is that he was a legend in his lifetime just as Pete became.

One of my earliest memories as a small lad was my grandpa taking me to get a haircut at Johns Barber Shop.My fear was not getting the haircut, but sitting on that flat board perched on the arms of the barber chair and trying to hold on and not fall off. To me it felt like as I do now on a 16-foot ladder hanging on the side of a house trying to paint.

According to Pete, his dad started cutting hair in a room facing Peak Street behind the Patty Building. Mr. John not only cut hair, but more than likely had the first hot house in Columbus.&bsp; He grew tomatoes in his shop year around. How it began was a Lindsey Smith gave John a tomato plant he had pulled up behind a hog pen located near Clyde Pittmans house (this is where former Columbus Mayor McMillian lives now).

According to the story the plant lasted so long (maybe five years) that Mr. John got tired of it and threw it out on the lot that contained the Republican headquarters at that time.

In later years, Mr. John moved his business to a house in the area of the present tourism and economic development building on Mills Street (Hwy. 108). (Later the house was moved to Ward Street and is now the Democratic headquarters). He then moved to a new white concrete blocking that was built adjacent to this house (see photo, p. 4).

Now back to Pete as a young lad growing up around the barbershop, he was very enterprising. He started a business of shining shoes (slippers/loafers) for 10 cents.

Although he grew up being around a barbershop, his first real job was not as a barber. When he was about 17 he went to work for Charlie Blanton in a business located in a house alongside U.S. 176 between Tryon and Saluda (This was the main highway from Tryon to Saluda and beyond I-26 had not even been a thought at that time.) They sold food and drink out of the windows of the house to local travelers and tourists going to and from the mountains. (I imagine this could have been the first McDonalds type business in Polk County.). Their specialty was apple cider; however, Pete said it was nothing more than apple juice.

World War II was really heating up and a great number of Polk Countys finest young men were either being drafted or enlisting. Pete, being no different than the other young men in Polk County, did his duty for his country by going into the Army in 1943. He survived that war of all wars and upon returning to Columbus he returned to his roots by attending barber school under the GI Bill.&bsp; In 1947 Mr. Pete went to work with his dad and thus started a career as a barber that we feel is unmatched by anyone else.

When Pete started his career he received 65cents for a haircut. Later they raised the price to 75 cents and he said people raised more cane over them upping the price to 75 cents (a 10 cent increase) than when they jumped it up to $1. The comment was that the barber was already rich.

To understand this one must understand that in that time the barbershop was the center of activities, especially on Saturday nights. Men worked all week either in the mill or on the farm and on Saturday they came to town to get a haircut, a 20-cent shave and a shoe shine and maybe a hot bath.

Saturday was the big day. A barber might wallow (Mr. Petes word) around all week maybe having one customer all day but come Saturday, it was work from 6 a.m. until midnight with no sitting down. The shop was full all day. There was no such thing as making an appointment you just came in, sat down and waited your turn. In those days men and boys got a hair cut every two weeks whether they needed it or not.

Also, in those days the men went to the barbershop and women went to the beauty parlor. (As&bsp; Pete said, A real man would not be caught dead in a beauty parlor.) To be convenient for the lady folks a beauty parlor was located behind Petes barbershop and was operated by Judy Denton for some 10 years before she moved her Lovely Lady Styling Salon to Blanton Street.

In a barbershop a man could get more advice than he wanted or needed. For example Pete was more than likely one of the first financial advisors in Columbus. He is a very conservative individual when it comes to finances. He tells the story of letting a fellow by the name of Earl Jones shine shoes in his shop.

Earl was one of those fellows like some of us today anytime he had a coin in his pocket, if he didnt spend it right away it would burn a hole in his pants pocket. So Pete tried to help him. There was a room in the back that was a place you could take a shower, but was no longer used. Pete fixed Earl a place back there so he could save his money in a bank so to speak. However, in spite of all Petes advice and help, as quick as a little cash mounted up Earl couldnt stand it and he would go out and spend it.

Pete has been a favorite barber to many over the years. To my oldest son Bruce and other young men who played football for Polk Central, when the coach said you needed to get a GI or a Mohawk haircut, Pete Gibsons barber shop was the place to go.&bsp; To them he was affectionately known as Cherokee Pete.

Over the years he had many loyal customers. I personally appreciated his willingness to go to nursing homes to cut the residents hair. My brother Charles Waters and Uncle Lee Owens at White Oak Manor in Tryon always looked forward to those times with Mr. Pete.

Mr. Boyce Jackson of Silver Creek told me he was Petes first customer on the Saturday Pete closed his shop. J.D. Wilson of Sunny View rushed from his work in an effort to be his last customer on that historical day, but missed him because Pete had left to take home a load of the antique things he had in the shop. (His shop had become a museum for antique farm tools.)

Also, when I arrived that Saturday afternoon at the shop to take a picture of Pete, there was Fred Foy, a former county commissioner and well known Polk County citizen, sitting in the barber chair having a chat with him. I never asked, but I would suspect that when Fred was a county commissioner he probably stopped by often to get some advice or to find out what concerns the folks had about the county.

To me all this illustrates the importance Pete played in the lives of people who went to him for their haircuts and maybe get a little advice. I believe that if we all followed his philosophy (including governments) we would be better off and it would make life better for us.

When I went to talk to Pete and Myrtle about this story, he told me he had seen many changes in Columbus since 1947. For example Hwy. 108 went in front of the Baptist Church. It was not until much later that A.R. Thompson got the contract to change the road as it is now.

Another example was when Pete became a fireman in Columbus they didnt have a fire truck all they had was a water wagon that wasnt even horse drawn. They had to push and pull it to the fire. In other words they used plain old manpower.

A change that really affected Pete was the white concrete building containing his barber shop was bought by Tryon Federal in the late 1970s and they built a bank in its place. (That was ironic since Pete tried being a bank for a fellow at one time.) He then relocated to the back of the Woodmens building, where he stayed until he retired. He said, Although there have been changes, Columbus is still a special small town.

In closing, Im sure that through Petes many experiences he could tell us stories that would fill volumes of books.

When you see Pete walking around town, especially around the Woodmen Building and the courthouse, say hi to him and tell him how important it was that he was a barber for 63 years in a special small town called Columbus.