Stinson ends 81-year career as barber

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2000

Features Editor

Oct. 19, 2000 10 PM

After 81 years of clipping and cutting, the Uptown, Downtown, all-around-the-town barber has called it a career.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Red Stinson, 92, put down his scissors, shook the hair "trimmings" from his feet and closed the door on a career that started when he was 11 years old.

Stinson said it’s a good guess that he has given more two-bit shaves and hair cuts than just about any other barber who has picked up clippers. Of, course, he got a little more than two bits for some and not that much for others.

Stinson’s "barbering" days began when he was nine years old. His dad brought home a shiny, new set of "tools" for home barbering. Young Stinson couldn’t take his eyes off them and he couldn’t wait to get his hands on them.

As soon as his mama and daddy turned their backs and a little brother would sit still for him, Stinson, the boy barber, started clipping.

His family lived somewhere between Springhill and "T-rentum" and all along the road there were little boys brave and daring enough to let "Little Red" practice his trade on them.

"Most little boys got their hair cut by their mamas," Stinson said, laughing. "She would put a bowl on their head and cut around it. I didn’t do such a thing. I gave them a big boy hair cut."

Stinson said there were probably a lot of lopsided hair cuts on little boys around his area, but he soon got the hang of and it came quite naturally to him.

"Cutting hair was something that was easy for me to do," he said. "Some little boys could ride a bicycle, some could shoot a gun and come throw a ball from here to yonder. Me – I could cut hair."

Stinson became such a master with the scissors that the men in the community began to take notice.

When he was 11, a "grownup man" sat down with a little boy waving scissors and clippers around his head.

"I was shaking in my shoes, but my hands were steady and sure," Stinson said, with a broad smile. "After that day, I was a barber and everybody knew it."

Stinson never had any schooling or training in his profession "didn’t need it." He just wrapped a towel around his customer’s neck and "gave him the works."

Stinson could do it all – shampoo, cut, apply the tonic, shave and massage the face.

"I could style hair anyway they wanted it," he said. "I’d even shine their bald head it they wanted that."

Stinson’s long career as a barber took him to shops all around the county – from Tarentum, to Brundidge to Troy. It was in Troy that he finally put down his roots. He "cut hair" in a shop on South Three Notch Street before settling down and gaining the reputation of one of the best barbers in town at the Uptown Barber Shop.

"We had five chairs and there was a wait just about all the time," Stinson said. "The man that came around with the linen company to pick up our towels said we had more towels than those big barber shops in Dothan and Montgomery. We could cut hair."

Stinson was known for his fast clippers and he took great pride in "gettin’ ’em and gettin’ ’em out in a hurry and with a smile on their faces."

"Oh, I might have had one or two customers who didn’t look as pretty as they wanted to when I got through with them but that wasn’t my fault," Stinson said, laughing.

After about 30 years Uptown, Stinson moved to the shop that was dubbed the "Downtown" barber shop. But no matter where his chair was, Stinson always had a customer waiting for him.

"In the last few years, it slowed down some but I did, too," he said. "So, it evened out."

Young men came to Stinson. Boys came and old men. They came because he knew his business and he always had some chatter and some fun going. Some days, he might even dance a jig but he always had a joke or a story to tell.

On Saturday, Oct. 7 after he completed his last official cut as a barber, Stinson walked away without looking back at the chair he left empty. But, he has fond memories of a long, satisfying career.

His professional career may be over but Red Stinson still has a set of "tools" around the house and that’s where he got his start – at home and on family. His eyes are still on the tools; family beware!