Cutting up more than 50 years

Published 9:53 pm Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two men perched on the window ledge outside Stinson’s Barber Shop in Brundidge.

Neighbors nodded their heads as they passed. Others stopped to talk for a minute or two.

It was a scene that has been recreated six days a week for more than 50 years. Sixty-four years to be exact.

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For that many years, men have sat on the ledge outside Stinson’s Barber Shop to watch the traffic and pass the time of day.

The worn wooden ledge is testimony to that. It’s definitely a three-seater ledge. The worn ledge is testimony to that.

And, for 59 of those years, Earl Stinson, proprietor, and Robert Garrett his right-hand man, have made a place for themselves on that ledge and a place for themselves in the hearts of the Brundidge community and its “suburbs.”

“I don’t know what life would have been like if I’d not looked out the widow and seen Robert standing across over yonder,” Stinson said as he gestured across Main Street. “I reckon it was just meant to be.”

Stinson’s dad, Hubert, was a barber in Springhill. The elder Stinson barbered at home and at his shop. Stinson learned “a little about barbering” from his dad.

So, when Uncle Sam called him in 1944, he didn’t hesitate in announcing that he could barber.

“I’d rather been cutting hair than landing seaplanes,” Stinson said, laughing. “When I got out of the Navy in 1945, I was offered the chance to buy this barbershop. The two men that owned it promised me that they wouldn’t go into the barbering business against me in Brundidge. And, they didn’t. Not for about a week.”

The two men, Dunk Golden and Edgar Steed, opened a barbershop right across the street from Stinson and he “didn’t think nice things about them.”

‘I thought that would be the end of my barbershop business,” Stinson said. “But my customers stayed with me and it ended up that we had plenty of business for both shops. In fact, for a while, there was a third barbershop in town. “So that worked out all right.”

Business was very good at Stinson’s Barber Shop, so good that one day in July 1949, Stinson had more than he and his other two barbers could handle.

“I looked out the window and saw Robert standing across the street and I sent after him,” Stinson said.

The messenger, Ed Williams, went across the street and told Garrett that he was wanted in the barbershop.

“I had brought my mother and aunt to Dr. Killingsworth,” Garrett said. “He had an office in the back of Johnston’s Drug Store and I was waiting on them when this fellow came over and said somebody wanted to see me over at the barber shop.”

Garrett picked up the clippers and went to work. When his mother and aunt got through seeing the doctor, he took them home and came right back to the barbershop. Nearly 60 years later, he’s still there.

“And, we’ve never had a fight yet,” Stinson said. “We have a close friendship. It’s more like a kinship.”

Not even close kin could survive “couped up” in a 10×34-foot shop up to 14 hours a day, six days a week for nearly 60 years without “killing each other.”

“I guess we got to thinking a lot of each other,” Garrett said.

“Robert’s the best fellow to get along with that I’ve ever known,” Stinson said. “He’s good to work with because he’s dependable.”

Both men agreed that they are like brothers, maybe closer. Not many brothers spend that much time together.

“We’ve probably spent as much time together as we did with our wives,” they said, laughing.

Both men have lost their wives. Garrett lost his wife of 31 years in 1985 and his “brother” was there to help him through those difficult days. When Stinson lost his wife, Garrett was there as a leaning post for him. Together, they shouldered the storms of life.

“He knows what I know and I know what he knows,” Stinson said. “If we had problems, we let the other know about it and it helped get us through. And, when we had good things happen in our lives, we shared that with each other and we were happy for each other.”

When Garrett was thinking about getting remarried in 2000, he consulted with his friend.

“I just told him to behave himself,” Stinson said, laughing.

What’s so special about their friendship is that they have shared nearly 60 years of life. For six days a week, their lives nearly mirrored each other. What one did, the other did likewise. What one heard, so did the other.

The barbershop was the hangout for men. They came and sat around whether they needed a haircut or not.

And the talk was as fast and furious as the electric clippers.

“But we learned early on to mind our own business and let the other man alone,” Garrett said.

Neither denied that they didn’t discuss some of the “gossip” they heard behind the barber’s chair, but just between them. They kept barbershop talk in the barbershop.

“Years ago, men talked farming. Now they talk about women and ball,” Stinson said, laughing. “Times have changed in a lot of ways. When we first started, a hair wash, tonic and shave was $1.25. And, we’d stay open until nearly midnight on Saturdays. Folks would come to town for the day and they’d go to the picture show and the men would come in after the show for a shave and haircut to get them ready for Sunday. And, we’d be here.”

Stinson and Garrett remembered the good ol’ days when they could walk down to Perry Owen’s Ford and see the latest model in the showroom or on down to Mrs. Anderson’s Sandwich Shop where you could get the “best hamburger in the world.”

“You could hold the meat up and see through it but it was still the best hamburger in the world.”

A malted milkshake at Johnston’s Drug Store, a radio playing in the Western Auto Store, the hum of the cotton gin on the back street and the aroma of freshly roasting peanuts in the air all blended to make Brundidge the best little town in the world.

The little boys that climb in the chairs at Earl Stinson’s Barber Shop represent the fifth generation of many families that get their ears lowered in the little barbershop on Main Street that is operated by the brothers “that ain’t no kin.”