At The Barbershop Oasis
By Vern Colby
Hampton Union, (date unknown at editing)
When a courting male's spirit has been battered and bruised by the wiles and whims of a woman, or when a wonderful husband's ego has been cut to the quick by the unfair and overly critical words of a willful wife, there is a haven - a blessed refuge. That same safe harbor will open its arms, and will provide a warm and enthusiastic audience for the sport who has just shot a hole in one, land a tuna, scientifically figured the sure winner and the victory margin of the Superbowl or World Series. Any male over the age of 10 - and worth his salt - knows that this place, so praiseworthy, is the local barbershop.
This not being a suspense story, I'll tell you immediately that I was one of the wonderful ones, referred to above, ego-bashed by a wife's unkind and unwarranted ultimatum. House and hospital-bound for far too many weeks with a toe complaint, I'd begun to fancy the flowing locks that lack of a barber's clippings had produced. Pondering one morning whether I resembled the silver-screen's Tarzan, or romanticized portrayals of Davy Crockett or Dan Boone, my dreams were suddenly shattered.
The warning words were not warm. "You are not my idea of Prince Valiant. Your bedraggled bangs resemble a soup of rat's nest and cobwebs. Unless you make a change, our contact of partnership is null and void!" With that whip of words ringing in my ears, I ventured forth solo, for the first time in months to the tonsorial palace of my choice. Earl's Barbershop at Hampton Center.
There are times when it's comforting to a man to relax for an hour or two in a traditional type barbershopping place. Not exclusively male, of course, for some obscure reason the law call's that bad; but still almost so. Earl's women attend in their time-honored place as mother monitors, to see that her boy isn't treated meanly, and that manly efforts at hairstyling do not destroy her son's undoubted handsomeness.
I started my barbershop excursion on a bright and warm morning, a few days before the Superbowl Sunday and though it was still fairly early, the shop was busy. Ashton Norton, holder of several town offices was there, recently he has been a selectman. George Smith, waiting his turn, was at ease and reading one of the newspapers. Over a period of years, he built the Hampton Beach Marina into a busy place; sold the property a couple of years ago, now resides in Maine, some distance north at Stanley Pond, the post office location being South Hiram.
By and by, Roland Paige, spotted Mr. Smith through the window and stepped in for a brief chat. Mr. Paige is of importance to the town in several ways; conservation, cemeteries, patriotic holiday observances, local history. Normally seeing him in formal coat and smart tyrolean hat, it pleased me to see him in a warm jacket and dashing stocking cap with a bright red top.
Conversation followed among these three with Earl Newman making a forth. Important stuff, like: How crowded Stanley Pond was with little houses on it for ice fishing. The various state routes to take to reach the place. Would George Smith have a vegetable garden if Ashton Norton came up (or down) for spring planting.
Later, another country was heard from. Maurice Daly, now a Hamptonite, and I struck up a conversation, it seems that he grew up in the city of my youth. It seems that Mr. Daly was a part of the task force pouring concrete to build the memorial over the USS Arizona, as part of the creation of Pearl Harbor as a national historic landmark. Soon, he and I will talk more about that.
While all the talk was flowing, Leroy Bolduc managed to give me a medium crew-cut that I figure will last until the Grand and Glorious Fourth, unless I'm picked on earlier. Mr. Bolduc has worked with Earl about a decade.
Earl Newman, native of Seabrook, started barbering about 38 years ago. He saw U.S. Navy service in the Pacific, 1944 - 1946, and then attended the Massachusetts Trade School of Barbering. His first employment was at this location, about 1950 for six years with Joe Pelligrino who owned the shop then. After some years in Seabrook, Earl worked at Chester Marston's Barbershop in Hampton, before taking ownership here 20 years ago. Earl is the husband of Bertha Newman who operates Mary Adams Dress Shop, way across the street at the far end of Marelli Park.
Golf is his big interest, along with hunting, fishing, and travel; so that he and Leroy have no trouble keeping up with customer conversation, no matter what it may be. There is a big window here looking out on route 1. "Traffic is heavy most of the time; yet for the most part it moves steadily. In my years it's always been busy, don't forget that for many years there was no route 95 for through travel.
We can watch all the parades from the window. Through the years many candidates or their sons have stopped in: Carters, Kennedys, Bushes, to name a few. Once, when Liberace was playing at Salisbury's Frolics, he stopped in for hair care, but saw we were busy and didn't wait. Through a period of time, talk covers everything: business, sports, family problems, politics. For a number of years; we've had a Christmas Party, you'll see pictures on the wall, Santa Claus with candy canes for kids is Gene Heal of Hampton Falls, and there are cheese, crackers, cheer, and conversation for grownups. There used to be lots of talk about town teams, but TV has changed most of that interest to the pros.
The barber shop building has been here for years, appearing in most "Old Hampton" pictures. Someone, who knows pretty well, offered this: "Before the turn of the century, the trolley car office was here. In the 1900's it was the H.L. Tobey Real Estate and Insurance. When the Hampton Co-Operative Bank was organized, it moved in as a joimt tenant, in 1938 the businesses moved across the street, and the time of the barbershops began.
I can prove that barbershops are dear to the hearts of men. As a boy, I went with friends to Benny Rich's shop in Bedford, Mass. He would shake his bottle of scented water to moisten hair at a bank of boys and shout, "April showers bring May flowers!" Years later in Cincinnati on Saturdays. I'd proudly parade with my three sons to the shop of Julius Scharf. It was a proud thing to do that, and his place was fun; an abundance of potted plants, lots of stories, he'd take his violin out of the case, and play a merry tune!
I entered WW II service from Wheeling West Virginia. When the war was on the wane, I was in a big German city at a stadium, once used for Nazi rallies, but on this evening at dusk, being aplace to see movies. Seated about 25 rows up, I notice heads turning and hands passing a note up and up. It came to me. " I was your barber in Wheeling, West Virginia. Looking up from the note, and down to the ground level, I saw a lonely hand waving…and it was proud moment, when I waved back. I'm also proud to be a customer at Earl's Barber Shop, a haven for the humble male.