By Michael Bisceglia
Hampton Union, Friday, October 27, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Photo courtesy Hampton Historical Society/Tuck Memorial Museum]
There is no history of barber shops in the Hampton area that date back to the Bronze Age, although archaeologists find ancient razors dating hack to about 3,500 B.C. in various corners of the world.
In 296 B.C., the barber shop was introduced in Rome. During the Middle Ages, the barber pole was introduced in France.
Since barbers also doubled as surgeons, for letting blood, pulling teeth, and other minor surgeries, bandages were often employed. Those bandages were aired out-side the shop on poles and as they twisted in the breeze, they would often form red and white stripes around the pole. Bandages were usually rags, and rags were difficult to come by some years ago.
More often than not, if a customer brought a rag back to a barber, that individual might be given a slight discount on the next procedure and the A STITCH bandage was used again. Well into the 1800s, sterilization was not a major consideration of the day.
There is some debate about the blue on the modern pole. Some folks believe that it is a patriotic American invention, others think the blue may go back even further to indicate the blue of the veins. In the late 1800s the rags around the barber's pole had disappeared, but the red and white striped wooden pole still remained.
Early barbers in America offered much more than "a shave and a haircut, two bits," which incidentally, is a line from The Barber of Barcelona by Rossini. A weary traveler might take a room there in the shop after a hearty meal, a cold beer and a cigar. Such was the case at the Lindsey-Marston Barber Shop at 449 Lafayette Road back in 1899.
After the original owners retired, Joseph Pelligrino and his brother took over the business. Later, the place became Earl's Barber Shop, with Earl Newman as owner/ operator. That shop is now Bob's Barbershop and Bob Fredette runs the operation.
Within a short walking distance of Bob's, anyone in need of a haircut will find four other "clip joints," sorry, "parlors of tonsorial elegance." Around the corner from Bob's is Les's Barber Shop. Les says that the place wasn't always a place to be shorn. Before he opened the place some 10 years ago, the shop had been a tanning salon. Before that, it was a bank.
Les, like the other shops in the downtown area, boasts of some fine heads to walk through his doors.
Everybody from politicians to sports stars, and from judges to jailers, they all have hair and they all want to look their best.
In Swain Court, Wayne Chapman has been running Wayne's Barber Shop for more than 30 years. Wayne boasts the old Belmont barber chairs in his establishment. It's the most comfortable of barber chairs, and the customers feel completely relaxed when it comes their turn. A customer may need to find something good to read while he's there. He just may find four or five guys ahead of him.
The usual banter in all of the shops ranges from sports to politics, and from humor to current events.
In any of the shops, a person can catch up on the local gossip, or be asked an opinion on the latest Red Sox trade.
Opinions on the Sox and Bruins even find their way into the Hampton Barber Shop. The shop, is run by Joy Talbot, and serves a primarily male clientele, so she has to be up on all of the news to hold her own in any sports debate.
The Depot Clipper is owned and operated by Sherri Maguire, who took over the shop following the death of her father some years ago. This shop boasts two terrific barber chairs from the '50s, complete with an ashtray attached to each arm. Sorry gentlemen, there is one catch. No smoking is allowed.
State law in New Hampshire requires a barber shop to sport a barber pole near its front door. The pole indicates that a licensed barber is employed in that establishment. There are five barber poles in the small town of Hampton. Take your pick. Great cutting and lively conversation await you. And although hairstyles in Hampton may have changed over the years from short to long and back again, barbering here continues to flourish. Keep in mind, however, a shave and a haircut will cost you a tad more than "two bits."
A special thanks to entire wonderful folks at Les' Barber Shop.
Michael Bisceglia is a retired teacher and Hampton resident.
His history column appears periodically in Currents.