The Barber of Millville

“All things change except barbers, the ways of barbers, and the surroundings of barbers. These never change.” ~ “About Barbers,” Sketches New and Old

Barber Pole

The Fairfield House is located in a historical village that consists of two main roads that would be considered back roads to most other people. Along the roads are a few homes separated by farmed land.  There is one Mom and Pop convenient store featuring two gas pumps where these roads meet. If you want anything else, you have to make the twenty minute drive to the neighboring towns. One such trip is made to Pete’s Barber Shop.

Pete's Barber Shop

Unless this is your first visit to our blog, you know Thomas would never go to a hair stylist or unisex salon. Men go to barbers. They don’t sit alongside woman with foiled heads, inhaling chemicals, while sipping cappuccino and catching up on local gossip. They don’t do manicures or pedicures. I hesitate to think what would happen if someone suggested  waxing. The haircut is not a luxury, but a necessity. It’s not an event, but more a procedure, similar to changing oil on your vehicle.

Thomas located a barber soon after we settled in to the Fairfield House. Ever since hearing a bit about Pete, I wanted to share him with you. You see although barber shops are becoming a rarity, Pete is even more so—he is 91 years old!

Barber Chair

I asked Thomas to do this post and he flatly refused. Perhaps it breaks some secret man code. When I walked in, Pete was behind his chair cutting hair but looked up at us and said: ” That’s not the same gal you came in with last week!”  He then laughed before breaking into a verse of “Yes sir, that’s my baby. No sir, I don’t mean maybe…”

I took a seat and recalled sitting in this same spot waiting on my Da getting a crew cut. No, it wasn’t THIS barber shop nor Pete the Barber, but they are all the same. Maybe that is the attraction. You always know where you are and what will happen; a comfort in predictability.

Pete

After the man paid and departed, I explained why I was there, camera and note pad in tow and asked his permission to take some photos and share a bit of his life. He was happy to oblige even though he’s not sure he can handle all the new business this post will generate.

Barber Counter

Pete was born in Philadelphia. His family moved to this town when he was 8 years old. Pete’s father was a barber. Pete grew up and like most his age went off to fight in the big one, WWII. He returned home in 1946 and attended Barber School in Philadelphia for a year. After graduating, Pete’s father built the barber shop and they worked alongside each other until his death. Pete has been in business for 65 years. How different things are today. Most people will have a few different careers with multiple employers before retiring.

Pete has been married for 61 years and is well loved by his five daughters, eleven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His one man shop is open Monday through Saturday. All cuts are $7.00. You can tell him what you want but he’ll give you what you need. Basically, you will leave with a shorter version of the same haircut you walked in with.

Pete at Work

Pete says the secret to life is to find something you enjoy doing and keep doing it, to have fun and to take care of yourself. (He gave up weekly poker games at the American Legion due to second hand smoke.)  After we exited and I took a few exterior pictures. I looked back at Pete,now alone in his shop, the oldest man I know with the youngest heart I’ve ever met.

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16 Responses to The Barber of Millville

  1. rhonda @ blue creek Home December 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I love Pete, the barber!!! All men need a ‘Pete’!!

    I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful season at Fairfield House.

    Rhonda

  2. Beth December 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    What a wonderful story. It was a nice piece to read amidst all the current day events.

  3. Parsley December 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    This is precious! There is a regular old fashioned barber shop in my town but my dear husband doesn’t go there. Perhaps he should, and recapture some of the past.

  4. kathleen December 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Dear Deborah:
    This post is pure poetry. And Pete is one of a kind, or should I say a rare by today’s standards. I would love to meet Pete, and have Allen get a haircut by him. Allen also visits a Barber. : )
    I love Pete’s secret to life, and everything you wrote about him. What a beautiful man! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Kim P December 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Aww. What a good looking man Pete is. And good for him. Still going strong at 91.
    Businesses like this and men like Pete are few and far between now. I would like to see a comeback of this old towne neighborhood feel because only in a small town can a man get away with saying, “That’s not the same gal you came in with last week”.
    :) Have a nice Christmas, Deborah.

  6. Jane @ Cottage at the Crossroads December 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Deborah, what a wonderful post about Pete. I am just amazed that he is still barbering at his age. What a character with an obvious love of life. Alas, there is no barber is our little town, but Leo wouldn’t be caught dead in the “beauty shop” that I frequent! He drives about 20 min. to go to a franchise place called Sport Cuts which caters to mostly men.

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! ~Jane

  7. Laura Ingalls Gunn December 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    That a magical place such as Pete’s is still in existence makes me so happy! He truly does know the secret!

    Mr. Decor and Sweet Boy travel to the air base every 4 weeks. Their choices are as follows:

    1. Buzz cut
    2. Crew cut
    3. Flat top
    4. High and tight

    But they pay a whopping $8.

    Yes, Pete is a precious rarity. Thank you for the smile.

  8. 'D' December 15, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Gee Deborah,

    We had a Pete’s Barber Shop in my hometown of Garwood, New Jersey. My husband went to Pete’s until we moved and my two boys had their first haircuts at Pete’s.

    I have a funny ‘family story’ about my father’s visit to the Barber. First let me explain that my father was a perfectionist, when it came to his appearance. He looked very much like a Tyrone Powers, with a hint of Tarzan.LOL Anyhow, one Saturday after his monthly Barber visit, he walked out of the shop and a bird (made a deposit on his head). :<O From that point on, whenever he went to have his haircut, there was always a 'smart' comment made by one of the male members of our family, needless to say, my father never lived it down.

  9. Sue in Atlanta December 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Great post Deborah…….a bit of Americana!! how wonderful to see Pete at his age still enjoying what he does…..the Boss doesn’t go to a barber shop….I have to cut his hair and he doesn’t even tip!! Funny story…when his father died “The Big Boss” we found a text book from a school he attended after the war….we figure this is where he met Mrs. Boss….now I don’t know if you ever remember reading any posts of mine about the BB…..but he was mean and tough and was a combination of Ernest Borgnine and Don Rickles…..we discovered he didn’t go to barber school…..he went to school to be a beautician…..Oh My….did we have a good laugh…maybe he went to meet women because the text box was filled with notes like from a yearbook….all from women..he ended up driving a truck for Budweiser….

  10. lisa moran/Bilancia Designs December 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    This brought tears to my eyes. When my grandfather came over from Sicily as a young man he opened up a barber shop in Pennsylvania and cut hair for 50+ years. My mom would bring us in for haircuts and my brother would spin me in grandpa’s barber chair after “my turn” was over… I can still recall the clean scent of powder in the air and how the tiles on the floor were so shiny you could see your new haircut perfectly.
    Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories…
    Wishing you a wonderful week, my friend.
    Lisa xo

  11. Zuzu December 17, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    My dad’s 88 1/2 now, with a philosophy very much like Pete’s. Such a treasure.
    Tell Pete that I’d have him cut my hair just for the pleasure to chat with him! :)
    Hugs,
    Zuzu

  12. Rene Foust December 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    How wonderful!

  13. Jennifer December 21, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    One of my favorite posts!! :-)

  14. Cass at That Old House December 21, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Great story, Deborah. Why am I pronouncing the title to be in rhythmic sync with “The Barber of Seville?”

    Pete is fabulous, and a gift to your community. Howard also goes to one of those “guys’ barbers,” only his barber is a woman. I love to hear his barber-shop stories when he comes home afterward, from regulars and (his favorites) little boys in for their first haircuts. Yes, real barber shops look just as they did 60 years ago.

    Howard’s never told me if Jennifer the Barber has large breasts, but I have my suspicions. :-)

    Merry Christmas! Cass

  15. Stephenie from Decorating addiction December 31, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    Thank you for sharing Pete with us. I love his story and love how poignantly you describe the male hair cutting experience!

  16. Anne May 3, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    My husband and sons use to visit George the Barber. He was a retired military man and had a wonderful shop and stories to share! He retired and the new “gay” barber tired to jazz up the place and that is when they stopped going! SO sad, trying to go Hollywood in barbershop where men go to get away from the ladies for a while! LOL!
    What a terrific story. Pete sounds like a wonderful man, one who I would love to sit and listen to, Thanks for the great share!

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