Brown bids goodbye to barbering

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Once upon a time, you could stop in to the barber shop near the courthouse downtown in Greenville and get your hair cut for just 50 cents.

&uot;The hair cuts were cheap and regular back then,&uot; barber James Brown recalled with a smile.

Brown has plenty of barbershop memories – 55 years and seven months’ worth of them, in fact. This Saturday, July 29, he will be hanging up his shears at Stuckey’s Barber Shop in Greenville for the last time.

The barber’s smiling face and good-natured manner have been welcoming customers into the shop since January 1951, when he first started cutting hair at what was then called Snowden’s Barber Shop.

&uot;I bought it from Mr. Snowden, then later I sold it to Al Middleton…then he sold it to Linda (Stuckey). But I’ve been working here in the same spot the entire time,&uot; Brown explained.

In the early days, the shop employed as many 18 barbers, he said.

&uot;We had our regulars who came in once a week or every two weeks like clockwork in those days…they could also get their shoes shined here.&uot;

Hairstyles have changed and prices have gone up, of course. The client base has changed, too.

&uot;It used to be the lady beauticians did the ladies’ hair and the men barbers did the men’s hair, but that’s different, now,&uot; Brown said.

Indeed, Brown has been working with two lady barbers, Diane Sexton and owner Linda Stuckey. The two have been snapping photos of his many customers in recent days and inviting them to sign a special memory book for the long-time barber.

He smiles as he leafs through the book and reads the greetings and memories written within:

&uot;Try to behave, Mr. Brown&uot; (Dr. Norman McGowin).

&uot;They don’t come any better!&uot; (Mahlon Stead).

Brown has cut the hair for as many as five generations of one family, including the Watsons of Old Texas.

&uot;I’ve had folks coming in here regularly for 50 years. Some are folks I went to school with, went to the Masonic Lodge with…we go back a long way.&uot;

His work, his church – Midway Baptist –

and his lodge at Black Rock are &uot;the things I really like doing,&uot; Brown said.

When asked what his wife of 59 year, Lavert, will do with her newly retired spouse, Brown just grinned and said, &uot;Oh, she knows – she’s got it planned.&uot;

While he is ready to relax a little, retirement will be a big adjustment after 55-plus years of keeping the men of the area well groomed.

&uot;I’m gonna miss them all. I know a lot of people and I will miss seeing them…I hate to quit, but it’s time,&uot; the barber said with a shrug as he fondly read the remembrances written in his book.

And for a man with two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, there are likely to be some occasions when family members need a &uot;little off over the ears.&uot;

&uot;My hands are still steady,&uot; Brown said with a smile.