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July 23, 2005

A lot of things have changed since I was a pre-teenage kid growing up on the downtown square in Perry. One thing that has adapted to new ways and new ideas but remains the same in many ways is the old barber shop. There used to be a lot of them around the square, but now you have to know the location, know something about the barber and be pretty certain how you want the outcome to look.

When I was a youngster, there was usually a copy of the scandalous Police Gazette lying on a seat where men young and old awaited their turn in the barber's chair. The magazine usually promised more than it delivered (or so I've been told), but reading the old paper was a kind of rite of passage for boys who were just growing up. If you quoted the magazine, it was assumed that you were hip, or with it, or whatever the term was at that moment.

There were many choices to be considered in picking a barber. Some that I remember were Leo Stieferman and Charlie Hise in the Elite Hotel building, Ralph and Hubert Mossman in their shop on the north side of the square, where Jack Dorl now presides, George McManness on the west side, Henry Loeffelholz on the east side, Ellsworth Choat on the north side, Charlie Longacre and his partner, Frank Taylor, on the south side, Jess Lee, who taught me to read a baseball scorebook, on the north side, and various others who seemed to come and go with the seasons. In truth, they were all good barbers and honorable men, and they gave a good haircut. So do today's practitioners. Mr. McManness was one of the few customers I had for the Oklahoma City paper, The Oklahoma News, and I recall that he always offered a 360-degree look at your head when he finished the job.

The barbers had what they called a "county association," and they met regularly to discuss their price structure. When they went up from 50 cents to 75 cents, it was quite a blow. I believe that is when mothers decided their sons did not need a haircut every 14 days.

As I said earlier, many things have changed. I miss the old barber shops and the literature they provided. I also miss the male conversations, laced with gossip, that filled the air. But most of all, I guess, I miss the price structure that used to prevail. But, then, what else has not changed in that regard?