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Aaron Johnson: The barber shop

The building is about 15 feet wide and maybe twice as long. Mirrors line the side walls almost from front to back, with a dozen chairs on the right side and four on the left.

The front wall is a full window beside an aging door made of a wooden frame and a single large window. A landmark stands like a sentinel directly in front with red and white strips that swirl around a cylinder standing on a vertical post.

Here is the final bastion of male masculinity.

For more than 60 years Colin Barnes has owned and operated the barber shop that bears his name. Many call it Barnes’, while a few know it as “Floyd’s.” That name has been earned due to the similarity between Guntersville and the fictional town of Mayberry, where Andy Taylor and Barney Fife kept the peace in black and white. And of course, Floyd kept the men in town well groomed.

That was a thing at one time.

My first haircut was at Johnson’s barber shop in my hometown of Boaz, Alabama. I was terrified. The pictures give silent testimony of my trauma. As I grew, I learned to love going to the shop.

There, men were allowed to just be men. Political correctness had not yet been invented and it would not have mattered anyway. The men talked about sports, work, church, and the weather.

Back then, a man could get a shave, with a straight razor, after having a hot damp towel twirled around his face. And no haircut was complete without the traditional warm shaving cream professionally applied around the neck and ears. A straight razor was then used to trim a flattop to perfection.

On a trip to Barnes’, when my son was about 4, he decided he wanted a flattop. I was thrilled. Without consulting with Mom, he got one of the best cuts of his life. When we came home my wife, his mother, cried. I thought it because of the cut. No, it was because he looked like a man.

There is a barber shop scene in a Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino.” Eastwood’s character had taken a young man from next door under his wing. He intended to show this young man how to be a man. Of all the places he could have taken him for a laboratory in manliness, the barber shop was his choice.

He was right.

I can’t think of another place where men can just be men.

Most men wait their turn passing the time in relaxing conversation. Some men wait on their preferred barber, while the men like me just take the next available.

From time to time a lady will come to have her child’s hair cut and she is always welcomed. Men think nothing of the female in their midst. Everybody is welcome at the barber shop.

The last time I was there a lady came to the door with her son. Two men jumped up to open the door for her. I don’t think she was insulted.

I love the barber shop. It reminds me of a simpler time when crime was low and respect was high; a time when men opened doors for a woman even if he didn’t know her. I miss those days.

I’m glad my father took me to Mr. Johnson’s barber shop. I saw men in their natural habitat. Each trip brought a new tribe of men. And not once in my life do I recall a word of profanity spoken or a vile joke told. The barber shop is a good learning lab for any young man.

At this time in history, we are dangerously deprived of high-quality models for men. The barber shop was always populated with good men, men who work hard, pay their bills, and help each other out when needed. Those sound like good qualities to me.

This Father’s day, maybe you could take a kid to the barber shop.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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