The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 27, 2013

Old Time Barbershops



Once, a county cattleman went to Chicago and sold his beef. He returned to Lyons with a sizeable check and asked Pickles to cover it -- which he could, since he always had $20,000 to 40,000 in his safe (Jack recently sold it, and it was still as solid as the night thieves took a sledge hammer to it, in vain). Pickles said that he’d cash the check for $20, but the outraged man left in a snit. Up and down Main Avenue he went, trying to get another to cash it, but no one could. So, back to Pickles he went, crabbing, “I guess I’ll have to deal with you!”


Charlie Overkamp (1885-1971) began with “Pickles” in 1911, after homesteading in Casper, Wyoming. He had picked up his skills while barbering on the side there, just to eat. At one time, that shop had three chairs, three pool tables, a bathtub, a card room, and a tailor shop. Charlie retired in 1968.


In its heyday, there were over forty barbershops in town, but that dwindled to twenty in the 1970’s. Now fewer than a dozen traditional shops exist, with no frills… not even shaves… and outlining is done with an electric trimmer. No backroom, no pool tables. But barbers’ chairs seem to stay full; places men continue to gather and talk, often adjourning to nearby fast food places for more talk. Conversation is still part and parcel of a barbershop experience.


Other old time barbers were Allan Judge, Al Erhart, Floyd Bickford at the Brass Rail, and Frank Conboy around the corner on 4th Ave. with Dick Westbo. Who can ever forget Claude Arney on 2nd Street?! He was seen at a continuing education meeting when he was 80 years old, watching a demonstration by some woman showing how to weave flowers into female hair-do’s, and they asked him, “Claude, are you thinking of using this concept in your business?” He dead-panned back, “Hell no, I’m watching the girls.”

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