It’s the end of an era for Plaster Rock resident and career barber Carl Parsons, and a new beginning for Jeremy Shirley.
As I was making the rounds in Plaster Rock recently a couple of people brought this to my attention. I’d always noticed the neat little vintage looking barber shop on Main Street, but I had no idea of what a wealth of stories and history I’d discover once I walked through the door!
Carl has sold his barber shop and is retiring after 68 years of barbering in the community. Carl began barbering with his dad, William Parsons, in 1946.
Bill Parsons opened his own barber shop in Plaster Rock in 1922. He wasn’t the first barber in the village, however, Sammy Campbell had opened his shop in 1915.
Bill had served in WWI, where he was injured. When he returned in 1917 the government put him through barber school in Montreal. After he graduated in 1919, he returned to Plaster Rock and apprenticed with Sammy Campbell for three years, then opened his own business where he then barbered for 53 years, including yet another stint in the Army during WWII.
As I sat in the little shop getting an earful of history, people came and sat down in the vintage chairs that line the wall. The Barber Shop is the social hub in Plaster Rock!
As Carl told me, folks in the Barber Shop know the news before it happens. You want to find out something in the village, just get to the Barber Shop and sit a spell.
There’s never a dull moment at the Barber Shop, and Carl kept a pot of coffee on the go for 50 years. A big crowd always showed up in the mornings to drink a cup and swap stories.
Carl went to TransCanada Barber School in Moncton when he was in his teens. After he graduated, he returned and began working with his dad in 1946. A couple of years later, he moved over to the Busy Bee where he barbered for the next seven years.
Carl worked 6 days and 6 nights every week at age 20. He told me he was so busy that sometimes he wouldn’t get out of the shop until midnight!
The Busy Bee was located between two schools, and kids constantly traveled to the village on the fantastic train system we once enjoyed.
Carl was so busy he asked his father to come work with him. At that time, Plaster Rock had a population of about 1,800 and had two distinct business ends and there was plenty of business for the barbers.
A hair cut was 35 cents back then, and a shave cost a client a quarter, but these days a haircut will set you back ten bucks.
When the Beatles came to America in 1964 with their shaggy hair cuts, about 30 percent of the barbers had to find new careers. Many good barbers went out of business on account of the band.
Then, Elvis Presley came into fame. At this point, your reporter piped up that she thought that Presley was hot before the Beatles. Carl and Jeremy looked at me pityingly and reminded me where I was…. It takes a while for new fads to catch on in these here parts!
But I digress. When Presley became popular, the remaining barbers had to go back to school to learn how to cut the new dos.
In addition to cutting hair in his own shop all these years, Carl used to travel on Sundays to cut hair for folks who could not get out, and he barbered at the Tobique Valley Manor for 25 years.
The Village hosted a wonderful Toast & Roast in Carl’s honour on the 28th to celebrate a remarkable man who has led a life of service and commitment to his community.
Jeremy Shirley hopes to continue the tradition! He attended barber school at the Eastern College Trade School in Moncton, which offers the only barbering college in Canada. After graduating at the end of February, he returned to Plaster Rock to begin his practicum with Carl, then decided to buy the business.
He officially took over the reins on the first of June, but Carl still comes by most days to offer any help needed and to help make the transition go smoothly…. Many of the shop’s clients have had their hair cut by Carl their entire lives!
The next time you visit Plaster Rock, stop in at the Barber Shop for a blast from the past combined with a taste of the future. And maybe get your hair cut !