Brown barber to generations

Published 4:57 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

When he started working in a barber shop way back in 1952, the going price for a hair cut was a mere 50 cents. Of course, the average income was only $3,515; most houses sold for less than $17,000 and a gallon of gas was only 20 cents. And hairstyles have gone from crew cuts, to ducktails, to shaggy locks and back to the buzz cuts of yesterday.

James Brown, who spent more than a half-a-century behind a barber’s chair, cut many a local head during his years with the shears. He was a fixture at Al’s Barber Shop (now Stuckey’s) in downtown Greenville, where boys and men would stop in to get spruced up and caught up on the latest news around town.

“I was a barber for 55 years before I retired three years ago,” he says. Brown, 84, said he, in fact, cut the hair for five generations of one family. And by the time he hung up his scissors, the average price of a haircut had gone up to $10.

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When asked what led him to become a barber, he has a ready answer.

“Well, I was looking for a job, something dependable and steady – and I got it,” Brown says.

One of his two brothers is also a retired barber.

Brown’s haircuts took on average 15-20 minutes a head, “although you can cut it faster if you want to,” he says with a twinkle in his bespectacled blue eyes.

He and wife Lavert will be celebrating 63 years of marriage this spring. After living in the country for many years, the couple moved to town, but still attend their rural church.

“We’ve been going to Midway Baptist Church for 60 years, and we are happy there,” Brown says with a nod.

They have a daughter who lives in St. Louis and a son who lives in Georgiana, and a total of five grandchildren.

Does Grandpa ever get to cut his family members’ hair?

“Oh, now if they are sick, I will cut it for them,” he says with a smile.

He and Lavert are regular attendees at the Greenville Senior Nutrition Center.

When asked what he enjoys most about attending the center, he glances around the room and gives a little wave of his fork.

“Oh I like the food and all the fellowship. Just look all around. Where else could I find so many good friends?” Brown says with a beaming smile.