Monday, April 19, 2010

The Shave and a Haircut Man

Glenn Skinner

by David Parmer

Shoes Shined: Fifteen Cents
In 1955, Glenn Skinner of Orlando was busy plying his shave and haircut trade to the many customers in Burnsville. Not only could the customer get a shave, but the haircut included a trim around the ears with a straight razor, something unheard-of today. Since no self-respecting barber shop at the time was without the services of an expert shiner of shoes, Glenn maintained a shoe shine stand with a green vinyl-seated chair perched on the top of a platform in the corner of the barber shop.

Left: Glenn Skinner in his barber shop (Note the gas lights on the "T" as well as an electric bulb handing together froom the ceiling.)
Right: Edmund Glenn Skinner
Left: Two of Glenn's shoeshine boys: Max Hamilton and David Parmer.

Whenever the regular shoeshine boy, Max Hamilton, decided he would take Saturday off and go fishing in Oil Creek, this writer eagerly slapped the black Esquire polish on the shoes of Glenn Skinner's customers, then buff them to a marvelous shine, for which there was often a generous tip. When there were no shoes to shine, this writer was fascinated by the conversations Glenn had with his eager-to-talk customers. There is nothing like warm lather to bring out mirth or a risqué joke from the man in the barber chair and no one better than Glenn to coax an amusing anecdote from him. Some of his customers however spoke not a word in the barber chair while Glenn was clipping away and there was no coaxing a peep from them. Glenn would remark after the “Silent Cal” left, “The cat must have had his tongue,” or “His wife must have told him not to breathe of word of it.”

Edmond Glenn Skinner was the son of Gideon Columbus Skinner and Sarah Esther (Bennett) Skinner of Clover Fork. Born in 1904, he was their fifth child who lived beyond infancy and the first son. His older sisters were Edith, who married Oras Stutler, Annie who married Howard Smarr and died young, Mary Genevieve, who married Bee Heater, and Jeanette, who married Worthington Hurst. His younger siblings were Haydee, who married Claud Mick, and Hayward, who married first Reva Pritt, and second, Lyda Williams. Glenn also had a half-brother, Jackie. Having four older sisters can be an advantage or a disadvantage growing up, but Glenn seemed to thrive from having four older doting sisters.

Growing up on lower Clover Fork, Glenn attended the Locust Grove, or Lower Clover Fork School, located near the mouth of Meadow Run, in the community formerly known as Blake. After eight years of school, no further local schooling was available to the children of Clover Fork.

Right: Gideon and Sarah (Bennett) Skinner with Jennette, Genevieve, Edith and Ann, Glenn on his mother's lap.
Left: left to right, Gid Skinner with his children Edith, Genevieve, Jennette "Tom" and Glenn.

Farming and Barbering
Like all farm children, Glenn became well acquainted with farm chores and earned the usual blisters during haying season. And, there was always corn to hoe, cows to bring in, hogs to slop and butcher, and corn to shock. But, farming would not be a full-time occupation for Glenn because he was enamored with the barbering occupation carried on by his Uncle Lloyd “Billy” Skinner in his busy Orlando barber shop. Encouraged by his uncle, Glenn sallied forth to Cincinnati, found a boarding house, and entered barber school which he completed in 1927, a full-fledged barber.

After completing barber school, Glenn joined his Uncle Billy in the latter’s barber shop in Orlando, in the Morrison Building across Clover Fork from the railroad depot. Many present day residents of Orlando who have been without the services of a home town barber for over sixty years would be surprised to know that Orlando once had a two chair barber shop and two full-time barbers. For the next few years, Glenn and “Uncle Billy” kept the hair of the men of Orlando cut and groomed with Wildroot hair crème or Lucky Tiger hair tonic, gentleman’s choice, and faces shaved and soothed with E. E. Dickinson Company’s Witch Hazel. Glenn’s daughter Peggy Morris, who now lives in Florida, recalls that her dad also gave a great “shingle-cut” to the ladies, which was the fashion of the day.
Around the mid-1930’s Glenn’s Uncle Billy decided to move his barbering trade to Weston where he barbered a few years and then later moved again to Elkins. Glenn remained in Orlando but moved his shop from the Morrison Building to a smaller building located behind the store of J. W. "Bill" Conrad and continued to give his shaves and haircuts at this shop for nearly the next twenty years.

Left above: The barbershop behind Bill Conrad's store
Right: Mugging for the camera are Clora Henline, Nina Matthews (who married Billy) and Lloyd "Billy" Skinner
Left below: Lloyd "Billy" Skinner

There is Nothing like a Barber Shop
There is something mystical about a barber shop to a young boy. It seems every barber shop has large windows and bright lights not only to aid the barber to find every stray hair to banish but also to aid in reading the detective story magazines which only adults were supposed to read. A moist hot towel to soften the hair around the ears to be shaved is also quite a treat to the short legged boys in the magnificent throne of a barber chair. And then there is the ritualistic sharpening of the straight razor on the leather strap to delight a youngster and make him feel like a full-fledged adult. Dale Barnett recalls getting many haircuts at Glenn’s barber shop at both of his locations. According to Dale, there was nothing like the soothing warmth of hot lather applied with a soft hog bristle brush and he found the experience almost as enjoyable as going to see a movie. Today, doting mothers take their sons to women’s beauty shops for “hair styling,” whatever that may be, and those young men never experience the youthful thrill of a real man’s hair cut.

The Days of an Orlando Barber Shop Become Numbered
As long as there were passenger trains stopping in Orlando and passengers with time to spare for a shave or a haircut while waiting to transfer to the other branch of the Baltimore & Ohio, there was enough business to keep Glenn busy. But, with the completion of U. S. Route 19 and the easy availability of automobiles, rail traffic diminished greatly in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. And, by the early 1950’s, rail passenger travel had dwindled to practically nothing. The days of a two chair barber shop became a memory of the distant past and the days of even a one chair barber shop in Orlando were soon coming to an end. The mythical “Floyd the Barber” of Mayberry fame was delighted whenever Sheriff Andy Taylor or Deputy Barney Fife, or any other “warm body,” visited his barber shop for a haircut. Floyd always seemed to have customers enough to stay busy, but not so with Glenn’s Orlando barber shop, as business continued to dwindle. But, a wise businessman from Burnsville, Orlando’s neighbor, four miles distant, knew a good thing when he saw it, and Jim Marple thus came calling.

Glenn Moves His Shop to Burnsville
The W. E. Marple Store in Burnsville was the largest general store in the town and carried a full line of shoes, clothing, groceries, guns and ammunition, and school supplies, as well as hardware supplies. The store also contracted with Letch Wiant to furnish weekly, a fully butchered beef, for sale to the store’s customers. Another major line for the store was cattle and hog feed for the area farmers. To accommodate the many farm customers, in the early 1950’s, Jim Marple built a large two-story stucco building on Main Street with a drive-in basement, to house cattle feed. At the time, Burnsville was down to one barber, Coger Maulsby, who was also a part-time school bus driver, and a relative of Glenn’s wife Virginia. As a service to his customers, Jim Marple dedicated a front corner of Marple’s Feed Store Building for use as a barber shop. Glenn’s son, Bob Skinner, now a resident of Dawsonville, Georgia, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, recalls that Jim Marple came to his dad’s Three Lick farm in the early 1950’s and walked out into the hay field to speak with his father. As a result of the hayfield visit, Jim persuaded Glenn to move his barbering business to Burnsville, and to bring along his Wildroot Original Hair Crème and his Lucky Tiger 3 Purpose Hair Tonic. Orlando’s loss was Burnsville’s gain as Glenn embarked daily on his commute from Three Lick to Burnsville to cut hair, shave faces, tell jokes, provide employment for a shoeshine boy, and delight customers.

Barbering in Burnsville
The barbering business in Burnsville was “good.” Glenn welcomed his old customers from Orlando and his many new customers from Burnsville. His modern shop on Main Street had two large picture windows, was well-lighted, furnished with handsome wood cabinetry, and well-serviced by laundry trucks from Weston and Glenville. Glenn even splurged on a new-fangled lather-making machine which did away with the hog-bristle brush, and produced a steady stream of warm, soothing lather with a touch. Weekdays in the barber shop were busy but on Saturday customers never seemed to stop coming. Men of the day would never dream of letting their hair encroach upon their ears or grow to female “sissy-like” proportions. Tennis shoes were relegated to the high school gymnasium, and real men wore leather boots or shoes which could always stand a good cleaning or polishing, so shoe-shining business was also “good.”

Right: Virgina (McCoy) and Glenn Skinner (Note the nice shine on Glenn's shoes!)

Retirement to Sunny Florida
Glenn barbered in Burnsville until 1957. Suffering from intermittent bouts of stomach trouble, Glenn opined that retirement in Florida may cure his chronic discomfort. Deciding to make their future home in the Atlantic Ocean coast city of Fort Pierce, Glenn, his wife Virginia, his daughters Marjorie and Jean, and his twelve-year-old son Bobbie Glenn left Three Lick for the land of oranges and sunshine. After living many years in Florida, the last barber of Orlando died in the Sunshine State in 1997 at the age of 93.

This story did not forget to mention the family of Glenn Skinner, Orlando’s last barber. Glenn was married to Virginia (McCoy) Skinner, a highly respected and beloved teacher of many children of the Oil Creek valley. A story about Virginia and her family will be forthcoming shortly.
. . . . .
Note 1:
Glenn Skinner was an inveterate practical jokester. A frequent target of his jokes was Max Hamilton who shined shoes in Glenn’s Barber Shop in Burnsville during the early 1950’s. On one occasion Glenn told Max that he was going to re-paint his barber pole which was attached to the outside of the barber shop. Glenn told Max to go next door to Marple’s Store and get a bucket of red and white striped paint so he could start painting the barber pole. As a good lad who was used to minding his elders, Max went to Marple’s Store and asked for a can of striped paint. It is unknown whether Max was humoring Glenn, or whether he really did believe there was such a thing as striped paint. On other occasions, Glenn sent Max to Marple’s Store to get a “sky hook” and a “check stretcher.”

Left: Glenn Skinner's barber's license. Click on it to enlarge it.
Right: Lloyd "Billy" Skinner's barber's license. Click on it to enlarge it.
Note 2:
Until 1934, anyone with or without a steady hand could be a barber in West Virginia. Probably with a means of producing revenue (taxes) more so than safety and health considerations, the West Virginia Legislature in 1934 passed a law requiring that all barbers or beauticians be licensed and be required to pay an annual license fee. By 1934, Glenn Skinner had been a barber for seven years and his uncle Lloyd “Billy” Skinner had been barbering much longer. Both Glenn and Billy applied for and were granted their West Virginia barbering license, which was renewed annually thereafter as can be seen from the renewal cards.

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