By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
The most famous television barber was probably Floyd the Barber from The Andy Griffith Show. In the fictional town of Mayberry, Floyd’s Barber Shop was the gathering place where the men would read comics, play checkers, and discuss current events, along with getting a haircut.
On the old Hee Haw television show, Archie Campbell played the barber and he and his customer would often perform a skit called “That’s Good, That’s Bad.” Archie would tell the customer about something that had happened. If the customer said, “Oh, that’s good,” Archie would respond, “No, that’s bad” and then he would explain further. Then the customer would say, “Oh, that’s bad,” and Archie would respond with “No, that’s good!” Archie also told comical fairytales in “spoonerism” form to the people in the barber shop (switching the first letters of words for comic effect). His fairytales such as Beeping Sleauty and Rindercella were always our favorites.
The first barber shops that Joann and I noticed were on our trip to Northern Michigan in 2007. One was a small red building with old Coca Cola ads painted on the sides. The sign proclaimed it to be Mike’s Barber Shop but it was late in the day and the shop was closed.
The next day as we started our homeward trek, we found another small barber shop. This one was permanently closed, but was in a very unique little building. The sign above the door stated that it was the Colonial Barber Shop and this time there was a barber pole attached to the building.
Then in January of 2011, a small article appeared in the local paper that Barber Bill Groff was retiring and selling his one-chair barber shop after 38 years. Joann and I made a note that we should visit the shop before the signage was changed.
In early September we finally made a trip around Madison in the early morning hours and the signage was still there.
It’s a small shop in a residential neighborhood. The outside of the building had been changed from red to blue, but the name remained.
As we drive through towns, I am always on the lookout for barber poles. Many of the barber shops we find now don’t have the traditional pole out front.
Before 1950, there were four manufacturers of barber poles in the United States. By 2010, there was only one company still making barber poles. The company is the William Marvy Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. They have sold over 80,000 since 1950 when they began. They now sell only about 500 poles per year compared to over 5,000 per year in the 1960’s.
As you travel along the backroads and through small towns, look around for the small barber shops and see if you can spot a barber pole out front. They’re getting harder and harder to find.