Barnes Barber Shop is a special place

By John J. Duncan Jr.

My wife has several times said in a critical way that I just don’t like change.

I guess she is right, because I have been a member of Holston Hills County Club since I was nine, of Eastminster Presbyterian Church since I was 12, and I still get my hair cut where I got my very first haircut, probably when I was about two years old.

Barnes Barber Shop in Burlington (East Knoxville) is where I have gone for haircuts for over 70 years.

The shop used to have five barbers, Ernie and Bob Barnes, a barber everyone called by his last name, Fox, and Big Roy and Little Roy.

I can picture all of them in my mind as I write this.

Some men would wait until their usual barber was available, but I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I always just went to the next one open.

Thus, at one time or another, my hair was cut by all of them, and all were very nice men and very good barbers.

Bob, Fox and Big Roy all retired many years ago. Then it was just Ernie, Little Roy and Ernie’s daughter, Debbie.

Little Roy – Roy Berrier – was a real character.  He had a great personality, and everyone enjoyed listening to his stories.

Once, I was eating at Ruby’s Coffee Shop.  It was the birthday of one of the waitresses, and Roy came in and started singing a song of his own creation to the packed restaurant.

It was called “Pine Trees,” and it had no other words – just the title repeated three times – starting from very low to very high, and the crowd was in stitches laughing.

I claim that I received both the longest and shortest haircuts in Barnes Barber Shop history.

Once, during the controversy over the state income tax, the shop was crowded, and Roy kept me in the chair for a very long haircut while he and everyone there expressed their opinions (all opposed) even though I was not in the state legislature.

Another time I came in just about three minutes before closing, not knowing that Roy, whose wife had died a few years earlier, had a hot date that night. About two minutes after I got in the chair, my haircut was done.

I later had the privilege of giving the eulogy to the hundreds at Roy’s funeral.

One of the barbers, who will remain unnamed, told me, probably in the 80s, that he had not missed a lodge meeting since 1951 and had not seen the inside of the lodge yet.  He always told his wife the meetings were secret.

Bob Barnes once told me when he had finished cutting my hair, “Ok, Jim, you can go home and change the oil now.”

Both my sons, and I think all of my grandsons, got their first haircuts at Barnes.

Today, only Ernie Barnes, who is in his 90s, and his daughter, Debbie, cut hair there. I go to whichever one is available.

I have never known anyone with whom I agree more on big issues than Debbie. She and I think almost exactly alike, at least when I am in her chair.

I always said I think the problems of this nation could be solved better at Barnes Barber Shop than in the Congress of the United States.

NOTE: There was an error in last week’s column about the bailout money being sent to wasteful, inefficient blue state mayors and governors. They are receiving $350 billion, not $50 billion.

 

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