Sepia Saturday – Chair Memories: The Barber Shop

Sepia Saturday provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

I was pulled in several directions by today’s prompt, but finally decided to go with the appearance of the room. It looks like it is a place of business, so I’m going with a family business with chairs lining the wall and a clock on the back wall.

 

You may remember the man on the left from last week’s Sepia Saturday post.

Joe Loverde (L) and Johnny Trippodo (R?)

Yes, that’s my husband’s grandfather, Joe Loverde, on the left. I asked my husband to tell me everything he could remember about his grandfather’s barber shop. Then I called my mother-in-law for her input. I’ll do my best to share their memories.

The  Medical Tower Barber Shop was located on the ground floor of the Medical Tower Building, a high-rise of medical offices on Main Street in Houston, TX. near the Texas Medical Center.

Nelson Eddy

Joe Loverde and Johnny Trippodo were co-owners of the Medical Tower Barber Shop, which opened around 1950-51. Johnny must be the other man in the picture. My MIL thought Johnny looked like Nelson Eddy. What do you think?

Before they opened this shop together, both had worked at other barber shops.  Joe had been a barber at the Joe Chestnut Barber Shop in the Shell Oil Building, where most of his customers worked for Shell Oil. Johnny had been a barber at the famous Shamrock Hotel. When they opened their shop, both had customers who followed them.

The barber chairs were aqua and beige. The little white things at the top of the chairs are rolls of paper. Each time a new customer took a seat, there was fresh, clean paper for resting one’s head. Husband liked to play on the barber chairs – they went up and down and spun around. His grandpa would fuss at him to stop playing on the chairs. The sinks were aqua too.

Angela Parlati Loverde

Joe’s wife, Angela, also worked at the barber shop. She sat at the front and worked as the cashier.

Juanita was the manicurist. She had a little cart and would pull up beside the customers getting a hair cut to give them a manicure. That little table on the left is Juanita’s table (but maybe not the one with wheels).

James shined shoes in the back of the barber shop. He called Grandfather “Mr. Joe.” James worked at the barber shop for many years and Joe often took him to Galveston to fish on their days off.

Quite a few Italians and a few notable Houstonians came to Joe for their barbering. One was Joe Lucia, Sr., owner of Rudi’s Restaurant. Another was Frank Meyer, whose family developed Meyerland – he would come to the barber shop every day to have Joe give him a shave. If Joe had a customer who was in the hospital, he would go to the hospital to give them a haircut or a shave. MIL remembers that he would massage his customers’ heads – no wonder he had a loyal clientele.

At some point in time, Joe and Johnny had a parting of the ways and Johnny opened up a shop a couple of blocks away. Joe’s brother, Roy, joined him as the second barber.

The barber shop also served as a kind of babysitting service when husband’s mom had things to do. Besides hanging around the barbershop, husband would often go to the pharmacy in the building. They had a coffee shop in the pharmacy that his grandmother Angela frequented for a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Husband liked to go there for the comic books. Next door to the Medical Tower Building was Bill Williams’ Restaurant. In this picture, you can see the Medical Tower Building in the background. Inside the restaurant, husband liked to play the fortune teller machine.

Joe was also the family barber. Here is my husband getting a haircut in the kitchen of his grandparents’ and great-grandmother’s house (they always lived together). Kitchen haircuts were the norm for husband and his brother when they were little. Joe cut everybody’s hair…  sons-in-law, grandsons, nephews, grandnephews. When relatives from out of town came for a visit, Joe cut their hair too.

Husband says that the burr – or is it butch? – haircut his grandpa gave him came in handy during the years he was in Catholic elementary school because the nuns couldn’t get hold of enough hair to pull it. (He felt sorry for the girl with the long braids who sat in front of him.) Getting a haircut from Grandpa hit a snag, however, when husband was in high school. It was the late 60s-early 70s and longer hair was in style. Joe didn’t do long hair; he cut hair the way he liked it. After getting a couple of haircuts that husband and his brother thought were too short, they refused to let their Grandfather cut their hair again.

I don’t know exactly when Joe closed his barber shop, but the change in men’s hairstyles may have played a part in his decision to close. He didn’t retire, though. Joe worked part-time at another barbershop at Greenbriar and Holcomb until his late 70s, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I have shared other “chair memories” in previous posts. It all started with The Gold Recliner and continued here, here, and here. I’d been wanting to write a chair memory about my husband getting his hair cut and today I had the perfect opportunity!

And take a look to see what others did with today’s Sepia Saturday prompt.

 

20 comments on “Sepia Saturday – Chair Memories: The Barber Shop

  1. Barbershops were, and still are, the way to find out what is happening in the area. The barbers knew everything, which they heard from their customers. When I graduated from high school I was getting my hair cut in my cousins shop, and he told me to go to a wholesale hardware company and apply for a job. The president of the company was one of his customers. Plus it probably helped that my Dad had worked there before he got sick. I got the job.
    Don

    • You’re right. I know a lot of talk happens at hair salons. Sometimes Martin comes home from a haircut with bits of news. I have found myself wondering if I talked too much while getting my hair done! :) I guess a barber or hairdresser is akin to a bartender in that way. It’s nice that a haircut helped you get a job!

  2. postcardy on said:

    The description of the aqua color chairs and sinks made me wish the picture was in color. Aqua sounds very 1950s.

  3. I liked the unusual theme your chose from the busy photographic prompt. Didn’t the barber’s shop look so smart and the men in their white coats. Another aspect of the past I think as I cannot recollect any barbers’ shops left in my part of the world.

    • Yes, barber shops have almost disappeared. Just a few left. I wish I could have seen the barber shop in it’s prime. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great article and pics. I really enjoyed the stories. Barbershops have made a big comeback in recent years. I come from a family of hairdressers (fraternal grandmother, dad, mom, stepdad and sister). My stepdad moved here from Germany in the 60′s and worked in a downtown shop in Houston also. He tells stories of several of his clients being the wives of the NASA astronauts. It’s very true about conversations with the hairdresser. My sister has great stories.

    • Well – I guess you are right about barbershops making a comeback. Although some, like Bird’s, call themselves a barbershop but I don’t think they really are. You must have always had good hair with so much hairdressing talent in the family! I’ll bet downtown Houston in the 60s was quite a place. My MIL had several other stories related to the Shamrock Hotel and the Tidelands – which was also by Joe’s barber shop – but I decided those stories are for another day.

  5. Karen S. on said:

    I like where you went with this. Cool photos especially that very nice barbershop, what a place! The mirror makes it even better, and the Oyster building is delightful with their artwork on the roof!

    • According to my husband that restaurant was famous for their fried chicken, but they sure advertised the oysters. It sounds like there were some pretty interesting places in the area. Thanks for stopping by, Karen!

  6. Bob Scotney on said:

    I don’t visit barbers anymore; my wife cuts what little hair I have. There is still one barber’s shop in the town near where I live – others have become unisex establishments, not my scene at all.as all those cutting hair seem to be trainees.

    • Yes – my husband goes to a woman who does hair for both men and women. Nice that your wife can take care of yours! Thanks for stopping by, Bob!

  7. Jana Last on said:

    Great post! I can’t believe Joe even went to the hospital to give his customers shaves and haircuts. How sweet!

    • I’d hadn’t heard about that until this week. I thought it was really nice that he made trips to the hospital – they were nearby since he was in the medical center. Thanks for your comment, Jana!

  8. Queen Bee on said:

    Enjoyed reading this post about your husband’s grandparents. I’m glad you described the color of the seats in the barbershop. Imagine it was a colorful room and I like the old retro look of the place. By the way, I think Joe did favor Nelson Eddy somewhat. :)

    • Although I love the old black and white photographs, it would be nice to have one of the barber shop in color. I know I’d love it. I think Johnny favors Nelson Eddy too. Once she told me that, I was pretty sure he was the other man in the picture. Thanks for taking a look!

  9. Mike Brubaker on said:

    A wonderful tribute post with great detail. My regular barber retired last year and I was forced to test several barbershops before I found one that I liked. All those details are important for repeat customers. In your first photo, it’s a standard clock on the wall, but some shops had special reverse barber clocks that would read correctly in a mirror.

    • I didn’t know about reverse clocks. Interesting. I know how hard it can be to find a new hairdresser. Mine moved away about 10 years ago and I still can’t find one that I like as well! Thanks for your comments, Mike!

  10. Jo Graham on said:

    What a lot of great memories you managed to record here :-) Jo

    • It took my husband a few minutes to warm up, but I got a few bits and pieces out of him. My mother-in-law had additional stories I’m saving for another time. Thanks for reading, Jo!

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