- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gray hair floats to the floor, and flecks fly onto Bob Taylor’s black pants as he carefully runs his clippers along Perry Reichlinger’s 93-year-old head.

Reichlinger, a World War II veteran, can’t hear the buzzing, let alone Taylor’s tales of cutting the hair of three Nebraska governors or of meeting Ronald Reagan. His hearing aids are under a frock, resting in his hands.

But it’s chatting with Taylor that has brought the York man to Lincoln’s VA clinic barber once each month since 1995.

“We just have something special,” Reichlinger says, after his hearing aids have been re-inserted. “I like his conversations, and I like him.”

The Lincoln Journal Star reports (https://bit.ly/1rBDZ8z ) Taylor, 83, has been cutting hair, trimming beards and bantering with customers here for 19 years. He started working as a barber in 1949 after graduating high school, only taking a break for the Korean War.

After selling his two downtown barbershops - the Clipper and El Toro - and his stake in the Nebraska and Wyoming franchises of the haircare company Roffler, he officially retired from barbering in 1994. But then the previous VA barber died.

Taylor was supposed to fill in for a couple weeks until they could find a new one. “They must have just stopped looking,” he said.

He started his postwar career in 1954, cutting hair downtown at Bob’s Barbershop. (He wasn’t the Bob.) In 1965, he bought the Clipper at 12th and O streets. Three years later, he paid $12,000 for El Toro at 13th and P.

Plenty of people have sat in his chair.

He estimates he’s given more than 450,000 haircuts in his lifetime, including trims for Nebraska Govs. Charles Thone, Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns.

These days, some 400 repeat customers filter in through the Korean War veteran’s door into the small room with a single stool in the VA’s basement.

Most of the men here are regulars. They’re looking for quick, easy haircuts from an experienced barber. But more than that, they’re here to visit with a friend.

The key to being a successful barber has little to do with snazzy looking haircuts, Taylor says.

“You’re supposed to be a decent barber. But it’s even more important to be a decent person.”

Taylor first wet his barbering feet in Lincoln after he graduated - 12th in his class of 13 - from Lewellen High School. His draft card arrived in the mail in 1952.

His next stop was Omaha, where newly drafted Army recruits were asked if they would like to join the Marines. When nobody’s hand went up, the men were put in a line and every fourth one was to go to the Marine Corps. Taylor was one of the men picked for the job.

He spent a year in Korea but didn’t see any combat working in a convenience shop.

“I like to tell people I organized it so it’d get over with,” he says.

He celebrated his 60th year with the American Legion last week. He has pictures of himself with other veterans and a Semper Fi sticker on the door of his barber shop, alongside photos of golf balls.

One wall has a giant picture of a tee box and a putting green. Taylor loves to golf and tries to hit the links three times a week. He has a steady stream of 20 men who go with him, and they always make their reservations under the Taylor group, he said.

Every year, he sends each of his barbershop clients a birthday card with a handwritten note. After they turn 90, he’ll give them a free haircut and put their picture on a wall plastered with wrinkled faces and white hair.

Anybody who makes it to 100 gets free haircuts for the rest of his life.

“When you’re out with my dad, there are no strangers,” his daughter Karen Bowling said.

Taylor and his wife, Beverly, live in Legacy Retirement Community near 72nd and Van Dorn streets. They pass the time playing card games and meeting up with friends. And when the weather gets nicer, he plans to get in plenty of golf.

But a major part of retirement has been cutting hair.

“The barbershop is just great,” Beverly said.

It was barbering that brought the couple together.

Beverly met Bob after he returned from Korea. One night, a couple of mutual friends needed a date for Bob at “some barber banquet,” Beverly said. The two hit it off. They’ll celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this June.

Beverly worked as a surgical nurse at Bryan Memorial Hospital for about seven years but quit her job to take care of the family’s three children.

The kids spent many summers working inside their dad’s barber shops. Bowling and her sister and brother would clean, answer phones and give out shoeshines.

“He just taught us so much about being generous to others,” Bowling said. “I have one vivid memory of when we were kids, he got into a dying man’s bed and gave him a haircut.

“That taught me volumes.”

Back in the VA basement, Reichlinger’s haircut is finished. He takes $10, Taylor’s standard fee, and hands it off. After a lighthearted joke about their advanced age, the World War II vet heads out the door to make the drive back to York.

Into the barber’s seat plops Iraq War veteran Joe Langenfeld of Milford. It’s his first haircut from Taylor.

Taylor takes the same great care as he buzzes the sides and shortens the top of Langenfeld’s cut.

After the clumps of hair - dark brown this time - stop flying, Langenfeld observes his haircut in the mirror surrounded by old pictures of customers and golfing escapades. He’s gotten exactly what he asked for.

“It’s a good haircut,” he says.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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