- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. (AP) - Terry Chambers’ barbershop sits inside a weathered block on West Frankfort’s Main Street. The building is a faded red, and through the picture window - half obscured by old blinds and an open sign - 80-year-old Chambers stands, as he has for more than half a century: above a customer, shears in hand, looking thoughtful about the head of hair in front of him.

As of November, Chambers has been barbering for 52 years. He came to West Frankfort from Joliet with his wife in 1972, and said he knew maybe 10 people when he came to town. Now he knows hundreds, though he has seen his customer base shrink over the years. Many have died, three recently.

In his years cutting hair, Chambers has seen hairstyles come full circle. He remembers cutting flat tops on nine of 10 customers when he started. As time moved on, he said he had to learn to cut longer hair. Now he sees hair moving back to the traditional styles he cut at the start of his career.

Barbering provided a good living as he raised his family, but Chambers said he now does it for his hobby.

“I do it more for my pastime, like going fishing or something,” Chambers said. Chambers’ wife has already retired, and he said he is not sure how well it would go having two retired people at home, so he plans to work as long as he can.

Chambers represents an old guard of the business. A train track and side street away sits Burg’s Hair Parlour, the new guard.

A storefront decorated with odds and ends houses Jonathan Raby’s chair. Customers are greeted by stylish mannequins in the front windows and a vintage, plush sofa is there for them as they wait for their appointments.

Raby, 26, a Southern Illinois native, said he came to barbering after realizing college was not for him.

“I had always been interested in trades. It always made sense to me,” Raby explained. After attending Rend Lake College in 2009 for his cosmetology license, he interned in the area before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where he said he got to fulfill one of his dreams: playing drums for a living. While there, he cut hair on the side. After he returned to Southern Illinois in 2013, he started working at Burg’s, which opened in 2014.

At Burg’s, Raby focuses on modern takes on traditional men’s hairstyles. Shaved parts and patterns accompany the classic businessman’s short-on-the-sides, long-on-top cut on several customers.

Both Raby and Chambers said there is plenty of room for more than one shop in town (there are three on Main Street alone). They just attract different clienteles. Raby admits his customers skew younger, but has been surprised by how varied their ages are. Both Raby and Chambers serve clients of multiple generations in one family. In fact, that is something Raby said he’s always liked about the tradition of American barbering.

“I found it really cool that a barbershop is not just a place where a guy gets his hair cut, he brings his son,” Raby said.

As the oldest barber on the street, Chambers’ shop has been in its current location since 1978. Chambers said he welcomes the new generation. After all, he knows what it is like.

“I was the new guy here once, too,” he said.


Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/2fPl6C5


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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