DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Faster than you could say “crew cut,” the young boy burst out the door screaming and was running around Dubuque’s Plaza 20 Shopping Center parking lot, looking like a superhero.
“The bad part was, some of the kids didn’t want to get their hair cut,” said Rick Klein, who Thursday hung up his scissors after nearly 54 years of barbering - most were spent alongside the late Leo Link in Link’s Barber Shop.
“I had one kid - who was far too old for this - the minute he would hit the barbershop door, he would start crying,” Klein recalled. “One time, I got called to the phone when I had him in my chair, and the next thing I looked around and Leo said, ‘He’s out running around in the parking lot. You better catch him. He’s like Superman out there. He has a red chair cloth around him.’
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s come to this.’ The other barbers really got a laugh over it.”
The Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2iByM4E ) reported most of Klein’s customers weren’t that challenging. Some, such as 71-year-old Gerald Koppes, go back almost to the start of Klein’s career.
“Back then, it was like the corner drug store or cafe,” Koppes said. “The men would kind of exchange some politics and, if we’re truthful, we probably shared some gossip, too.”
Klein, 72, who grew up in Balltown, Iowa, remembers another heated topic of conversation.
“You’d be surprised, but most of the arguments were over daylight saving time,” he said. “It seems so foolish now, but the farmers would always complain about it to the towners, who could go out and play golf in the evenings.”
Earlier this week, Klein and customer Duane Frick were alone inside the sparsely decorated shop. Celebratory balloons floated in front of the tall mirrors and from a table that displayed a couple of old framed photos.
Like all of Klein’s clients, Frick set up an appointment for his haircut. The next customer would be in a half-hour later.
“I always get a good haircut,” said Frick. “It was cut shorter earlier (in his life). Now, it’s getting shorter, period.”
After Klein graduated from Holy Cross Leo High School, he decided to attend Cedar Rapids Barber School through a classmate who chose the profession. Despite decades cutting hair, Klein said has one regret.
“I always kind of wished I would have become a history teacher,” he said.
He started barbering in 1963 at Gerry’s Barber Shop on Central Avenue in Dubuque. Less than one year later, he joined Link’s, which opened on Nov. 21, 1963 - the day before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Soon after that, Klein was back downtown to John Dolan’s DeLuxe Barber Shop, one of 49 in town at the time.
“Back in those days, barbers bounced around a lot,” Klein said. “I spent only a short time at Dolan’s before going back to Link’s.”
It was long enough to meet his future wife, Jane, who attended beauty school across the street. They will celebrate 50 years of marriage in August.
“You got used to him being late for supper because he’s squeezing in another customer, or going places with him and talking to people he knows but you don’t,” Jane said. “The one thing I didn’t like when I was younger was we couldn’t go out Friday nights because he had to work early on Saturdays.”
From four chairs to the one Klein has used in recent years, the shop exemplifies a fading profession. Dubuque barber Al Maiers retired in June after 56 years.
“There’s only a few real barbers left,” Klein said. “It’s sad to see (the shop) all torn out. I’ll miss the people.”
Customers like Koppes might struggle to find another place to go.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Koppes said. “My car wouldn’t know where else to go for a haircut.”
Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.