Saturday, 8 February 2020

From "I can't remember" to Tip O'Neill's Barber


I left off by telling you about the (ahem)  "unusual" encounter with the  Whitchurch, Bristol barber. That would have been in about 1967.

I know that I had my hair cut between then and 1984, but who cut it?
I don't remember having a regular barber during my remaining years in the Westminster (later National Westminster "Nat West") Bank; at Theological College in Nottingham U.K. (1972-1976); in Fitchburg, MA (1976-1980); or in Chicopee, MA (1980-1984).

My barber memories come alive again from my Pittsfield, MA days (1984-2000).

I began with John H whose shop was on Elm St.  He was a parishioner at St. Stephen's Parish.

A good friend pointed out the obvious: that it's not a good idea for Pastors to have business relationships with parishioners.  This is because in the event of a business disagreement, would that interfere with the parishioner/pastor relationship?  Yes, even with a barber.

I went fancy for a bit at a "cool" place on North St. I think was called "The Clip Shop" on North St.  Fancy prices too!

So I went with the flow and for the rest of my time in Pittsfield used the default barber for boys and men in south east Pittsfield; the unfortunately named  "White Barber Shop"
Image result for White Barber shop, Pittsfield MA
A bit before my time, but the building looked the same.  I think that the White Barber Shop has closed.

I moved to Cambridge, MA in 2000.  There are a a couple of good universities there you know!

After a week or two I drove west from Porter Square on Mass. Ave and spotted a neighbourhood barber shop.

It was the place to go for the old boys who had lived all or most of their lives in north Cambridge.

It was also "Tip" O'Neill's barber.  "Tip" the beloved Congressman from that part of town; "Tip"  who became the Speaker of the House.  He died in 1994.  His funeral at the nearby St. John's Roman Catholic Church was Cambridge's version of a State Funeral.

Here is a bit about Speaker O'Neill from the New York Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/07/obituaries/o-neill-s-constituents-remember-a-regular-guy-not-a-politician.html

It's hard to remember that there was a time when you went to your neighbourhood barber shop, and could find yourself in the next chair to the Speaker of the House.  Tip knew his roots.

I was there only twice.  On my second visit the place was like a wake.  The room was filled with some of the marvelous north Cambridge working class men, who were almost in grief.

The man who had been their barber  (and confidant?) for perhaps 40 years was retiring, and moving to Florida.

He cut Tip O'Neill's hair many times. He cut mine twice.

He recommended a barber in Ball Square, Somerville, and that's where I plonked my bum for the next six years. The barber was a great sponsor and supporter of many youth sports teams.

Goodness gracious  -   I just remembered the name of my Somerville Barber Shop!

Image result for Barber Shop,  Ball Square, Somerville MA



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