, Corbin, KY


October 28, 2013

Manic males in barbershops of old

CORBIN — It was like knowing things before they happened. Just a few minutes (long enough for a haircut) could afford an eavesdropper adequate information to forecast the town’s headline events for the coming week.

Every community had its all-male movers and shakers who participated in an 8-10 a.m. ritual of getting their daily shave and trim along with discussing what is happening all over town. Power and prestige positioned these monetary elitists to control everything of any significant dollar value in and around their town.

There usually being but one major financial institution in smaller communities, its president dominated this barber shop exclusive gathering. His typical profile was rotund, impeccably dressed and groomed with a diamond in his lapel and on his finger, surrounded by plumes of aromatic smoke generated by his rare imported cigar; a living and walking proclamation of opulence, power and success. His bank opened at 10 a.m. and closed at 2 p.m. Walking in his shadow was a prerequisite for any kind of hope to build a business or sometimes even a house — in His Town.

To have this man and his barber shop associates (all well-healed business and professional men of the community) endorsement as a newcomer or an up-and-coming citizen was a cyclonic tail wind to success. Without their approval a knee-deep quagmire was the inevitable destiny - in that town.

This handful of town “big shots” kept close surveillance on the people and events of any stature or consequence; neither of which had a chance without their overt or at least tacit approval.

I recall back in the late 30’s (at 5 years of age) my mother taking me to our town’s barber shop, owned and run by a man all called “Stoney.” We mistakenly arrived during this sacrosanct, 8-10 a.m. period.Stoney had not yet accommodated these prominents with a private rear room. Amidst the straight-razor sharpening on the leather strap, the laid-out lathered dignitaries, the air filled with “colorful” male cajoling, the room engulfed in dense cigar smoke, my mother and I were terrified. It was the shortest and quickest hair-cut of my life. Never again were we to invade this convening of the mighty minds of the town.

Blessed to look back over the many decades, I wonder where are these long-past giants of success? They rest in tombs beneath magnificent polished granite grave markers; their names deeply and boldly engraved thereto.Prominently laid to rest for all generations to walk by… and ignore. Their day in the sun is long past. They are gone and forgotten.

May any of us not be so foolish as to pursue the brevity of temporal power and glory. May we direct our wealth to that of the Owner of it all — by serving the needs of his people and his church.

“The person who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the one who hears the word of God, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”[ Mt. 13:22]

Though no longer in barber shops, every generation sees many money magnates flex their controlling muscle — all suffering from the same short sightedness “… the deceptiveness of wealth”.

 “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James [4:14]

The Rev. John Burkhart  Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of  psychology blog at inspirationsandideas


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