06/04/07 — Local barbers here nearly 50 years

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Local barbers here nearly 50 years

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 4, 2007 1:46 PM

Noble Hudson and J.R, Daughtry have made many friends over the four decades they have run the Jefferson Park Barber Shop -- and heard more than their share of stories.

They have cut hair for grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandchildren.

The barbers don't rely on fancy slogans or elegant decor to get generations coming back for a quick clip. It's friendship, a little banter -- and, of course, a good cut -- that give this shop its staying power.

Hudson and Daughtry first met at Sunrise Barber Shop, where they cut hair together for six years before branching off to form Jefferson Park Barber Shop on Royall Avenue. In July, they will celebrate 44 years at that location.

Local businessman Sam Jernigan said his father and grandfather were already loyal customers by the time he followed suit in the late 1950s.

"My sons started in the early '80s and recently we took my granddaughter (who's 2 1/2) over there," he added.

Entering the corner shop of the strip mall, the surroundings are simple and sparse. Patrons pass between two barber chairs to take a seat and wait their turn.

The shop is open four days a week -- they close on Wednesdays -- and runs without appointments. There is no radio or TV to provide background noise. No need. That's the customers' job.

Bob Pearce is one of the faithful. Now retired after years as a car salesman, he says he enjoys the atmosphere, as well as the owners.

"Two fine gentlemen operate it," he said. "It's the same thing every time you see them. They're always happy, hard-working boys who have done well. The only thing I don't like about coming out here, you have got to wait two hours because they have got so much business they don't know what to do with it."

Craven Malpass, a patron for nearly four decades, said he usually allows a 30- to 45-minute wait for a haircut.

It must be worth it.

"This is a 40-mile round trip for me," he said. "I live in Mount Olive."

Some travel farther, Daughtry said. One patron comes every 10 days from Louisburg for a haircut.

"I don't know if we're that good or we just mess up so bad," he quipped.

Ron Etheridge, a neighbor of Daughtry's for years, says the owners and customers alike seem to enjoy the good-natured ribbing that goes along with the haircut.

"We might tell a few fish stories," Pearce said. "It's good fellowship. You have to have that to pass the time away.

"A lot of time I do come in here just to fellowship. It's one place you come you don't get in too much of a hurry because you have got a lot to talk about."

"We might play basketball, might shoot marbles," joked Hudson.

"We have a lot of good customers," Daughtry added. "We're proud of all of them."

Some have been there since the very beginning.

"As old ones die out, new ones have to come in," Daughtry said.

Gone are the days of the adage, "Shave and a haircut -- two bits," even though some customers remember the premium rate.

"My first haircut was a quarter," Malpass said.

The proverbial shave is also a thing of the past.

"We dropped that years ago. You didn't make a living with a razor," Hudson said, not unhappily. Fortunately, he added, he never cut anybody.

"We never lost any ears completely," Daughtry joked.

The popular red and white striped barber pole has likewise gone by the wayside, but not because it went out of style.

"We had two stolen, and they cost $500 apiece, so we just didn't replace them," Hudson said.

Despite its quaintness, the shop boasts a jovial atmosphere of familiarity. Men of all ages gather for the conversation almost as much as the service.

"We just talk about anything that comes up," said W.D. Hinnant of Princeton, who started coming in about a year ago on the recommendation of Pearce, who attends the same church.

On any given day, an array of ages, backgrounds and professions can be found represented in the tiny shop. Anyone who has hair and some who don't, the men said, find their way through the doors.

"They charge the same price if you have hair or not," Pearce said.

"Everybody's got $10 worth of hair," Hudson corrected.

Seventeen-year-old Clay Pinkerton of Grantham was in the day before his recent graduation from Wayne Christian. He said he began coming two years ago on his father Jack's recommendation and stayed "because they do good haircuts."

The reverse was true for former sheriff James Sasser, who learned about the shop from son Jay.

"I tell them the only reason I come here is they cut senior citizens' hair at half price," Sasser said before crediting the two men with being "very cordial and good barbers. It's really a pleasure for me to come over and visit with them."

During the wait time, customers typically trade war stories and barbs, and it's up to their audience to discern how much of each tale is true, Sasser said.

"We just listen. We enjoy it," Daughtry said. "I never got up a day yet that I didn't enjoy coming to work."

Both Hudson and Daughtry hailed from Sampson County, although they had never met until their paths crossed at the Sunrise shop. They worked together well and struck up a personal and professional relationship that has withstood the test of time and close proximity.

"We spend more of our awake time with each other than we do our wives. And we get along fine, never had any fights," Hudson said. "I ignore him;; he ignores me."

"Just tend your own business mostly" has been the key, shrugged Daughtry. "I think we probably have more in common all the time."

They cut one another's hair, say they have a lot of good barber friends in town and don't consider themselves in competition with anyone, Daughtry said.

And like the saying goes that "only your hairdresser knows for sure," these local barbers have learned the importance of keeping confidences.

"We're like a bartender," Hudson said. "(Former Judge) Arnold Jones once said, 'Anything heard in a barber shop can't be held against you.' That's very true."

And after nearly 50 years in business together, the partners show no signs of slowing down or discussing retirement.

Sasser suggested they demonstrate the real meaning of contentment.

"I once heard that if a man wants to consider himself lucky, he will get up looking forward to going to work and then look forward to going home," he said.

"It's always a pleasure to come to work, seeing a lot of good friends," Daughtry agreed. "They're not just customers. They're friends and customers."