And he will be taking his chair
By Matt Caulder
Published in News on March 30, 2014 1:50 AM
Lee Grantham gives longtime customer Larry Gregory a final haircut on Friday. After nearly 60 years cutting hair, Grantham has officially retired.
After almost 60 years, barber Lee Grantham is hanging up his clippers.
And although he is leaving the shop and the generations of customers he has served for decades, one thing is certain.
He is taking his chair -- and a whole lot of memories.
Grantham has been cutting hair in North Carolina since graduating from barber school in 1955 -- beginning in Roseboro and Fayetteville before moving to Goldsboro.
Back then, a trim cost 50 cents.
Decades later he has built quite a few clients -- generations of them in fact. He has cut the hair of grandfathers, their sons and their sons' sons during his career. He also has cut the hair of the next three generations in his own family tree.
He will turn 85 this August and has decided to fully retire.
It was a process that he started 25 years ago by cutting back his hours to spend more time with his wife of 63 years, Jewel.
Now that he is out of the business for good, he says he will fill his days with more leisurely pursuits, golfing, fishing and serving at his church.
His barber chair will retire, too.
"I have cut hair in this chair since 1959," Grantham said. "This chair was $500 when I bought it."
During those 55 years, the chair has never been refurbished or reupholstered. But now that it will be retiring, too, Mrs. Grantham is going to have it redone to look new again.
"They don't make them like this anymore. You couldn't buy this chair now," Grantham said.
One of the most long-standing occupants of Grantham's chair is Larry Gregory.
Gregory has been having Grantham cut his hair since 1969 when Grantham got him out of a serious pickle.
"I went to the barber on base for a haircut, and he didn't exactly do it right," Gregory said. "We had a parade that day and I asked my sergeant how my hair looked and he said, 'Your head looks lopsided.' So I asked him what I could do and he said go out to the guy outside the gate. Ever since then, I have been coming here."
Gregory first went to Grantham when he was 19 years old and a greenhorn in the U.S. Air Force. Now, at age 64, he still drives from Mount Olive to have Grantham cut his hair.
"It's not like any other barber shop," he said. "I can just sit down and he knows what to do. He's looked at the back of this old head so many times. I just walk in and sit down."
Gregory said he tried a couple other barber shops in Mount Olive but none of them felt right.
"He is one of the best, no, he is the best, barber in Goldsboro," he said. "I'll say this, if everyone in Goldsboro were like him, this would be a right nice place to live."
Grantham began in Goldsboro as co-owner of the Lee Marvin barber shop near the main gate of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in the early 1960s.
"I sold the place in 1998 after Marvin died," Grantham said. "I was Lee and he was Marvin, so we named it Lee Marvin. Then I heard there were some guys who wanted to work three days a week so I started here."
Grantham started at the shop in Sunrise Shopping Center Thursday through Saturday but backed down to Thursday and Friday later.
Mrs. Grantham has been with him through it all -- from when he was deployed to Germany in the U.S. Army during the Korean War to barber school and everything that came after.
They have three sons, seven grandchildren and, now, six great-grandchildren.
"We got married because we thought he could take me to Germany but because he was only going for eight months, we found out I wasn't going," Mrs. Grantham said. "He could have taken me if he went back."
Grantham said had he taken her she would have had to stay in Frankfurt, 60 miles from where he was.
"That's why I didn't go back," he said. "I decided not to re-up. I would only get to see her once a month, if I was lucky."
Grantham went to barber school on the advice of his wife's brother-in-law who was in the Navy and attending barber school.
His wife is glad that now, he will home for good.
"After 59 years, it's time for him to take some time now," Mrs. Grantham said.