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Greencastle barber has been at it for 44 years

February 03, 2001

Greencastle barber has been at it for 44 years



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer


GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Jerry Stout has seen a lot of changes in downtown Greencastle through the plate glass windows of his barbershops in downtown Greencastle.

Come Nov. 20, Stout, 68, will have been barbering in town for 44 years.

He has owned Jerry's Barber Stylist shop at 103 E. Baltimore St. since August 1973. Before that he was a partner in a four-chair shop on Public Square for seven years.

He started out in the business 10 years before that working in Bill Brubaker's barbershop, also on the square, after graduating from barber school in Sioux City, Iowa.

He's been winding down in the last two years as he heads into semi-retirement.

"I come in for a few hours a day about three days a week," he said. "I have too many other things to do. There's golf, turkey hunting, riding my motorcycle, working around the house ... things like that."

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Kent Fraker, who has worked in the East Baltimore Street shop for 19 years, runs things now.

"With Kent here I don't have to worry about anything," Stout said.

Stout has had a picture window view of the goings on in downtown Greencastle for nearly a half-century, and that view is imprinted in his memory.

"I've seen lots of businesses come and go, but the buildings never stay empty for long," he said. "As soon as someone leaves somebody else moves in.

"In some cases their owners just got to be too old to run the business anymore."

He's also seen changes in the barbering business.

When he started out haircuts cost 75 cents. Today they're $9. The shelves in the shop were filled with hair tonics, shaving lotions and other potions with names like Wildroot Creme Oil, Brylcreme, Jeris Hair Tonic and Bay Rum after shave.

Most of the old labels are long gone, Stout said, but he still keeps a bottle or two of Bay Rum for a few older customers who like its tangy, pungent smell.

Most men in the early days came in on regular schedules for their haircuts.

"Some guys would come in at noon or 1 o'clock every two or every three weeks. They were on a real schedule," Stout said.

"Today everybody's so busy that they come in when they can.

"We used to know everybody who walked through the door," he said. "Now we only know about half of them. They're nice people. We know their faces, but we don't know their names."

In the old days most men wanted their hair wet for their haircuts and they insisted on hair tonic when finished, Stout said.

Another lost art is shaving customers with straight razors. Stout remembers when men came in religiously every other day for the kind of close shave only a barber wielding a straight razor could give.

"It was a treat for them," he said. "We stopped shaving about eight years ago," he said. "It was getting to the point where we only did a shave every couple of weeks. You have to do it on a regular basis to stay good at it.

"I got so I didn't feel that I was giving the guy his money's worth."

There are two modern barber chairs in Stout's barbershop and a classic chrome, leather and porcelain 1930s model sitting idly in a corner as a reminder of times when barbershops were called tonsorial parlors. Stout used the chair in an earlier shop. It weighs more than 350 pounds and did not have to be bolted to the floor to stay in place, he said.

A more recent change involved the age-old barbering problem of leaving prickly hairs on the backs of customers' necks.

"We used to dust them with talcum powder," Stout said. "I always liked the smell of the talc, but it never did much good. By the end of the day we had white powder everywhere."

The walls of the shop celebrate Stout's hobbies with framed prints of wild turkeys by Mark Twain Noe, a well-known wildlife artist in Fulton County, Pa., photos of turkeys he has dispatched and models of Harley Davidson motorcyles, given to him by his grandchildren.

Stout, a native of Iowa, first came to the area as a soldier assigned to the old Site A secret communications center. He was an Army cook.

He met and later married his wife, Shirley, 46 years ago and never left, except for his nine-month stint at the barber school in Sioux City, a school he chose for its reputation more than its location in his native state.

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