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Barber pole causing a stir

August 14, 2002|BY CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

When Joyce Remsburg bought an antique barber pole to decorate Shepherdstown Beauty and Barber a couple of years ago, she had no idea it would cause such a stir.

State officials ordered her to cover the pole. Friends and town residents want to start a petition to uncover it.

Remsburg, meanwhile, keeps cutting hair - and waiting for the controversy to end.

Displaying the red, white and blue pole is false advertising because Remsburg, who manages the shop, does not have a licensed barber on staff, said Larry Absten, director of the licensing board of barbers and cosmetologists, based in Charleston, W.Va.

Remsburg has been looking for a barber but has had no success.

So she's going to do it herself.

Starting this fall, Remsburg plans to attend the Academy of Professional Barber Stylists in Wheaton, Md., part time to get her barber's license. When she graduates, the shop will not have to change its name and the pole can be uncovered.

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Because Remsburg has been a stylist for 34 years, she will not need to take all the required courses, such as geometry, chemistry and business management.

She needs about 600 hours of courses, which she plans to fit in between clients.

"I'm excited," she said Tuesday. "I think it will be a lot of fun."

Overall, Remsburg won't need to learn a whole lot. She already is licensed to trim beards and cut men's hair. As a stylist, she also can dye or perm hair, which barbers cannot do. She said about half of her clients are men.

"The only thing I have to learn how to do is shave a balloon," she said with a laugh. Only licensed barbers can shave clients. She will need to learn laws that relate to barbers, among other things, she said.

Remsburg plans to pay for the classes herself.

The controversy over the pole began earlier this year when a state inspector realized no licensed barber worked at the German Street shop. After the inspector visited a second time - and found Remsburg still had not found a barber - the state ordered her to cover the pole.

She covered the pole, which is inside the shop in a display window, with silver wrapping paper. Perched atop it is a red cap with "Bad hair day" embroidered on the front.

Remsburg, who previously owned a salon in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., opened the shop about two years ago.

Absten agreed with Remsburg that finding a barber can be difficult.

"We have a shortage right now," he said. "I've never seen a demand like it is now."

This is not the first time a beauty shop has had to cover its barber pole, Absten said. After a barber complained that no barber worked at a shop in Charleston, the owners there had to cover that pole, he said.

Nobody complained about the Shepherdstown pole, he said.

Absten said the history of the barber pole makes it a symbol worth protecting. When barbers were more like physicians than beauticians, the barber pole was meant to symbolize that medical work, such as bloodletting and tooth extraction, could be performed inside. The red is meant to symbolize blood; the white, bandages; and the blue, veins.

"Barbers are really picky about their barber pole," he said.

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