There was a barber that had a shop at the bottom of St. Benedict’s Street. It was basically a row house where the front entrance had been converted into a barbershop. Most of us kids would go there to get our hair cut as Steve was a nice old guy that charged I believe about 25 cents but the thing about Steve is that oftentimes he would give you back more than what you gave him! I remember giving Steve a quarter and getting back like 35 cents or more on a few occasions. I don’t know if Steve was a bit senile or perhaps just being generous to some neighborhood kids, but in any case Steve always had plenty of reading material, comics and such, and called everyone ‘Sonny’. He would say “okay Sonny, it’s your turn”. Like most people in the area, Steve didn’t get rich doing his job, it was just something he did. Steve was like a lot of men during that time, kind of gruff in his speech, but had a kind heart and was probably aware that he was paying us to get a haircut.
There was another barber named Ollie, that my brother and I use to go to a bit later when we were teenagers. I didn’t know it at the time but Ollie was the twin brother of our next door neighbor when we lived on Dulany Street, that we knew as ‘Old Man Gallion’. He looked identical to his brother, and I would have thought it was the same person if I hadn’t known that Old Man Gallion had passed on. Ollie was definitely pass his prime when it came to cutting hair as you never knew what Ollie’s finished work was going to look like, but you knew it wasn’t going to be stylish. The last couple of times he cut my hair I wound up getting it all cut off after I had looked in the mirror and saw his handiwork.
There were many neighborhood characters like this who made a living prying their trade back when there was still small businesses in the neighborhoods. Sadly, there are few of these people to be found any longer as the age of the shopping malls and big business put a stake through the heart of small local businesses.
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