Meet Phil the Barber

Phil the BarberMen get haircuts. Men do not get hairstylings.  Men go to barbershops. Barbershops smell of Vitalis and tonic, have back issues of Sports Illustrated and Field and Stream strewn about and Sinatra or Martin on the radio.

I haven’t had anyone but a proper barber cut my hair for more than a decade.

When I lived in Spring Valley, I regularly went to Norm’s in Lemon Grove. It was, in every manner, a real barbershop. Five bucks for a haircut, which included a straight-edged razor around your ears and on your neck (the only effective way to get the short hairs) and an electric hand massage on your neck and shoulders at the end, and for another five bucks you could get a hot-towelled, lathery shave.

That kind of service isn’t available in any Ventura barbershop. But I like my barber just fine.

My barber is Phil. Phil has rounded the corner on 90, but still opens up his shop six days a week. It’s the same shop, in the same location, that he took over in 1945, right after he returned from the war in Europe. The previous owner opened the shop right after the Great War. In other words, over the last 90 years, there’s been a one barbershop at the corner of Ventura Avenue and Main Street and only two barbers have cut hair there.

Phil’s shop is filled with the memorabilia of his life — pictures of him as a young ball player, a ticket stub from the 1966 World Series, family snapshops, various tools and hunting paraphernalia, a crock’s head, bulls horns, cups, shotglasses and mugs from places his visited and items customers have given him over the years.

Phil loves music. We share a passion for Louis Prima. Phil vacations every year in Vegas (BTW: still married to the same wife all these years, and she loves Vegas, too). He’ll talk local history with me, politics (we’re pretty aligned) and baseball. Phil has been cutting my hair for more than four years now. I just try not to go on my lunch hour any more. Getting a haircut from Phil usually takes at least 20 minutes, and if we talk a lot, 45 minutes. And there’s usually a customer or two waiting ahead of me.

A few months ago, I sat in the chair with Phil cutting my hair when one of his long-time customers came in. He was 70. He brought a friend, a retired fisherman. He as 102. It isn’t often these days that I’m the youngest guy in the room, and I made it by a couple of decades. It felt like church talking with these wise old men.

Phil recently took two months off for rotator cuff surgery. Yesterday I asked him how he felt.  “Great,” he said. “Do you have your fastball back?” I asked. “No,” he said with a laugh, “but my curve is coming along well.”

Phil’s a great guy. Phil is the reason men go to barbers.

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