a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A straight-talking barber

Dennis Lancy of Charleroi, Pa., enjoys listening to barber Frank DeLost reminisce about his days in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression while receiving a trim in DeLost's Strabane shop.

By Scott Beveridge

Frank DeLost is one of those old-fashioned, hard-to-find barbers who still uses a straight razor sharpened on a leather strap to smooth the necks of his customers.

On top of that, the 88-year-old guy has a barber shop a block away from one owned by his brother, Tony, in the small town of Strabane in southwestern Pennsylvania.

So I ask Frank, "Didn't you ever worry about cutting into each others' business?"

He replies, "Our father was a barber here, too. He always said, 'It doesn't matter as long as they come to us.'"

DeLost hasn't had to worry much about business. He's more concerned about conversation, talking with his customers, some of whom have the most-stylish comb-overs at that age when they've developed bald spots on their heads. Some days there are guys seated four deep in his tiny shop beside the kitchen in his house.

He has never kept a radio or television there, or stocked it with magazines and newspapers. Those things, he said, would distract his clients from talking to him about their lives or the problems of the world.

"Oh, so you are a psychologist AND a barber," I say.

He says he's not so sure about that, but just enjoys a good conversation.

One of his best conversation pieces is the sign on the mirror indicating his haircuts cost $5 apiece in an era when some men pay hundreds of dollars to style their hair with big girly bangs like those worn by the teen sensation Justin Bieber. Even the 33-year-old NFL quarterback Tom Brady is sporting a wannabe Bieber hairdo these days. Seriously, what is Brady thinking these days?

Meanwhile, DeLost said he never changed the price of his haircuts as a joke.

"Some guys don't think anything about crumbling a five dollar bill in my hand. Others have learned how to spell the word tip," he said.

I had the pleasure of meeting DeLost to photograph him for a story in the Observer-Reporter newspaper that employs me in Washington, Pa. I could have stayed in his shop that day for hours listening to him gab about his life. He seems like a really nice guy.

He started cutting hair in his father's basement when he was 10 years old, practicing on his brothers.

"When I turned 13, I started cutting elementary kids' hair for 10 cents a head," he said in the O-R article written by Karen Mansfield.

These days, though, he has to be among the last of his breed. That is a shame.

1 comment:

Amanda Blu said...

Dude looks solid. Nice narrative, Scooter.