This is what we would say to the barber during the 50’s and 60’s when we would go in to get our duck-tail haircuts and had sideburns. Because we avoided a haricut as long as possible, we didn’t know that our parents had already called the barber before we got there with their instructions. Before we could make our wishes known to the barber we had to first graduate off that hard board the barber put us on as a youngster to raise us up high enough to cut our hair.
This article wil focus on a few of the barbers we remember in Perry. Lenny Stracke’s Downtown Barber Stylist at 1222 2nd Street is a shop that has been there since 1957, when Tommy Schirman and Frank Schomers barbered there. Lenny who came from Westphalia, Iowa attended his senior year in high school at Harlan. Lenny then attended Sioux City Barber College in ‘68 and ‘69. His first barbering job was in Audubon, at Sam Kauffman’s Shop during ’69 and ’70. Lenny started his own barber shop in July of ’75.
Lenny’s Downtown Barber Stylist as it is called, is about the only barber left in Perry where you can still get the works. That means shampooing your hair, drying it, cutting it or having a shave. It is also one that you feel comfortable in just sitting around telling stories or talking about whatever is on your mind.
Barber shops as I understand the history, served as both barber and doctor or dentist offices. I can’t imagine having stitches or a tooth pulled without novacaine, but I guess the amount of alcohol used helped the pain.
At one time we had as many barber shops in Perry as we had gas stations. Two of them were in the fronts of pool halls. We really liked these shops as we reached our early teens. Actually you could learn a lot of different things in pool halls that weren’t taught in school! When your parents gave you money for a haircut, which at that time as $0.75 - $1.00 you better come home with a good haircut. As luck was against us many times, we got to playing pool and didn’t hear our name called for a haircut, resulting in all our money being spent on pool and pop. The next day after school we were right back at the pool hall with money for our haircut and our parents at our side, usually Dad! Then we had to go straight home to do some chores to pay our parents back the money we wasted on pool rather than a haircut.
As we continue exploring the history of Perry Barbers, I am beginning with the story of Clark Dorman. Clark and his wife had a 12 – chair beauty shop in Des Moines prior to returning to Perry, where Clark worked for Polly Godown. This shop was in the same location as the Overton Brothers, Bud and Don’s shop. Clark then went to work for Art Fisher at his shop on Willis Avenue. It is said that Art concocted his own tonic in the back of the shop and both sold and used the tonic. The tonic must have had a lot of alcohol in it as most said it burned like fire. It was at this time that Clark purchased the basement shop on Willis where he worked with Roy Castell and were later joined by Clark’s son Denny who after cutting hair in the military, worked for his father. Denny says that the family still has the gum ball and peanut machines, the cash register and six oak chairs from the shop. Perry resident Rick Stoner, also worked for Clark. Clark retired in the late 70s and sold the shop to Lyle Langford.
Local Dick Kestel went to barber school in 1967 and worked part time for Clark Dorman until Dick went to work for Oscar Mayer for 11 years. Dick and I worked on several jobs together until he left Oscar Mayer in 1983. While working at Oscar Mayer, Dick barbered part time for Overton’s and eventually bought the shop. Dick’s shop was the only barber shop that I have seen with a “take a number” machine. You took a number when you walked in so that Dick or Al Shimers, part time barber, could tell who was next. Three months after his untimely passing in 1996, his wife Billie kept the shop running until 2002. Billie then moved the business to her home at 1723 6th Street where she continues styling hair.
This brings me to our many pool hall barbers. One is Bill West, who was in Hylbak‘s Pool Hall on the west side of the triangle during the 50s. Bill later moved next to Stoner’s on Second Street. Ole Rudisel worked at Farnham’s Pool Hall on Willis. Ole saved our sideburns and ducktails until our parents saw us.
John Rion who was also a military barber had his shop east of Mau Drug. Then he moved his shop out to his house on Willis.
Many Perry residents drove to Rippey where they could get their hair cut by LeRoy Overman, saving a whopping $0.25.
Perry had its fair share of great barbers, but there was more there than just that…it was the people, the stories and the experiences!
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Historic Preservation Commission