Memories of Nanty Glo barbers, shops
Letter No. 336 | March 2, 2009
It’s another cold and partly cloudy Saturday morning here in western Pennsylvania. Signs of the promise of springtime are beginning to reveal themselves through variation in temperatures and a report that Easter lilies have been spotted budding from the soil. Students from the local university have vacated their dormitories to return home or migrate south for spring break. Only twenty more days to go!
After a rather challenging week of schedules and mind-bending calisthenics, I was thankful for the opportunity to crawl beneath the warm covers of the bed without minding to turn on the alarm clock (I gave it the day off too). As I awakened from a restful night of sleep, I found myself reflecting on the week behind and the day ahead…so many things to be thankful for in spite of difficult times.
The highlight of my week was the opportunity to spend a few moments with the members of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s chapter of the Student Nurse Association of Pennsylvania. Sharing my experiences and passions with the next and upcoming generations is always rewarding, particularly when I observe their excitement in knowing possibilities are endless.
Life is a fantastic journey and in spite of the occasional bumps in the road, we find ourselves growing stronger because of the experience. Two weeks ago we made a trip to the Emergency Department at Indiana Regional Medical Center and checked in for an overnight stay. Participating in the hospital process from the opposite side of a bed is a unique experience for any healthcare provider. We’re too caught up in the technical, and way too entrenched in our respective field to consider the simplicities of the moment. After I received my heart stent nearly two and a half years ago, I walked away with a new perspective and it certainly served me well. There are many people who are suffering or have more complex problems than I may ever understand. My roommate was one such fellow and we pray a seed of hope was planted in his life from our brief interaction. I’m also thankful for remarkable test results!
Speaking of the journey, I looked in the mirror this morning only to discover that it was time for another haircut. While I confess there’s not much to cut, what is left merits a trim and clip here and there. Reminded me of more days from the valley of coal….
It surely must have been an unwritten ritual for the sons of Nanty Glo. At a single, random, and undetermined moment in time, we each took to the big black chair for a rite of passage into early manhood. While mothers may have taken matters into their own hands by pulling scissors from the drawer in desperate attempts to curb the growth from our heads, they soon discovered it beyond their abilities. In voices of futility and frustration, they turned to their husbands and gave the word…“Barber”!
My turn would come soon enough. At age 4, my mother turned to my father and gave “the word.” We hopped into the old ’66 Dodge Coronet and headed for my destination with fate. Nanty Glo had its share of Barber Shops and my fate ended at the corner of Chestnut and McCoy Streets and the Barosky brothers. There were many institutions that served as foundations in our community, and Barosky’s was certainly one of them. Joe and John were as much a part of Nanty Glo as Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Baseball are all that is American. I vividly recall the red and white tiled floor, the wooden benches that lined the walls, the large mirrors, the counter full of trade tools, and the box in the corner where they collected old eyeglasses for the local Lions’ or Kiwanis Club. While I’m unsure if they were bowlers themselves, the TV was always tuned to ABC’s Wide World of Sports and Professional Bowling Tournaments.
When I took my first step into the shop, it was like leading a lamb to slaughter. Certainly my life was going to end in the clipper mishap to end all clipper mishaps! The men sitting on the benches knew exactly what was going on and would give a smirkish smile – fueling my fear that my ears would no longer be a regular part of my anatomy. Joe Barosky, a tall, dark-haired gentleman, placed a wooden slat across the big chair and lifted me up onto it. I was soon draped with a white cape and the neck was sealed with a strip of white paper to prevent clippings from going down my shirt. This was it…I was prepped for surgery! The click of the switch and the hum of the clipper served notice that my life, as I knew it, would be over. A hand grasped my head and pushed it forward and then it began….
As I survived the clippers of death, I soon learned that it wasn’t over…nothing could be that simple! My head and neck were soon attacked by the scratching of the broom-style brush followed by a splat of something wet on the top of my head that was rubbed in and then combed. My hair almost instantly congealed to my skin; much like Jell-O surrounding fruit cocktail. A splash of something followed on the back of my neck. At first it was cold, and then it began to warm. I felt flushed from the tip of my head and the toes on my feet. The smell was medicinal…Witch Hazel!
Deciding the procedure had taken the desired effect and with a nod from my father - I was disrobed and helped down from the big black chair and the wooden slat. Joe Barosky gave me a look…I truly believe he anticipated great things from the sons of the valley. He smiled, handed me a stick of Beemans, and said, “Atta boy,” as if I were Chuck Yeager getting ready to hop in the X-1 and break the sound barrier. After leaving the shop, my father took me across the street to the fire department for which he volunteered for many years. I was rewarded with a small bottle of Red Pop from the old Royal Crown Cola soda machine. The men at the station patted the stiff hair on my head and laughed - indicating I had completed my rite of passage.
This rite of passage evolved into a regular bi-weekly, Saturday morning ritual for years to come. When I was old enough, I would go on my own, and Joe Baroksy would do his part, give the look, hand me a stick of Beemans, and say, “Atta boy”...complete with an added handshake. To my displeasure, I cannot recall my last haircut in the shop, the last stick of Beemans, or the last “look.” The Barosky brothers have since passed on, but on this Saturday, as with many more to come, I will complete a very modified version of that ritual, and remember my father and Joe Baroksy and more of the lessons learned from the valley of coal.
Journalist Fran Lebowitz reminds us that we’re “only as good as our last haircut.” I hope I get this one right, Mr. Barosky, and I hope I’ve met the expectations of “the look.”
May your memories and lessons from the past propel you further on this fantastic journey!
Letter No. 336a | March 3, 2009
I was also a member of the Joe Barosky haircut club. Joe gave me my first haircut, though at that time his shop was located in the red brick shop in Twin Rocks. He later moved to Nanty Glo with John. I followed him and except for my tour overseas Joe cut my hair pretty much all my life till he passed away. Even when I lived in Williamsport, Pa. for 13 years, I always "managed" to be in the area when I needed a haircut. I have since found a Nanty Glo boy who cuts hair in Ebensburg, John Connelley, but will never forget the old days.
Letter No. 336b | March 3, 2009
Going back further than the Barosky brothers, I recall Joe and Steve Rabel's barber shop on Lloyd Street, Adam Janosik's shop on Roberts Street, and Casales' shop just off the old bridge on Chestnut street. I remeber a sign in Rable's shop, "Spiffy in a jiffy."
Letter No. 336c | March 4, 2009
My grandfather had the barber shop that was then bought by Dom Bucci on Roberts Street next to the bridge. His name was Paul Cubeta and [he] ran the shop for many years. I don't know what the name of his shop was but Dom Bucci might know.
Letter No. 336d | March 22, 2009
Paul Cubeta's barber shop was called Paul's until bought by Dom Bucci. His name is still in the window by the bridge.