50 years of haircuts: Robert Haley observes a half-century in the same barber shop
Retired Air Force veteran Phil Perez of Fresno saw the barber pole hanging outside Morgan’s Barber Shop and dropped in to get Robert Haley to cut his hair. As of July 18, Haley had been cutting hair for 50 years. (Wendy Alexander)
In the 1960s while many of his contemporaries were turning on and dropping out Robert Haley began a job he still performs 50 years later.
“I always thought I would cut hair for 10 years or so and then go do something else,” said Haley, owner of Morgan’s Barber Shop.
The business is in the Olive Park Plaza at 1301 W. Olive Ave., Suite A.
The Madera native is the son of the late Ava and Virgil Haley. He grew up on a dairy in Dixieland, and graduated from Madera Union High School in the class of 1961. The following year he graduated from Fresno’s Moler Barber College. In school he learned to give haircuts using clippers, scissors and a straight razor.
Getting a shave after a wrap with a hot towel was once a staple in a barber shop, but no more. “I never did like giving shaves with the straight razor,” Haley said.
After he passed the state licensing test he began his career as a barber.
His newly issued license in hand he worked the first few years at different shops in the Fresno area, he said. Then, Gary Morgan offered Haley a chair in his shop, and his first day on the job was July 18, 1966, said Haley. Morgan had cut the Haley men’s hair since Robert was 8 years old, he said. Robert’s wife Jeanne has occupied the shop’s second chair for the last 23 years. She is a licensed cosmetologist, but only works cutting men’s hair, she said.
They must renew their licenses every two years with the California Department of Consumer Affairs agency.
The way men wear their hair has changed dramatically in the last half-century, Haley said. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the term barber was replaced with the terms such as hairdresser or hairstylist, Morgan and Haley attended industry seminars held in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno to keep up-to-date on changing trends, he said.
Early career haircuts carried names such as butch; flat-top, pompadour, Ivy League and the popular cut named for a ducks behind and called a DA for short. Popular styles today still include the crew cut, faded, the high and tight, and the taper cut, Haley said.
Bring in a picture of a style and he or Jeanne can recreate it. They will use a close-crop clipper to create the cue-ball look, but they don’t lather and shave it, he said.
“In school we learned to do a two-line and another we called an Italian haircut,” Haley said.
Early in his career men came in for weekly haircuts. Now his regular customers come in for trims every two or three weeks, he said.
Some of his patrons are second, third or fourth generation customers.
“The Cosyns, Erickson and Wattenbarger families have been coming to me for years, bringing in their sons and grandsons,” said Haley.
Haley bought the business from Morgan 26 years ago, and has owned it since Jan. 1, 1990. His clients occupy the same hydraulic barber chair manufactured in 1955 by the Emil J. Paidar Company of Chicago. While the chair has been reupholstered countless times, and the hydraulics serviced, these stainless chairs will last forever, Haley said.
A padded shelf is placed across the arms of the chair to serve as a booster seat for a boy’s haircuts Haley has two adult sons, a grown step-daughter and six grandchildren.
The shop is open Tuesday through Friday 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shop sees clients by appointment 673-3621, and welcomes walk-ins on a space available basis.