In my forty years I have, with a few exceptions, had my hair cut at only three barber shops. So much for being a restless change agent.
Through my childhood it was the Longacres Barber Shop in Aldershot, Ontario. There it was either Kurt, Otto or Louis who cut my hair. There was a picture of a kid with a stock haircut up on the wall, and every time I went in with my mother, she told them to cut my hair like him. I wonder who that kids was, and whether he realized that he had a bunch of hair clones running around Aldershot.
Louis had a little plaque about his mirror that said “Filo” and my mother told me this meant he was the owner, and that we didn’t have to tip him. Which began a life of confusion about owner-tipping that continues to this day.
When I was 18 I moved away from home and I needed to find a new barber in Peterborough, Ontario. I wandered the streets for days without finding a single one, and it seemed that perhaps men in that city didn’t have their hair cut at all. Eventually I found place on Hunter Street near the Red Dog Tavern. It was such a traumatic experience finding a new barber that I wrote an article for Arthur, the Trent University student newspaper. It was my first newspaper byline. And that’s how Ernie’s became my second barber shop.
Years later, after Ernie had moved next door to a spruced up place off the street, I was surprised to find my Arthur article taped to the mirror in front of his chair. I never let on that I was the writer.
When we moved to Charlottetown in the early 1990s I had to go through the trauma of finding a new barber yet again. I was older and wiser by this time, of course, so it was far less traumatic when I found Fergie’s on University Avenue. Fergie’s moved three times over the years, gradually making its way down the street where it finally came to rest next door to where The Maple Grille is now.
Fergie, a nickname I later learned came from his last name of Ferguson was your barber’s barber: he had a twinkle in his eye, a quick wit, and he knew how to cut hair. A few years back I got into the habit of letting my hair grow unnaturally long and then getting it cut really short, which I believe Fergie took to be an austerity move on my part (it probably was) and he always had a sly comment to make about the practise.
By my count I’ve had a haircut from someone other than Kurt, Louis, Otto, Ernie or Fergie only four times in forty years.
There was the time I was working in the Fleetwood Motor Home plant in Lindsay, Ontario as a temp. On my first day I came in with hair in a ponytail and at lunch I went out and cut it cut very short and when I returned they thought the other guy had quit and I was his replacement.
There was a time in Halifax when I went to a very, very old-school barber on Quinpool Road who had, somewhat anachronistically, a giant portable stereo mounted on the shelf, the kind you see at Wal-mart all tricked out with flashing lights and wacky features. If memory serves he gave me a really, really bad haircut.
My brother Mike and I both got our haircut one Sunday in Phoenix. We went to something more like a “men’s cigar spa” than a barber, and I got the only straight razor shave of my life, which was both terrifying and dreamy. Those guys knew how to cut hair.
And there was a regretable time up in Summerside when I realized that I was about to go on stage to make a presentation to a bunch of well-turned-out radio executives and I needed an emergency hair cut and I ended up going to a “hair salon” where they washed my hair before cutting it. The horror!
True to form, I’d been letting my hair grow long over this summer — my last time in at Fergie’s was before we went to Europe in the spring. In the meantime Fergie’s moved, again, this time to the space next door and in the back of an antique shop. I went in this morning all ready to joke with Fergie about how if he kept things up he’d be down at the waterfront before he retired. Only to find that Fergie had retired.
And so where one would find Fergie working alone or with a temporary partner — they never seemed to stay long — there are now three chairs and a new bunch of barbers. It’s still called Fergie’s. There’s still a racy calendar on the wall and The Guardian to read and the old cash manual register by the door. There’s just no Fergie.
And thus for the third time in my life I’m at a crossroads: do I stay with the new-style Fergie-less Fergie’s or follow Rob Lantz over to Ray’s Or perhaps try Rose’s, just around the corner from our house. Or even, perish the thought, follow the path of the urbane young hipsters upstairs and get my hair “styled” rather than just “cut.” Oh, the trauma of it all.
Good-bye, Fergie. Thanks for being a good barber.