After a long career as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, Chuck Adams decided to become a barber.
Adams, 81, said he first worked at a shop in Caliente, then around 1980 was invited to open his own shop in Pioche by the late John Christian, Sr., where there had not been a shop in 15 years.
Christian was able to find a location next to the Odd Fellows Hall in Pioche and had a local builder remodel the place just the way Adams wanted it. He said, “The shop was called the ‘Territorial Tonsorial.’ That’s what a barber was, a tonsorial.”
Later, he was encouraged to put in a beauty shop for the ladies in another part of the building.
Both shops were located uptown for awhile until the rockwork on the Odd Fellows Hall started to crumble.
In early 1993, Adams said he turned the shop over to another man and moved to Arizona. But, he returned in 1997 when the other barber no longer wanted it.
However, the Odd Fellows building continued to deteriorate, “rocks fell out, the roof leaked, etc. All these buildings were put together with rocks,” Adams said. “Those old builders back then were miners, not carpenters.”
The present location of the barber shop was once an old laundromat and was closed for 25 years before Adams bought the building. He fixed up the inside, and had local builder David McClain make part of it into the barber shop.
Adams has one chair in the shop and also has a window display of a number of old barbering items including scissors, straight razors and safety razors, double-edged blades, and hand clippers, some that date back to the late 1800s. “People gave these items to me over the years,” he explained.
One item is a shave brush, mug, and scissors, donated by a woman whose father was a barber, and she also happened to have been Adam’s teacher in three schools he attended, first in East Ely, then Pioche Elementary and Lincoln County High.
Adams said he enlisted in the Air Force in 1951, but was sent to Germany rather than Korea, and retired from the service in 1971. “I have a son who was in the Air Force, too,” he said, “but he was an officer and a gentleman.”
He says he is able to do about 30-35 haircuts a month, “but things have slowed down a lot.” The shop is open Monday through Thursday 9 to 3. “It’s against Nevada law for a barber shop to be open on Sunday,” he said. The barber pole he has outside the shop he got when he was in barber school in Phoenix, and dates from 1893.
Published books and articles about barbering note that starting from the Middle Ages, barbers often served as surgeons and dentists. In addition to haircutting, hairdressing, and shaving, barbers performed surgery, bloodletting and leeching, fire cupping, enemas, and the extracting of teeth, earning them the name “barber surgeons.”
The barber pole, featuring red and white spiraling stripes, symbolized different aspects of the craft. Barbers even received higher pay than surgeons until surgeons were entered into British warships during naval wars.
In times past, especially times of national and or local crises, the barber shop was also a place of social interaction and public discourse. In some instances, barbershops have also been public forums, a place in which to have open debates, voicing public concerns, and engaging citizens in discussions about contemporary issues. They were also influential in helping shape male identity.