Joe Hill expected cutting hair to be a temporary occupation when he started in the 1950s.
“When I came here to Mullens to work for Ray Davis, I thought I’d be here for two weeks,” said Hill.
He’s had his own barber shop in town for 61 years now.
It was love that changed his plans. “I met a pretty little girl, and she kept me here in Mullens,” he recalled.
The pretty girl, Peggy Shutt, became his wife.
Hill, who turns 90 this September, became an institution.
He’s seen lots of changes since his opened his own shop in 1956.
“The barber business was a lot different when I started,” he recalled.
There’s more competition now, Hill says.
“When I first started, a beautician couldn’t cut a man’s hair, and a barber wouldn’t cut a woman’s hair,” he remarked.
Changes over the years “just about destroyed the barber business,” Hill said.
“You have no transit business any more,” he noted. “You used to have a flow of people who came in off the strett—traveling salesmen, business people and others. It’s changed a lot.”
But some things haven’t changed.
“I have customers I was cutting hair for on the first day I came to Mullens,” he pointed out.
A struggling economy and changes in people’s habits have been a challenge.
The biggest challenge may have come in July 2001, when Mullens was devastated by flooding. Most of the business district was wiped out.
Hill’s shop on First Street was the first business to reopen.
“It was an effort, not only for me but my family and friends,” he said. “They helped me start back.
“If something like that happened today, I don’t think I would be able to do it,” Hill added.
He says he thought about retiring years ago, but he decided to stay on the job after his wife passed away in 2004.
“After she died, I thought, well what (am I retiring for?” he recalled. “It kept me occupied and gave me something to do.”
He likes the social aspect of the business.
“I meet a lot of people,” he said. “I enjoy the contact with others and get a lot of good advice.”
Investing in the stock market has been a hobby for years, Hill said. “I still do sometimes if I find something (good).”
A passing for cutting hair is not his motivation. “It was a way to make a living, that’s why I got into this,” he commented.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends and enjoy being with people,” Hill said.
His 90th birthday is on Sept. 15.
Will there be a big celebration? “I think there will be,” Hill replied.
John Conley can be reached at 304-732-6060 or on Twitter @PIHnews.