Kutztown’sbarber has been cutting hair for 50 years.
According to babyboomermemories.com, a man could choose whatever career he wanted and climb up the corporate ladder without restraint or prejudice in the 1960s. The fields of careers were unlimited so when Lamar Bailey graduated, the last thing he wanted to do was cut hair.
“After I graduated, I was going to get a haircut one day and Clarence Deisher says to me, ‘What are you going to do with the rest of your life?’ I said, ‘I haven’t figured that out yet; probably end up driving truck.’ He says, ‘Did you ever think about going to barber school and becoming a barber?’” said Bailey, of Kutztown.
Bailey didn’t want to be a barber. He wanted to work outdoors, but for a year and a half, Bailey said Deisher was on his case to go to barber school. When Bailey asked him why he kept bugging him, Deisher told him he looked like he’d be a good barber.
“I had tried a few jobs and wasn’t real thrilled with any of them and then finally I said to him, ‘All right, I’ll give it a shot’,” said Bailey.
After he graduated from a school in Allentown for cutting hair, Bailey served an apprenticeship with Deisher and eventually ended up buying the business when Deisher retired. Getting crew cuts right and paying the bills were perhaps the hardest things for Bailey. Other than normal business peaks and valleys, life seemed almost routine.
“This goes back at least 45 years ago. I had a shop down where the wine shop is next to Dunkelbergers. A big limo pulled up in front of the shop and a guy comes running in and he says, ‘Can you give a shave?’ and I said, ‘Not at the moment I can’t; no,’ and he says, ‘Well I need one right away.’ I said, ‘I can’t do one right away; I have appointments.’”
Bailey was sitting in one of his barber chairs waiting for his next appointment as he reminisced about that visit. He said it was during the week of the Allentown Fair.
“Johnny Carson was appearing at the Allentown Fair and my wife, Brenda, and I went to the fair that evening and, I can’t swear it’s the same limo, but there was this black limo parked behind the stage. My wife keeps teasing me that I refused to give Johnny Carson a shave.”
Bailey said Kutztown was a nice quiet town back then. He feels there is less of a family unit in comparison to the number of students that now occupy the borough.
“I’ve lived on Main Street ever since I’m in Kutztown. I was in the 100 block, the 200 block, the 300 block, and a 400 block; I had two apartments and two houses. There are not that many family units around anymore unfortunately,” said Bailey. “When I started, there was like 1,200 students. Now there are over 10,000.”
Bailey continues to run his business as he sees fit. Referring to himself as a typical thick-headed Dutchman, he said people had told him how to run his business, but then he told them where they could go.
“It’s my business; I run it my way. If it folds up or has a problem, it’s my fault. I’ve done it ever since I was in business. I do it my way,” said Bailey. “When I started, a very prominent business man in town at the time took me aside one day and said to me, ‘I’m going to tell you something you’re not going to like, but you got to hear it.’ I said, ‘all right,’ and he says, ‘You’re never going to make it.’ I said, ‘Oh yea?’ He said, ‘You’re too opinionated and too outspoken and you’re never going to make it’,” said Bailey and then added, “So I’m still trying to make it.”
Bailey also has a sense of humor and likes to joke with his clients. He gave a little anecdote of a college student who had gone into a long drawn-out explanation of how he wanted his hair cut; he wanted to look perfect for his girl. Bailey asked him, ‘Okay now, is that it? You got all the instructions out? Okay, now I’ll do it my way’.
“By and large, I like what I’m doing; I like my clientele. I’ve been very fortunate. I have a really nice mixture—young, old, professors, farmers, factory workers, you name it—and that’s the way I like it,” said Bailey.
According to Bailey, there’s an old Pennsylvania Dutch expression, ‘You don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. As long as his health allows him to, Bailey plans on continuing his business as usual his way.