Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Right out of Mayberry: Main Street Barber in Montgomery April 7, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:19 AM
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Steve Pan's barbershop in downtown Montgomery.

Steve Pan’s barbershop in downtown Montgomery, Minnesota.

I COULD HAVE BEEN WALKING into Floyd’s Barbershop in Mayberry on this first Saturday morning in April.

Same thing, according to the two customers at Main Street Barber, 106 First Street South, in Montgomery.

The old bakery cash register Steve got for his barbershop.

The old bakery cash register Steve got for his barbershop.

Barber Steve Pan agrees, as I note two Norman Rockwell paintings posted above a vintage cash register claimed from Franke’s Bakery down the street.

Above the bank of mirrors on the north side are vintage signs printed at Bohemian Club Beer.

Above the bank of mirrors on the north side are vintage signs endorsing Bohemian Club Beer. The signs were printed at the defunct Montgomery Brewing Company, which made the Bohemian beer.

Main Street Barber is about as rural Minnesota, Norman Rockwell Americana, small-town barbershop as you’ll find right down to chairs backed against the wall, trophy fish, a stand alone stove, an aged bottle of thick-as-tar “Auxiliator for the hair,” walls of mirrors, and barber chairs that hearken to the early 1900s.

Vintage chairs await customers.

Vintage chairs await customers.

Steve caught the walleye at Lake Gorman, the Northern at Red Lake.

Steve caught the walleye at Lake Gorman, the Northern at Red Lake.

This free standing stove heats the small barbershop.

This free standing stove heats the small barbershop.

An aged bottle of "auxiliator for the hair."

An aged bottle of “auxiliator for the hair.”

Looking toward the front of the barbershop and the window overlooking Main Street.

Looking toward the front of the barbershop and the window overlooking Main Street. I tested the chair in the foreground, per Bill’s urging.

I wonder, as customer Bill Becker urges me to try out a barber chair, how many hands have rested upon the arms of the chair, how many stories have been swapped here, how much hair has fallen upon this floor.

Bill guesses thousands of hands and I expect he would be right.

Steve gives Bill a flattop.

Steve gives Bill a flattop.

On this Saturday, 61-year-old Bill briefly serenades us with a verse from Marshall Tucker’s “A New Life” album while Steve sculpts his hair into a flattop. Bill remembers aloud, too, where he was when President John F. Kennedy and George Wallace and John Lennon were shot. I’m uncertain how we got on that topic because I’ve been distracted by photographing the historic charm of this place.

Tools of the trade and Steve's appointment book.

Tools of the trade and Steve’s appointment book.

Steve’s been barbering here since 1986, when he took over for Phil, who retired. “The opportunity was here…we’ll give it a shot back in the old hometown,” Steve recalls of his return to Montgomery from cutting hair in Hopkins. He’s the only barber in town now; the other two died.

Steve works on Bill's flattop.

Steve works on Bill’s flattop.

Nearly 30 years later, the hometown boy come home is still cutting hair…

Steve's scissors.

Steve’s scissors.

Bill jokes that he would have worn his wing tips had he known I would be photographing his feet.

Bill jokes that he would have worn his wing tips had he known I would be photographing his feet.

Hooks for caps hang by the vintage signs.

Hooks for caps hang by the vintage signs.

A Czech emblem, a nod to Steve's heritage and that of most folks living in Montgomery.

A Czech emblem, a nod to Steve’s heritage and that of most folks living in Montgomery.

More of those delightful old signs...and a reflection of me photographing them.

More of those delightful old signs…and a reflection of me photographing them and Steve shaping Bill’s flattop.

Family photos at Steve's work station.

A collage of photos and signage on the mirror above Steve’s work station.

Propped inside the entry.

Hung inside the entry.

PLEASE RETRUN FOR MORE stories and photos from Montgomery. Also, check my March 4 – 8 archives for a series of previous posts from this southern Minnesota community.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling