Dad Is Retiring After 62 Years As Barber

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 This tribute is dedicated to my dad and is but a brief recollection from my perspective of some memories about him and Joe's Barber Shop. Thanks to my mom, Marilyn, for her organized facts and notes.

Joe's Barber Shop in Nokomis was a place to get a haircut, an old-fashioned straight razor shave, talk about the latest sports highlights and swap fishing and hunting stories.  Being an avid outdoorsman, former Little League baseball coach and sports enthusiast, he was up-to-date on the latest scores and never lacked topics to discuss with his customers of all ages.  I'm sure advice on anything gardening flowed free as well. From the stuffed salmon he caught in Wisconsin, the huge bluegill, to the painting of English Setter bird dogs by my Aunt Mildred, you knew from the décor what he was about when you entered his shop.  

Whether or not I needed or wanted a healthy dose of sarcasm, all I had to do was stop in for a quick minute and dad never disappointed.  His gift of gab and one-of-a-kind sense of humor has engaged clients over the last 62 years. Recently, he reduced cutting hair to three days a week easing into semi-retirement.  Finally, dad decided he was finished and his lengthy career of barbering was over.  Joe Gonet officially retired April 26, 2018.

Joe enrolled in Barber School in Decatur on June 14, 1955.  He worked a night job at Spencer Kellogg lifting 100-pound sacks of beans while attending school during the day.  During this time, I made my early debut on Jan. 24, 1956, at three pounds, eight ounces and was in the incubator at St. Mary's Hospital for 24 days at $4 a day.  Unbelievable!

After graduating, he got his first job cutting hair for Frank Bregant in Witt.  Dad remembers adult haircuts were 75 cents and children's haircuts were 50 cents. There was only a coal-burning stove for heat, and water for hot shaves had to be heated in a tea-kettle on top of the stove.

Soon after this, he started working in Litchfield for Olind McPherson for nine years from 1957 to 1965.  He also cut hair at the hospital in Litchfield. Olind and Edith had twin girls who were older than me and my younger sister, Joran.  So that is why in most of our childhood photos, we wore matching outfits and were dressed to the nines because their clothes were passed on to us.  

On Feb. 8, 1965, dad opened his own shop in Nokomis on Main Street.  He was there 19 years.  At the beginning, adult haircuts were $1.50 and children's haircuts were $1.25.   I remember dad receiving a potted indoor plant welcoming his business to town.  It looked like a miniature pine tree that we decorated every Christmas with tiny red and silver bulbs. The smells of shaving cream, hair tonic and shoe polish still linger.  In those days, men wore dress shoes to work and my brother, Steve, shined countless pairs of shoes as a shoeshine boy. Ed remembers getting picked up after school and waiting for dad to get off work so they could go dove hunting together.

Dad considered changing professions during the 1970s when guys and gals grew their hair to long lengths and made fewer trips to the barber shop, but he persevered, and the rest is history.  Crew cuts and flat tops made a comeback and my brother, Steve, remembers dad carving the letter N into the side of his head during his NHS football days.  

Dad purchased his current building on Spruce Street from George Spengel in April 1984 and has been there 34 years.  In the beginning, his day off was on Thursday and that was when he cut hair at the Nokomis nursing home. Maybe you have a red, white, and blue First Haircut Certificate signed by dad in your baby book. You may have remembered listening to the Cardinal game on a portable, turquoise and cream RCA radio on KMOX. I remember because I dusted wispy hair clippings off it.  If you were a smoker, you may have received a matchbook that said, "When you see me, don't think of a haircut.  But when you think of a haircut, see me."

Dad's perseverance modeled an intense work ethic for 62 years that has not gone unnoticed by me and my siblings, Joran, Steve and Ed.  As adults, we are so thankful to have been taught how to work hard, save money, manage it, and share it with others. Thanks for teaching us how to do innumerable things like cut hair, drive a stick shift, use a hammer, swim, water ski, catch a baseball, swing a bat, shoot a basketball, bait a hook, fish, hunt, clean wild game, plant a garden, enjoy the harvest, give to charity, not to gossip, and most of all, to pray.

Dad wants to thank all of his friends and customers for their patronage for the last 62 years. He says it has truly been a pleasure serving you.  He looks forward to seeing you out and about or at the next sporting event.  If you have a special memory or story you would like to share with dad, please send a card to Joe Gonet, 422 West Fairmount Ave., Nokomis, IL  62075.

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