KENTVILLE, NS - “Next victim!” he says with a smile as he greets his next customer.
“Humour makes life better, we need more, not less.”
In spite of Kentville being virtually shut down on account of the winter weather conditions on Feb. 13, long-time Kentville barber Everett Dixon was in his shop cutting hair. This is how he has spent most of his days over the past half century. He will celebrate his 52nd anniversary of barbering in Kentville this June.
Dixon’s Kentville Barber Shop has been in multiple locations over the years but always somewhere in town. He has no idea how many haircuts he’s given but they must number in the thousands.
He recalls that he was laid off work and decided to go with his brother to attend barbering school in Moncton. When they returned to the Valley, his brother set up shop at 14 Wing Greenwood while Dixon started working in the shire town.
When asked what he enjoys most about being a barber, he said with a laugh, “Of course, money always helps.”
Dixon said he never enjoyed having to “run all over hell” in order to maintain a job. He used to work as a welder, often moving around to keep himself employed. He soon tired of this lifestyle.
Dixon enjoys the conversations and story telling that seem to go hand-in-hand with cutting hair. He admits that he considered “changing course” professionally at one point but he was struck by an epiphany.
“I began to realize afterwards that I think we’re all meant for something, we just don’t always realize it,” he said. “At some point we have to come to say, ‘well, maybe that’s what’s meant for me to be.”
Dixon said he finds it unfortunate that so many young people seem lost and don’t know what to do with their lives. He said that “anything is a start” and whatever you choose, you can only advance from it.
He said you have to take life one day at a time. Although there are days that he may feel like it, Dixon has no plans to retire. He has heard too many people say that they can’t wait to retire, only to do so and pass away soon thereafter. He believes that the human body is meant to be doing something and working is a part of that.
When it comes to barbering, one thing that has changed over the years is that they don’t do as much shaving anymore.
Dixon doesn’t like advancements in a lot of the materials used to make barbering equipment because the quality is no longer there. Dixon said that sometimes, “the further ahead we think we are, the further back we really are.”
For example, clipper components that used to be made of durable rubber are now made of hard plastic that bends and breaks. On the other hand, he likes cordless clippers. The fact that they are rechargeable allows you to continue cutting hair for a while in the event of a power outage.
Sound barbering advice
“You have to be a half-assed artist, or a half-assed mind reader.”
This advice given to him decades ago by his instructor in barbering school has and continues to serve Dixon well.
He said the number of haircuts you do in a given day varies, largely depending on the number of customers you have and what it is the customers want. He said there are times when communication breaks down, when a customer tries to explain what he wants done but doesn’t articulate it well or doesn’t understand what Dixon is saying.
One day, earlier in his career, he was giving a haircut to a Catholic priest. His boss at the time usually took care of this particular customer.
“I asked him three times how he wanted it done,” Dixon said. “He made it quite plain in his words to take the sides off.”
Dixon started on one side and soon heard the priest exclaiming, “whoa, whoa, whoa! Not that short!” Dixon said, “that’s what you told me and I asked you three times.”
Dixon figured he’d have to do the same thing to the other side to even things out but the priest told him not to and that he’d “put a Band-Aid on it.”
Dixon said another aspect of barbering that he finds interesting is how parents and kids argue over how the child’s hair is to be cut, often putting Dixon on the spot.
Speaking in general terms, Dixon said people are subject to making mistakes but “the biggest mistake is not to recognize it and correct it.”