After 50 years as a barber, man has stories to tell
August 16, 2013 2:22PM
Doug Paris | Jeff Manes~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 19, 2013 9:25AM
Floyd Lawson: “You know, everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Calvin Coolidge said that.”
Andy Taylor: “No, Floyd, that wasn’t Calvin Coolidge that said that, it was Mark Twain.”
Floyd Lawson: “Then what did Calvin Coolidge say?”
— from The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
Doug Paris, 71, has been married to Joyce for as long as he has owned and operated Paris Style Shop in the Hessville neighborhood in Hammond — 50 years.
“I’ve lived in Hammond all my life,” Paris began. “We bounced around a lot the first nine years of my life. Dad finally bought a place off of Indianapolis Boulevard in Woodmar.”
“Hammond Tech. After high school, I worked at Colonial Trailers, General American and Ford Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights, Ill. I got laid off from General American, went to barber school, and here I am.”
What was the name of the barber school?
“Moler Barber School on State Street in Chicago. You go for 1,872 hours in Illinois. At one time, there were five of us here working full time. I also ran a gas station seven days a week for 25 years at 169th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard. I bought the place when I was 40 and sold it when I was 65. I got my watch and left.”
That had to keep you hopping.
“Yeah, it was a convenience store, a gas station and a cigarette store. Cigarettes were a big part of my business.”
Were you ever robbed?
“Twice in one day. That’s one of the headaches.”
Changes here at the shop in the past 50 years?
“Things constantly change. In the early ‘60s, it was crew cuts or flat tops. Some styles come back, some never left. I’m not only a barber, I was trained as a stylist during the ‘70s when the long hair came in. I cut women’s hair today.
“I’ve had four generations come through here. The grandpa, father, the son and the kid’s kid. I’m probably not far from five generations.”
You sound like a good businessman who changed with the times. You diversified. With that said, as I look at that red, white and blue pole, I see a slice of Americana.
“Red is the blood letting, white is the sanitation and blue is the veins.”
There’s something nostalgic about the neighborhood or small town barber shop. Doug, you’ve lowered the ears on many a head in your day.
“We had it all in the beginning. The barber was the doctor and the dentist. You had hot bath water in a barrel on a Saturday night and you had booze and broads in the backroom with a poker game going on.”
Like I said, pure Americana. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted such a picture. Not in the Saturday Evening Post, anyway.
“I like what I do and I like people. That’s why I’m still here. When I first started working here, I tried to figure out ways to get out of the business. Now, I’m just glad I have a place to come to three days a week.”
“Still shave. Face shaves, head shaves — straight razor.
Our mutual friend, Mark Taylor, says you’re an avid hunter and fisherman.
“Mainly a hunter, but I fish too. I’ve hunted in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Russia... .”
What did you hunt in Russia?
Doug, have you heard of a documentary called “Everglades of the North: The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh”?
“I’ve watched it several times. It was very interesting. I’m really into stuff like that.”
I wrote the script.
“That’s you? The guy in the film with the black mustache?”
Yeah, I shaved it off. Got tired of tastin’ my soup three days after I eat it.
“I’ve been passing the DVD around to my buddies around Warsaw. I own 110 acres there with a lodge. It’s wetlands and woods. Part of it is on the Tippecanoe River.
“It was politics and business that destroyed all that habitat within the Grand Kankakee Marsh. But, that’s America. They bought some land cheap, dried it up, turned into farmland, and made money off of it.”
The progress of man.
“A lot of this area was probably marsh between the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers. Ridge Road would’ve been the high spot.”
“You learn a lot talking to people while they sit in one of those chairs. Everybody has a different story. Out of all the years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of good people and families come through. Yeah, a lot of good people and a lot of good families.”
Doug Paris, a man who has swept up a battleship worth of hair from the hardwood floor of his shop. But he’ll be the first to tell you, it wasn’t only follicles those folks left behind.
They left the local barber with their stories.