|Volume 11, Issue 9||
When he was a senior at Yamhill-Carlton High, the students had to “shadow” someone in business for Occupation Day. His friend John suggested they visit the local barber because he wanted to go to barber college. It turned out to be a slow day at the shop, and the two boys ended up going fishing. Al thought that was a pretty good occupation! Although his friend wasn’t able to go to barber college, Al took the course at Moler Barber College in Portland at 17.
He was hauling hay as a temporary job when he found out that he had passed the barber test. He got his first barbering job at a shop in Forest Grove. He had also joined the National Guard and knew he would have to attend boot camp.
When he returned from boot camp and his National Guard service, he went to work for another barber in Forest Grove in 1965. Fred Vandeburg, owned the Cedar Mill shop and Al went there to work. “I didn’t think I’d be here very long, I was just a kid,” he recalls.
In those days, Cedar Mill looked quite different. On the corner where the 7-11 is now, was the Reeves house. The Jacksons lived where the Grange parking lot is now. Al recalls watching a family of pheasants crossing Saltzman. The original Bales Thriftway was where Walgreens is. Next door to Al’s was Jeannie’s salon, and David Allan was one of the stylists. Mr. James bought it a few years later. The two men became friends. “I just cut Mr. James hair last week,” Al said.
|One of Al's customers did this drawing. Mothers still occasionally disapprove of their sons' hair styles.|
Vandeberg sold the shop to one of the other barbers, Richard Johnson. Johnson’s father had a gas station, and Johnson eventually decided to work with him and put Al in charge of the Cedar Mill shop in the early seventies. In 1973, Al bought the business.
The sixties and seventies were challenging for barbers. With long hair getting popular for men, they needed fewer haircuts. And then in the seventies, barber shops were being replaced by “stylists,” who charged fancy prices.
“Some of the barbers went back to school to learn those new techniques, but not me. I just wasn’t interested,” Al says.
For the most part, things were quiet around the area. But another time, someone ran in and said that a couple had been run over in the parking lot. It turned out that a semi had been driving across the lot, and an older couple managed to drive their car right under the truck and got stuck. Al recalls that they weren’t badly hurt, though.
And just a few years ago, Al noticed a man hanging around, peering into the shop windows. He later found out that he had robbed his neighbor Alan Levine, the accountant. “I didn’t realize it was the same guy until I saw it on TV,” he said.
Al’s family lived in San Jose, California when he was born. His dad was adventurous, though, and brought the family to Oregon to live on some acreage in Yamhill County, near the Tillamook burn area. “We raised some cattle, and had pigs and horses. It was a good place to grow up,” he says.
At 18, Al moved to Forest Grove after he started working in Cedar Mill. Now he and his wife Connie live in Aloha. They just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. They have two children and three grandchildren. Al and Connie enjoy going to Sunset High football and basketball games.
He always thought he’d retire once the Milltowner Center was redeveloped (as he knew it would be eventually). Now that it’s getting closer to happening, though, he’s having some second thoughts. When you spend most of your life in a place, you might not want to leave! In 2015 he will have been there 50 years!
The shop is open Tuesdays-Saturday from 7:30 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays 7:30-5. Their phone number is 503-735-5440. Don’t bother looking for them on Facebook, but they generally get great reviews on Yelp, like this one: “Al was the first barber to ever cut my hair in 1983, to this day I still go to Al's Barber Shop. Excellent deal, $14 gets you a haircut other places would charge over $40 for. Bring cash or check, no credit cards accepted.”
|A sign painter visited Al every year to produce these humorous window paintings. This one from 1983 shows Santa asking for a "Feather Cut."|
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PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291