Everyone has a story

image

Henry Jones proudly displays pictures of his family on a vintage Pepsi-Cola machine in his barber shop in Charlotte, N.C. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

Charlotte, N.C — The day you decide to make a career out of the Army is the day you resign yourself to the fact that life in the Army is hard.

Yes, that’s right. There’s no sugar coating it — life in the Army is hard.

You’re shipped off to a place, usually thousands of miles from your home, only to settle into a small town you’ve never heard of; forced to make friends with people of different backgrounds and cultures, only to be whisked away every two to three years to another destination you’ve never heard of.

Yes, life in the Army is hard.

But over the course of my Army career, I’ve learned that with every new destination, comes a whole host of people who want to make you feel welcome, a part of their own community.

That feeling of belonging to a community comes in many different faces. Be it the neighbor who babysits your kids, the tailor who presses your uniforms, or even the barber that cuts your hair.

They’re all there to make you feel welcome.

They all have a story to tell and this is one of their stories.

Meet Henry Jones – Junior, as he proudly announces to every stranger that crosses his door step.

I first met Henry while I was in dire need of a good trim just before a weekend drill. After all, no one wants to go in front of the 1st Sgt. looking like a hippie.

One of my co-workers told me of a good barber just two blocks down from the unit who offers a good haircut at a reasonable price.

Henry Jones cuts the hair of a Reserve Soldier assigned to the 108th Training Command (IET) at his shop located in Charlotte, N.C. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Barry Moore, Unit Public Affairs Representative

With my current barber closed and after some careful deliberation, I decided to give Henry a try; after all it’s really hard to screw up an already really bad hairdo.

I made the long, arduous (two block) trek to Henry’s place and was instantly greeted by a firm handshake from a gentleman with finely kept silver hair and matching mustache.

Immediately, I noticed the shop lined with Military memorabilia from wars fought long ago: artillery shells used as umbrella holders, an old steel pot with a bullet hole in it on a book shelf, and an autographed picture of Gen. MacArthur himself. So I asked him, “What’s with all this stuff?”

As it turns out, Henry, who’s been cutting hair since long before I was born, turned out to be a Korean War veteran.

“I was artillery. Number two man on a 105 howitzer,” he said.

And so it began.

Henry was busy picking tobacco on a farm in Clinton, North Carolina when he was drafted for the war.

“I didn’t have any hard feelings but some of my buddies did. I remember one of my friends moved off to Canada when he got the notice. They caught him and he spent two years in the prison for his trouble,” he chuckled.

Henry Jones, an 85-year old barber and Korean War Veteran, has been cutting hair in Charlotte, N.C. for members of the community as well as Reserve Soldiers with the 108 Training Command (IET) for 60 years now. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

Henry, who spent 16 months in the war zone, made ammunition sergeant and was in charge of getting rounds up the hill to the guns. He says his battery, “shot rounds at the enemy day in and day out. And they fired ‘em [sic] back at us day in and day out.”

“I never got hit directly but I did have a nice scar on my helmet from a ricochet. I sure wish I still had that helmet.”

He said his unit lost some Soldiers in Korea but it was important to him not to get attached to anybody.

“People rotated in and out so quickly so we didn’t have time to get to really know each other. We would see the rounds come in and then after the smoke cleared we would see the Red Cross trucks with our buddies in the back. I never kept in contact with anybody when I got back.”

“So how did you get into the business of cutting hair?” I asked him.

“I was out of the service for about three years. I kept looking for a job but I couldn’t find anything. Two old ladies came up to me one day and said ‘why don’t you start cutting hair?’ so that’s what I did. That was in 1956.” Henry said.

“I could get $110 a month to go to school. The school cost me $100 and that left me $10 a month for gas to go see my girlfriend, Josephine.”

Henry and Josephine married that year and will celebrate their 60th anniversary on July 7.

“When I got done with the school I started working for a guy in this building charging a dollar and a dollar and a quarter. The dollar was for the young kids and the dollar and a quarter was for the men’s haircuts. Today I charge $10 for everybody.”

But Henry has not only been a barber to his community for 60 years. He’s been a barber to the Army community for just about as long.

“Lieutenant Bush was one of the first Soldiers to come in way back when,” he said.

“They used to come in on their weekend drills from over there at the Reserve Center [108th Training Command] to get their hair cut. They sure did love that flat top.”

And Henry always kept something extra in the back for the Soldiers.

“They would come in and their boots would be messed up so I started keeping a can of kiwi in the back so they could polish their boots while they waited. They were always afraid of getting sent home because of messed up boots,” Henry said.

So now that he’s 85 what keeps Henry still in the business?

Henry Jones shows off an old artillery casing he now uses as an umbrella stand. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

“This has become more of a social thing for me. Josephine keeps wanting me to retire and I would tell her I would but then I would come down here and meet somebody new and decide to keep the shop open again.”

So now at 60 years in the business, Josephine has once again hinted that it’s time to hang up the clippers and straight razor.

“I plan on closing the shop up on July 1st. That’s what she tells me anyway but I don’t know,” he smiled as he brushed the hair off my shoulders.

With that date right around the corner, I wouldn’t look for a new barber just yet. Chances are the old man with silver hair and matching mustache will be right back here doing what he loves, cutting hair and telling stories, come Monday morning.

… and like I said …

I drove by that old shop a few weeks after the Fourth of July weekend and as I passed I took a quick glance in through the window.

Just as I thought, there sat the man with the silver hair and mustache, perched in his barber chair, reading the paper and waiting for either one more customer or some welcome conversation: the “Open” sign proudly displayed and retirement successfully pushed off for at least one more year.

But over the course of my Army career, I’ve learned that with every new destination, comes a whole host of people who want to make you feel welcome, a part of their own community.

That feeling of belonging to a community comes in many different faces. Be it the neighbor who babysits your kids, the tailor who presses your uniforms, or even the barber that cuts your hair.

They’re all there to make you feel welcome.

They all have a story to tell and this is one of their stories.

Meet Henry Jones – Junior, as he proudly announces to every stranger that crosses his door step.

I first met Henry while I was in dire need of a good trim just before a weekend drill. After all, no one wants to go in front of the 1st Sgt. looking like a hippie.

One of my co-workers told me of a good barber just two blocks down from the unit who offers a good haircut at a reasonable price.

With my current barber closed and after some careful deliberation, I decided to give Henry a try; after all it’s really hard to screw up an already really bad hairdo.

I made the long, arduous (two block) trek to Henry’s place and was instantly greeted by a firm handshake from a gentleman with finely kept silver hair and matching mustache.

Immediately, I noticed the shop lined with Military memorabilia from wars fought long ago: artillery shells used as umbrella holders, an old steel pot with a bullet hole in it on a book shelf, and an autographed picture of Gen. MacArthur himself. So I asked him, “What’s with all this stuff?”

As it turns out, Henry, who’s been cutting hair since long before I was born, turned out to be a Korean War veteran.

“I was artillery. Number two man on a 105 howitzer,” he said.

And so it began.

Henry was busy picking tobacco on a farm in Clinton, North Carolina when he was drafted for the war.

“I didn’t have any hard feelings but some of my buddies did. I remember one of my friends moved off to Canada when he got the notice. They caught him and he spent two years in the prison for his trouble,” he chuckled.

Henry, who spent 16 months in the war zone, made ammunition sergeant and was in charge of getting rounds up the hill to the guns. He says his battery, “shot rounds at the enemy day in and day out. And they fired ‘em [sic] back at us day in and day out.”

“I never got hit directly but I did have a nice scar on my helmet from a ricochet. I sure wish I still had that helmet.”

He said his unit lost some Soldiers in Korea but it was important to him not to get attached to anybody.

“People rotated in and out so quickly so we didn’t have time to get to really know each other. We would see the rounds come in and then after the smoke cleared we would see the Red Cross trucks with our buddies in the back. I never kept in contact with anybody when I got back.”

“So how did you get into the business of cutting hair?” I asked him.

“I was out of the service for about three years. I kept looking for a job but I couldn’t find anything. Two old ladies came up to me one day and said ‘why don’t you start cutting hair?’ so that’s what I did. That was in 1956.” Henry said.

“I could get $110 a month to go to school. The school cost me $100 and that left me $10 a month for gas to go see my girlfriend, Josephine.”

Henry and Josephine married that year and will celebrate their 60th anniversary on July 7.

“When I got done with the school I started working for a guy in this building charging a dollar and a dollar and a quarter. The dollar was for the young kids and the dollar and a quarter was for the men’s haircuts. Today I charge $10 for everybody.”

But Henry has not only been a barber to his community for 60 years. He’s been a barber to the Army community for just about as long.

“Lieutenant Bush was one of the first Soldiers to come in way back when,” he said.

“They used to come in on their weekend drills from over there at the Reserve Center [108th Training Command] to get their hair cut. They sure did love that flat top.”

And Henry always kept something extra in the back for the Soldiers.

“They would come in and their boots would be messed up so I started keeping a can of kiwi in the back so they could polish their boots while they waited. They were always afraid of getting sent home because of messed up boots,” Henry said.

So now that he’s 85 what keeps Henry still in the business?

“This has become more of a social thing for me. Josephine keeps wanting me to retire and I would tell her I would but then I would come down here and meet somebody new and decide to keep the shop open again.”

So now at 60 years in the business, Josephine has once again hinted that it’s time to hang up the clippers and straight razor.

“I plan on closing the shop up on July 1st. That’s what she tells me anyway but I don’t know,” he smiled as he brushed the hair off my shoulders.

With that date right around the corner, I wouldn’t look for a new barber just yet. Chances are the old man with silver hair and matching mustache will be right back here doing what he loves, cutting hair and telling stories, come Monday morning.

… and like I said …

I drove by that old shop a few weeks after the Fourth of July weekend and as I passed I took a quick glance in through the window.

Just as I thought, there sat the man with the silver hair and mustache, perched in his barber chair, reading the paper and waiting for either one more customer or some welcome conversation: the “Open” sign proudly displayed and retirement successfully pushed off for at least one more year.

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