CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Barbers, Barbershops and Two Banks for all of West Virginia

(08/14/2001)

By Jack Cawthon

We had some colorful barbershops and barbers when I was growing up in Glenville, somewhat before the advent of television and liberalism. Back then men went to the barber for a haircut and a hot lather shave and women went to the "beauty shop" for what I always considered an abstract endeavor, as some of the women I saw going in when coming out didn't lend a lot of credibility to the term. But generally you could tell which was which without a great deal of difficulty as this was prior to the coming days of sexual confusion and the need for professional direction from people such as Dr. Ruth.

I always dreaded going for a haircut and avoided some shops like the plague. One barber was an avid fox-chaser who would relive the chase of the night before with clippers in hand or a straight razor waving wildly in the air. Often someone who went in merely for a little off the sides ended up with buzz cut as the dogs went up over the hills and down through the valleys. I never heard of anyone needing stitches, but I'm sure there were some close shaves.

As the barbershops were the domain of men and the mingling produced by "stylists" was yet to come with the Kennedy era we all sort of relaxed in that male chauvinistic pig wallow inspired by the Eisenhower terms. My dread in entering some of the shops was the male banter. There were two major topics of discussion: sports and sporting, the latter having to do with what men have always done, at least in their dreams, when discussing women with other men.

As I was a non-participant in both sports-I was laughed at by both the coach and the cheerleaders-I would sit there pretending to be lost in thought when the one was discussed and blushing a brilliant crimson when the other came up.

But there were two shops where I felt more proficient and, as I recall, they may have been operating at about the same time period. John Stalnaker was one of the small plane pilots in the county who flew out of the greater Cedar Creek airport and pasture field and the man who gave me my first airplane ride, which came close to being my last, at least without benefit of heavenly wings.

I was asked to take aerial photos of the Glenville State campus for the yearbook and John happily agreed to take me airborne. I didn't tell my poor old mother what I was up to as she had already lost one son to the frailty of flight and I knew she would become a nervous wreck if she knew I was taking a flight of reality instead of my usual flights of fancy that I often indulged in.

The old Aeronica that John owned barely cleared the tree tops as we reached for the sky, but I was so busy fussing with the camera that I, fortunately, didn't notice and only learned about it later when John, rather shakily, told me about it. The thought that ran through my mind then was what Casey Jones, long-time financial manger for the college, would have said had the camera become smashed in the crash, as it was property of the college and Casey ran a tight financial ship. (John would later become sheriff of Braxton County.)

My other barber of choice was O. V. (Gene) Ellyson, who would go on to become a long-time Gilmer County commissioner, only recently retiring from that service.

With John one could talk about flying; with Gene it became a discussion of my latest column in the Glenville Pathfinder. You can guess which topic I favored. Gene seemed to delight in just about everything I wrote, which was all the more amazing as he was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and my purpose, as stated to me by publisher Linn Hickman, was to cater to the Republicans, which were scarcer in Gilmer County than teeth in an aged rooster.

The one column that Gene has never forgotten and only recently reminded me at a gathering we were attending, and proving that the sins of the written word can provide both immortality and infamy, was one I wrote spoofing economic development which has always been a hot topic. One day when faced with the need to fill space, pretty much the curse of all columnists, even today, I sat down at the typewriter-ah, those were the good ole days!-and presented my plan for diverting the Ohio River into a new channel.

I suggested that the river be diverted somewhere south of Wheeling and run down through the central counties of the state, thereby creating an inland waterway with resulting industry able to locate along both sides, all in West Virginia, and depriving Ohio of its share. Gene thought this was great stuff and I still can't understand why he didn't attempt the project when on the county commission. I feel sure Senator Byrd would have sent the money and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would have jumped at the opportunity to spend real money instead of piddling with the multi-million petty cash they are usually damed with.

Remember that bank that billed itself the one bank for all of West Virginia? Now, after a mega-merger expanding its territory regionally that is hardly a practical slogan. What say gang, with the Ohio River all our own we could proudly proclaim: the Ohio River, two banks for all of West Virginia!


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