Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
|James Harper...50 years of cutting hair, 50 years of marriage|
In 1956 James Harper married his sweetheart Patricia and they started off their life with two rolls of dimes and a barber's license.
Fifty years later with four generations of customers, and plenty of memories, Harper is still cutting hair at age 73.
Harper's first barber shop was located at 603 Pecan St. He later moved down the block to his second shop on South 2nd Street.
Harper stayed there for 17 years before moving to his current location at 137 Rowland Road in 1988.
Pictures of his family line the inside wall of his barbershop now. A fiddle his father made in the 1970s is placed proudly among those pictures.
There's still dozens of photos of the Little League baseball teams that Harper sponsored throughout his years.
"They're all gone and grown up now," Harper said.
People wait patiently reading magazines for a haircut and shoulder massage, something few places do today.
Once at the barber's chair, they'll engage in friendly conversation about family, work or whatever comes to mind.
Harper got interested in becoming a barber after spending numerous hours in his uncle Redden Harper's barber shop.
"He had a pretty barber shop up there on DeSiard Streetnear where they had the old Coney Island hotdog stand.
"I'd go in that shop and he had those pretty mirrors. I was just 15 years old, and I thought that was just the prettiest thing. That grew on me. He told me, 'Don't get in this barber business ... it's tough.' But I loved sitting in that chair, looking at those pretty mirrors and those old soap dishes he used to make lather. I guess it's just something that grows on you," Harper said.
Following his stint in the Army, Harper decided to attend barber school in New Orleans. He'd attend classes five days a week but would return home on the Fridays.
"You know who he was coming to see, right?" his wife asked with a big grin. "We were courting when he was in barber school."
Half a century ago the price Harper charged for a haircut was 75 cents. A shoe shine cost 25 cents.
This week Harper celebrates 50 years in the barber profession. On New Year's Eve, the Harpers will celebrate 50 years of marriage.
Harper said being a barber is very much like marriage, and he just doesn't want to let it go.
"It really is fun to get down here and do what you want to do. As long as I'm able and feel good, I'm going to keep at it. It does get hard sometimes. My mind always is ready to go, but sometimes my body says whoa," he said.
Harper takes pride in his customers, many of whom have been with him for his 50 years. It all starts with one person, and before long, their children and grandchildren are walking through Harper's doors. Sometimes he might even have a grandfather, his son and grandson waiting together to get a cut from Harper.
"We've had a lot of customers, and a lot of them have left, you know," Harper said referring to his older customers who have passed away.
"But it has been a pleasure to take on three or four generations."
Harper still comes into his shop at 7 a.m. but usually leaves around noon to let his daughter, Sheryl Scott, get a few customers.
"Mama sends him home at noon because he's made enough money and she needs to get a few customers," said Scott's daughter, Teresa Hicks.
Scott has worked with her father for the past 22 years, and she actually learned her trade from him.
Harper said in order to show his daughter the trade, he'd take her fingers and put them in the clippers with his hand as he cut someone's hair. Harper would show Scott what he did on one side of a customer's hair and then have his daughter repeat that process on the other side.
Not all of Harper's customers wanted someone practicing on their hair, so Scott just got about four or five haircuts each day.
"I had some mighty good customers to let someone practice on them," Harper said.
After about five months, Scott got the hang of things and took on her own customers.
"He promised me a hundred dollars a week when I started out, and that's what I got. I'm doing a lot better today," she says with a sly laugh.
Tears well up in Scott's eyes when she talks about how her father has influenced her.
"He's really good to me, and to everybody. I need him, and my mother, too. She's been by his side the whole time. He taught me the ropes, the ballgame ... hard ball mostly," she said.
Harper added: "Life's a rollercoaster ride, an up and down hill, and we learned by experience."
In the past, Harper and his daughter would argue about things, especially while being around each other all day.
Today, that no longer happens.
"I learned he's always right," Scott said.