Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fred the Barber

I was cleaning up my apartment this evening and happened across a copy of Toons, an Ames, Iowa weekly comics newspaper, I had picked up on my way to Minnesota a few weeks ago. As I was flipping through it I noticed that one of the ads said, "We're praying for you, Fred (the Barber) Watne."

Fred was my barber for most of my time in Ames and a pretty exceptional character. Even when I was getting my hair cut there he always had a lot of health problems so I was always a little glad to see that he was still advertising in Toons whenever I was back in Ames. He operated out of a 2nd floor "shop" in Campustown that I'm not sure I can even describe. The only sign was a hand painted sandwich board advertising "Fred's Shop" with an arrow pointing upstairs. He didn't really keep regular hours so it was a good idea to call and set up an appointment or check to see if the sign was out front. His lobby had a couple of couches that were usually covered with any number of old copies of Toons or reggae CDs. He had a TV in there with a stack of VHS tapes filled with old boxing matches. Covering the walls were a few pictures of Fred with various people but mostly just post cards from around the world.

There was only one chair in the place but it had a decent view overlooking the balcony of Mickey's and a few other businesses. Fred would almost always have his window cracked even in winter so he could feed the birds that would fly to his windowsill. When they flew up he would usually whistle back and forth with them to try to get them closer.

Interruptions like that were fairly common and when you went into Fred's Shop you certainly didn't expect a fast haircut. He was always telling some story or (usually slightly dirty) joke and I can still hear the way he would pause for a moment just after the punchlines before bursting into laughter and repeating the line again. He had a lot of these idiosyncrasies that I picked up on like the way he would put on just the right reggae music and pause for just a second to enjoy it on his way back to the chair. As his health failed I thought his haircuts might have gone downhill just a bit but people kept coming back because of the experience of it all.

So, after reading that advertisement I searched around and found this article in the Ames Trib that was published the day before he died according to his obituary. Fred lived a pretty amazing life and will definitely be missed in Ames, especially in the Campustown area and among the Hispanic population that he spent so much time befriending and helping. Despite the health and financial problems that always seemed to be hovering around him he was always relentlessly optimistic and just an all-around good guy.


Blogger Paul Hattan said...

Nice post. Amazing guy.

I still think of him any time I hear non-Marley raggae. "I call this 'Swirl Raggae.' Can you hear what i mean? The swirly rhythm?"

Hasta luego, Fred.

1:37 PM  

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