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A Mayberry state of mind
Shirley Says
Bailey Carpenter in his barbershop in the chair bought by Henry Ford. - photo by Photo provided.
Long a refuge for male bonding and guy talk, a barbershop is a hallowed place for men. Amid the buzz of clippers and lingering scent of talc and aftershave lotions, a man can be completely himself. Few things smack of testosterone more than a straight-razor shave.
Bailey Carpenter’s barbershop was a local institution – reminiscent of fictional Mayberry. There is a rich and colorful history behind Bailey’s shop. It was destined to become the quintessential small town barbershop.
Bailey was born March 15, 1910, in Ways Station. He died in Richmond Hill at the age of 98 on Feb. 23, 2009, a few weeks short of his 99th birthday.
He learned barbering skills from his involvement with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief program during the Great Depression. After training, he began cutting hair in Richmond Hill at the age of 29.
It all began in the late 1930s at the “crossroads,” the intersection of highways 144 and 17. Extensive research, i.e., numerous conversations with local old-timers, unraveled the history of Bailey’s Barbershop. The intriguing – and amusing – story goes like this:
Once upon a time, Mrs. Annie Miner built a barbershop for Bailey’s use, a 14-by-16-foot simple wooden structure. There, Bailey first began cutting hair.
Mrs. Annie owned a small grocery store where Clyde’s convenience store is now. Next door to Miner’s Grocery on Hwy. 17 was Bennie Warsaw’s grocery store. Directly behind Miner’s Grocery was a two-story house where the extended Miner family lived.
Sandwiched neatly between Miner’s Grocery and Bennie Warsaw’s was Bailey’s Barbershop.
Bailey had a monopoly on the trade – his was the only barbershop in town. It was there in 1938 Bailey first gave Mr. Henry Ford a haircut.
In the early 1940s, Mr. Ford made Bailey an offer he couldn’t refuse. He proposed that Bailey move his business to a two-story building on the corner of Constitution Way and Ford Avenue. Mr. Ford offered the use of a small room in the back of the building rent-free.
Mr. Ford’s work crew moved Bailey to the new location. This building was the site of Butler’s small store, which sold mainly candy and bread. (The building still stands.)
This is where Bailey was cutting hair when Mr. Ford bought him the barber chair, round mirror, sterile cabinet and other accessories.
For two years Bailey continued to cut Mr. Ford’s hair. Mr. Ford liked the way Bailey cut his hair – so much so he paid $3 for a 35-cent haircut. Twice, Mr. Ford gave him a $10 tip – extravagant during those years.
During the 1940s, Bailey Carpenter also worked for the Henry Ford Plantation while pursuing his career as a barber. During the 10 years he worked there, he repaired furniture, worked in the gas department and finally as a switchboard operator.
Bailey continued to cut hair next door to Butler’s store until Mr. Ford died. Then, the property was sold to the International Paper Co., and Bailey was expected to pay rent.
The story was often told by Bailey how one of the new managers once said, “We are not a charitable organization like Mr. Ford. You’re going to have to buy the shop.” Bailey left and took his business back up town to the quaint barbershop on Hwy. 17.
In the early 1970s the barbershop was moved across Hwy. 144, in the vicinity where Hardee’s is located today. It was placed under some large shade trees.
Some will remember the area as being the shady resting spot for the “Goat Man” and his herd of goats that made an annual trek through Richmond Hill many years ago. For days, the goat entourage would camp under the shade trees.
But when Mrs. Annie Miner decided to build a blockhouse on the corner where the barbershop was, Bailey had to move once again.
Bailey relocated to a beautiful location under a large pecan tree a short distance away on Hwy. 144, in the area near Royal Ace Hardware.
Sometime during the 1980s it was moved again, this time to the backyard of Bailey’s home in the Bottom. It was business as usual.
Bailey’s Barbershop will remain an icon in Richmond Hill. In my quest to trace the history of the barbershop, I was privileged to encounter many people eager to share their memories. It wouldn’t be the same if I tried to rewrite their quotes:
Allen Cox: “I knew Mr. Bailey my whole life. He was the most humble man…he had a positive attitude about everything and not a mean bone in his body.”
Larry Phillips: “Bailey gave me my first haircut. He was a lot like the barber, Floyd, on the Andy Griffith show…always in good spirits. He never got your name wrong…everyone was ‘Cuz.’”
Ben Darieng: “Bailey would give you ‘whitewalls,’ for sure. When I was a year old, he gave me my first haircut. He gave my dad, Theron, all the blond curls he cut off. Mom still has them in a box.”
Carolyn Williams: “Back then Bailey singed my dad’s hair (Fred Shurling) and burned his scalp. Daddy didn’t have a lot of hair, but he had a blister on his head for quite a while.”
Larry Turner: “Bailey had one way of cutting hair – off!”
Frances Meeks: “I remember when Bess, Walter’s mom, had John sitting in a chair under a large cedar tree on the front lawn…crying as she snipped his blond curls. Afterwards, Walter took John to Bailey for his first haircut.”
Walter Meeks: “Bailey cut my dad’s hair. He would go to the hospitals and cut hair. That was his ministry.”
Bobby Rahn: “My dad, Robby, and I got our hair cut there – all gone on the sides and a little left on top. Our ears were frequently nicked because the sides got cut so close.”
Ellis Phillips: “I’ve still got a ‘Bailey’ mark on my right ear, where he nicked me.”
Mark Harrison: “All the Harrison boys went to Bailey. When we saw him coming down the road in his old Plymouth Valiant, we’d say, ‘Here comes Butcher Bailey in his Cuz-o-mobile.’”
Russ Carpenter: “Daddy took me to Bailey when I was 3 or 4, but not many times. Mom intervened when she saw how uneven and gapped my haircut was.”
Kevin Davis: “I remember going with Daddy and drinking an Orange Crush while he got a haircut. For a while, I thought Daddy’s name was ‘Cuz.’ Mr. Bailey had hot shaving cream. He’d slap that straight razor on a leather strap four or five times and go at it.”
Robbie Sharpe: “Bailey gave me my first hair cut and gave my dad (Bud Sharpe) his last.”
Henry Butler: “Bailey would talk to you and cut hair as long as you had hair to cut.”
R.B. Bashlor: “He would cut my hair and pat me on the shoulder at the same time.”
Richard Davis: “My daddy cut my hair until we moved out of Clyde, when I was 5 years old. Then Bailey cut it. I had to sit on a board laid across the chair.”
Wilbur Butler: “We were friends more than 50 years. He was a good man.”
Weitz Gill: “I’m 82 years old and I remember Bailey when he was on Hwy. 17. I married Bailey’s youngest daughter, Nellie Lou.”
Ivy Spence: “After Bailey got through trimming my hair I’d say, ‘Do not put that razor around my ears!” I knew people that about had their ears chopped off by him.”
This story has a happy and fitting ending. The historic barbershop has only one more move – to the grounds of the Richmond Hill Historical Society Museum.
Perhaps Richard Davis had the right idea after all, when he said, “The thing has been moved so many times, I don’t know why they didn’t just put wheels on it.”

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