By Glennis Fellas
When you walk past the striped barber pole of City Barber Shop you are greeted by either Ernest Walston or Warren Rhodes who will probably know you by name.
Not many secrets in a barbershop. The room smells of Vitalis, witch hazel, and talc. You plop down in an old seat, which came out of the Prineville theater years ago and wait your turn. No appointment necessary. Everyone knows who came in first and whose turn it is.
Red, white and blue striped barber poles are the last bastion of `mom and pop' business on Madras main street. Ernest Walston opened the door of City Barber Shop in 1948 and he has seen a lot of young boys grow to mature men.
The spry, friendly Walston has followed many Madras boys as they became Boy Scouts, played little league, and got that all-important haircut for the school prom. Then there were the soon-to-be bridegrooms that fretted over their hair and needed assurance that their hair was just right.
Now these same men bring their young sons in for their first haircut and the cycle spreads through another generation.
You won't find designer shampoo with the promise of more hair, more style, more fluff, more body. It's not the high-priced Mecca where tanning booths, a masseuse, and other pompous frills beckon.
While you are waiting there is the latest issues os `Sports Illustrated' to thumb through, but better yet there is the lively conversation. If you are interested in what's going on in town now or years ago this is a good place to find it. These barbers are walking history books.
When it's your turn you move up to the chair, settle in and one of the barbers snaps the towel around your neck. The chair isn't a slender, slippery chrome bar on a feeble little salon chair. This chair is huge with a massive armrest and room to get comfortable. It's not a time to rush, because there is more talking going on than hair cutting. After all, last Monday night's football has to be rehashed and replayed.
This barber has been cutting your hair since you sat on the booster seat. He knows your age, who you are married to, how many children you have, and what is your favorite sport. He would never mention how much larger your bald sport is getting.
"In the pioneer days the barbershop was much more than cutting hair and giving a shave," explains Walston. "Barbers were often the surgeon and the dentist. Today we are often a therapist and teacher."
Walston was born in Madras in 1921 and served as the rural fire chief for seven years. He served in World War II and is an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Before taking up as a barber he worked wheat ranches in the Hood River and Dufur areas. So talking farming lingo comes natural for the barber.
He started barbering in the old Madras Hotel, and bought the business while it was still in that location. After the hotel fire he moved his business uptown where it is today.
"A lot of learning takes place in the barbershop," Walston says. "It's where you earn which bait to use for walleye, how to de-ice a lock, point spreads, and about how to treat a woman."
Madras men can thank these barbers for keeping their heads in shape and up on the latest know-how on just about any subject of interest.