Hawks barbershop stands the test of time

 

Jerry Wagner has operated the barbershop in Hawks for 48 years. (Photo by Peter Jakey)

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor

Time has stood still at a small block building in the center of Hawks.

A lot has changed since Raymond Paull built the barbershop in 1948.

The train no longer runs through, and businesses and buildings have disappeared from the landscape in 65 years.

The one constant through the years has been the 12-by-16-foot block building on the east side of the road.

Symbolically, it stands as Hawks’ unchanging rock.

If a local resident walks through the front door, he will see the same barber chair Paull used for the first 16 years of operation in the building.

The first Ray’s Barber Shop was a small wooden building next door to the old Selke Store.

It is the same chair Jerry Wagner, 76, has been using for the last half a century.

He has changed little inside the small shop, except the name: Jerry’s Barber Shop.

He also added a restroom to meet state code.

“I made it as small as I could, 3 by 3 foot,” said Wagner jokingly. “It more or less, has stayed the same, except for a few paint jobs.”

Jerry and his wife Yvonne took ownership in June 1964 and have continued to operate Hawks’ one and only barbershop for 48, going on 49 years.

Wagner never thought he would be in business all these years. He would have put an addition on the building long ago.

It is more than a business, it is a community meeting place to talk about a myriad of subjects from sports to politics.

It is where granddad received his haircuts. He brought in his boys, and they brought in their sons.

Jerry had regular business hours when he moved from Clare to take over for Paull, who was having health issues. When Calcite was looking for workers, he took a job at the plant and cut the hours to a couple of evenings a week and Saturdays.

“People kept coming,” he said. “It worked out pretty good. If I could not make it there, they would wait until the next day and come back.”

Summer visitors staying on the lakes made up part of the business.

“Because of the lakes and the people that came up here, really made a difference,” said Jerry. “I met so many people, it is unbelievable.” That included a Detroit Lions scout, who was in the area looking at a local athlete.

Jerry retired from Calcite 18 years ago.

“As soon as I retired, everybody said, ‘you can be here all day long, and every day.’ I still wanted to enjoy myself in retirement and do what I want to do.”

Haircuts were 25-cents for kids and 50-cents for adults when Paull had it. Jerry’s price was $1 for adults.

“When I got to $2, I never thought I would go any higher,” said Jerry. “I really did.” As with everything, the cost of doing business goes up.

Jerry grew up in Rogers City and graduated from Rogers City High School in 1954 and went right into the Navy. He returned and sailed for Bradley Transportation and was on the Taylor when the Bradley sank. He married Yvonne Hein, his high school sweetheart, in 1959. They have four sons.

Along the way, Jerry decided to go to barber school in downtown Detroit to get his license.

“It was always in my mind to do it,” he said. “I did it when I was on a ship in the service, just monkeying around with it.”

He and his fellow barber-wannabes practiced on skid-row bums along Michigan Avenue. That is not a tall tale or rumor from the walls of the shop, either. That is the truth.

While attending the school, a shop owner from Clare came in to recruit someone to help him. Once Jerry received his license, he accepted the job and moved to Clare.

It was only a matter time before Paull contacted him and asked him if he was interested in taking over and the couple was happy to move back to the Hawks/Rogers City area.

There have been so many steady customers, including Dr. Earl Fairbanks and Norm Prell, who is Paull’s stepson, to mention a few.

“I used to have 10 in their 90s coming in here,” said Jerry.

“It has been interesting,” Yvonne reflected.

Pardon the expression, but Jerry continues to clip right along with no immediate plans to retire. In fact, if he could go back and do it all over again, he would.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Jerry added.