He's been snipping, clipping for 50 years and counting
Fifty years have come and gone since Jack Hubert finished barber college, got his license and starting cutting hair—legally—in Rockdale.
We say legally because he'd cut quite a bit of family hair at home in the Minerva community before finishing high school and going off to that barber college in Tyler.
"My dad had a pair of hand clippers," Jack recalls, "and he gave all us kids haircuts. He showed me how to use those clippers and I cut his hair."
"When I went off to barber college, they had electric clippers," he said, "and after using those hand clippers I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Those electric clippers were easy and fast."
Like all the barber college students, Jack was given a chair at the college shop on the square in downtown Tyler where students practiced and customers got bargain prices.
Before long, Jack was secondin command to the instructor and no longer had a chair. Instead, he "worked the floor," helping all the other students get their haircuts right. He finished that then-sixmonth college course in 1959 and returned to Rockdale.
Barber's license in hand, he went to work at Robert Lee Bounds' barber shop on North Main Street next door to City Food Market. Both of those businesses were located where Orsag's Furniture store is now.
Mr. Bounds, whose brother Milton Bounds also had a downtown shop one block south, required his barbers to "work a full day on Saturdays," back when Saturdays were the biggest days for merchants, when farm families came to town to stock up on feed, groceries and other necessities.
"We started cutting hair at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays and we continued to cut hair until the grocery stores closed at 11 p.m.," Jack said. "My personal longest day was one Saturday from 6:30 a.m. until midnight, because customers were still lined up at 11 p.m. I gave 82 haircuts that day at $1 each. I can't even cut one-third that number today."
Jack cut hair for 18 months as an apprentice in that shop, under the supervision of Wallace Underwood. "He was an excellent barber and a good teacher," Jack said. After the apprenticeship, he drove back to the barber school and took the Class A license exam, which he passed easily. The "A" license qualifies a barber to own his own shop.
And now, a half-century later, Jack is still cutting hair at his own place, The Hair Company, in the Texas Star Plaza (formerly TaylorBanc Plaza).
He's seen a lot of hair styles come and go and some cycle back again.
He has worked with a lot of different barbers in three Rockdale locations and has cut thousands of heads of hair, including grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandsons in the same families.
"People come in and introduce themselves and say, 'You used to cut my grandpa's hair, and my father's too.' And then they'll put one of their children—sometimes screaming—in my chair and we kick off a whole new generation," Jack said.
Last week he gave Dan Jenkins a haircut, which he's been doing for 50 years, but Dan is special because he was Jack's first paying customer after he got his license.
"Jack cut my hair 'legally' that first time in 1959," said Dan who is also from the Minerva community. But both admitted Jack had cut Dan's hair several times with Dan sitting on an apple box in Minerva while they were still in their teens.
Jack later worked at Jerr y Tuma's shop in what was then a strip center that was located next to the old Minimax grocery store. That grocery was in the same general vicinity as the current Brookshire Bros.
Jack recalls working with a number of barbers, including Rober t Lee Bounds, Wallace Underwood, Arch Holley, Jerry Tuma, Jimmy Love, Howard Drummond, Monroe Mortimer, Kenneth Biehle and Griffin Barrett.
Some of those men went into other ventures, some hired on with local industry and pretty soon there weren't many men cutting hair in Rockdale any more.
With the advent of "hair stylists," more women entered the field. Jack over time worked with more than 25 different women, including several who now have their own shops or work in other salons here and elsewhere. "I even took a course in 'hair styling' when it was the big craze," he said.
But one thing he's never done in 50 years is take appointments, even though some of the women who have worked at his shop have done so. "I'm just more comfortable with walk-in trade," he said. "I just never got into appointments." And his legion of satisfied customers will tell you they don't mind waiting to get in his chair.
As for styles coming and going, he notes that men and boys haircuts now—after the modish 1970 and 1980s—are now even shorter than they were in the 1950s and 1960s.
Jack and his own hair parted company long ago. The girls who work at his shop say he has a slogan that he repeats often while sweeping up clippings:
"Hair, hair everywhere... Except on top of my head."