Hardly seems possible that Around Davidson is halfway through its fifth year on DavidsonNews.net. Most weeks find your correspondent scratching for news from citizens of Davidson and surrounding towns but once in a while, someone sends me an item that evolves into a special stand-alone column like today.
Around Davidson takes time this first Tuesday in August to introduce our readers to Robin Huggins who has a heartfelt story to tell about his visits to Raeford’s Barber Shop over the past decade. Robin’s email not only resulted in a meeting with this Mooresville resident but also a chance to report on barbering on South Main Street in Davidson.
TAKING TIME TO SAY THANK YOU
How often we fuss about small things that bother us but how seldom we remember to say THANK YOU to those who make a difference in our lives. Such is the case for Robin Huggins, a transplanted Texan who now calls Mooresville home, and found time recently to say Thank You to some special people in Davidson who have indeed made a difference in his life. Robin, his wife, Susan, and daughters, Hailey and Jillyan, have lived in our area for the past twelve years. At first, Robin visited a barber shop in Mooresville but one morning, finding it closed, sought advice from a customer of Richard’s Military Café who told him, “You should go to Davidson and try Raeford’s – best barbershop in the country!”
What happened next is best told in Robin’s own words. “So I hopped in the car and went to Davidson. I relaxed in the chair while waiting, listening to all the conversations going on, and then after I got my hair cut, I really didn’t want to leave, but had no excuse to stay. It was so comfortable being there…so relaxing…and I watched as two of the Gentlemen read phrases from the Bible. I wasn’t really aware at the time, that they had touched me. Over the next several years, I frequented their barbershop. Actually, I figured out that when I was stressed, or when I had issues, I would go to Raeford’s and get my hair cut.”
For a decade Robin continued to visit Raeford’s. Sometimes he got his hair cut; sometimes he just sat and listened. When he lost his job and then his house, he visited the barber shop almost twice a week finding that “every time I needed someone to give me a boost, every time that I needed someone to just chat with, and every time that I needed some ‘inspiration’, I found it at Raeford’s. These are the kindest Gentlemen I have ever had the privilege to say ‘I know’, even though I don’t know any of their names. I want them to know that they have filled a space in my heart, and that just through their kindness, with no direct influence, they have added inspiration and helped keep me calm and sane.”
Back on his feet financially, this 6’2”, 300 lb. Texan/Tarheel “lost his footing” physically when he was hospitalized in Presbyterian Hospital recently for a blood infection. During his time in the ER he could only think “Boy, do I need a haircut,” when in truth he needed some “Raeford Therapy!” Recovering at home, he emailed Around Davidson to see if someone could meet him at the barber shop to document his story as he expressed his tearful Thank You to Joe, Ken, Ron, Thomas, Tim and Quentin. Again to quote Robin, “Now I’m not sure if they have affected other people’s lives this way, but they surely have impacted my life. These kind souls welcomed me into their shop, and every time I’ve been there they have had nothing but good and happy things to say, even when I was totally depressed, they went out of their way to make me smile. Now I don’t feel I owe them anything other than a very big, gracious Thank You, but I wanted to tell them how I felt, how they have affected my life and to thank them for being there when I needed a place to go.”
MEETING AT RAEFORD’S
The “Thank You event” took place on Friday, July 27, just after noon. What an occasion! Customers were few at that hour so we all could sit around and hear Robin tell his story while the barbers listened attentively, interjecting comments now and then, especially Joe McClain who said, “Why didn’t you call? I would have come to the hospital to cut your hair.” Such is the caring atmosphere of the shop. According to Robin, the barbers are far beyond professional barbers. They are masters of small talk, continuous banter among themselves, chatter on all subjects from women to fiber in your diet, and therapists beyond measure. Even if you do not need a haircut, spend an hour sitting in the barber shop across the street from Flatiron Restaurant and exit smiling as you remember the happy atmosphere and ‘educational instruction’ they provide at no charge.
A LESSON FROM THE BARBER SHOP
Okay. Let’s see how your knowledge of the barbers at Raeford’s compares to Robin’s? Can you name all the barbers who cut hair there? Do you know the history of the barber chairs? Do you know who is the oldest barber? Do you wonder how James Raeford is doing? Do you know when the shop opened in its current location? Who sold it to James? Have you visited the Gospel Choir during Christmas in Davidson at the shop? Around Davidson spent quite a few hours at Raeford’s in the past three weeks. Not there for a trim, but rather to sit on the old church pew near the windows, visit with the barbers, hear their stories and marvel at the fellowship one encounters there – even making a lady reporter feel welcome!
Let’s start with the barbers. The elder statesman is Ken Norton (think T-shirts that read “I’ve been Nortonized!”) who is 84 years young and celebrated 70 years of barbering this past June 2012! The original barber pole and one chair from his Main Street shop are part of Raeford’s which started in October 1993 after Ken closed his shop on North Main Street in September of the same year. Ken, now living in Landis, learned the art of cutting hair from the Charlotte Barber School when he was 14 and has been working all his life. He claims he will continue doing something until “the Lord sets him down.” His Bible is always by his side at the shop where he barbers Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the first chair until relinquishing that same seat to Joe McClain (82 years young) for customers on Friday and Saturday. (The shop is closed on Wednesdays.) Joe, the “assistant” elder statesman, graduated from barber school in Winston-Salem, worked for Norton’s Barber Shop as well as Ralph Johnson’s here in Davidson. He also had his own shop on Crane Street for a while before working for Duke Power until retirement in 1990. Now he enjoys part time work at Raeford’s and can tell tales, sprinkled with great humor, about many old timers in our town.
Raeford’s Barber Shop has been in its present location since 1993 when James Raeford opened the business. James graduated from barber college in Durham and first had a barber shop in Fayetteville. Moving to Davidson in 1957, he worked at Ralph Johnson’s Barber Shop for 15 years. He took almost 6 years off to sell cars in Charlotte and Gastonia, and returned to barbering at Pott’s Barber Shop in Cornelius before having his own shop there and finally coming full circle back to Davidson to start Raeford’s Barber Shop. A heart attack seven years ago and subsequent back surgery have slowed James, now 74, down a bit. These days he stays pretty close to home under the watchful eye of his wife, Daisy, and lets his son, Ron Raeford, who has been a barber for 14 years, manage the shop in Davidson now. James laughed as he commented that trips now to get his hair cut just leave him “plumb slap out” since so many customers want to hear how he is doing and talk, talk, talk!
Other barbers at Raeford’s include Tim White, who worked with James Raeford in Cornelius beginning in August 2006 before coming to Davidson in July 2009. Thomas Marsh has been with Raeford’s since 2000. The “new kid on the block” is Quentin Feagins who joined the team this past January.
What a remarkable group of men who can make you feel welcome (even if you are toting a clipboard and shouldering a camera), make you laugh out loud and send you out the door relaxed. You may pick up a magazine or a section of the daily newspaper but your mind will wander from the print to the barber’s “topic of the hour.” No need to get a word in edgewise; they cover all the possible themes with friendly fussing and much laughter. No question that Robin Huggins got it right the first time. They provide therapy regardless of your troubles whether you visit on a hot day in August or a chilly night in December when friends in a Gospel Choir keep the audience swaying and clapping to the ole timey hymns. We just have to wonder how many other countless citizens of our area this group of caring men have helped over the years?
And how many have stopped by to say Thank You?
SEND US YOUR NEWS
Have news for Around Davidson? Write to Brenda Barger at firstname.lastname@example.org.