Long-time Pratt barber Marion Fiegel entertains students visiting the Pratt County Historical Museum with tales of days-gone-by and demonstration of old-time barbering equipment.
The children watched with fascination as former barber Marion Fiegel demonstrated an old hand-squeeze razor and their questions ranged from how much did it cost, to what's in that bottle, and why are those colors on the pole, Thursday, January 25, when he put on a little show for second grade students at the Pratt County Historical Museum.
Fiegel answered those questions and more, including what was the most popular type of haircut he gave.
"We did a lot of flat-tops back in the day," Fiegel said. "It wasn't until the Beatles came along in 1964 that we had to start setting up appointments and scheduling haircuts. Until then it was just walk-in business. But once the kids started growing their hair long, everything took longer."
Born and raised south of Cunningham on a farm near St. Leo, Fiegel worked in Pratt, cutting and trimming hair at the Palace Barber Shop for 48 years before retiring 11 years ago. He thoroughly enjoyed reliving his lifetime occupation with the young audiences who came before him on Thursday last week, and again on Monday, January 29.
According to Fiegel, once the young men started wearing their hair longer like the Beatles, it wasn't long before their fathers began coming in, requesting the same kind of haircuts.
"That was a major shift in hairstyles," he said. "I went back to school to learn how to do it right. Then we had several Saturday's where we had professionals from Kansas City come out here and we gave free haircuts, learning the Beatles' style. We had people coming in for haircuts from a 50-mile radius out. It was out with the old and in with the new."
What never went out of style was the camaraderie Fiegel and other barbers established with their customers.
"I always enjoyed visiting with the people so much," he said. "You know, the gossip, that came from the women's beauty shops, but at the barber shop, well that was just sharing information."
Fiegel told how he especially enjoyed cutting younger customers hair because they almost always had something interesting to say.
"We had a little horse that kids could climb up on to sit while we cut their hair," Fiegel said. "They always liked that and once they were comfortable, they liked to talk. One little boy told me all about his daddy hunting quail that day, and we weren't even close to quail season."
Fiegel remembered a young man, about 13, who came in regularly and challenged him to a bicycle race.
"Now I rode my bicycle to work almost every day," Fiegel said. "I knew there was no way he could ever beat me, but he pestered me so much I finally had to let him try."
Fiegel won that first race and a few more after, but kind of forgot the matter after a few years.
"Wouldn't you know, we met at a Chinese restaurant years later. He recognized me right off. He was 60 years old now and the first thing he said to me was, 'I know I could still beat you at a bike race,'" Fiegel said. "We had a good laugh about that. Customers became lifelong friends. That's what I loved about the job."
Fiegel shared his memories and enthusiasm for barbering with Pratt students last week and this week, because he loves being around people.
"I didn't miss the work so much after I retired," he said. "But I miss the people, I miss the people very much."
And when asked about the price of haircuts then and now, his answer was that they cost about 50 cents each, when he started cutting hair in the Marine Corps. At the Palace, he remembers when a simple cut was $1.25. But the time he retired in 2007 haircuts were up to $10 or $11 each.
The Pratt County Historical Museum has a special store front and space along their boardwalk called the Tonsorial. That is where Fiegel shared his love of history and stories of barbering, and where young students got a glimpse of life as it used to be, when times were simpler and maybe just a bit more fun, if one believes everything Fiegel had to say.