Still cutting hair 46 years later

“Throwback Thursday” seems the appropriate time to share a nostalgic encounter.
   Yeah, I’m a sentimental sap. And if you like that kind of stuff, you’ll like this story.
   Yesterday I saw my childhood barber for the first time in 46 years. Forty-six years! Larry Knoeb, 81, owns Larry’s Barber Shop in Lake Hills (east Bellevue). It’s in a strip mall next to the QFC that’s about a mile south of Sammamish High School.
   Larry started cutting hair near my old neighborhood (I grew up two blocks away) in 1964. When QFC’s predecessor – the P-X Supermarket – first opened, the barber shop was run by two guys, Dallas and Jonas. Larry took over in ’64, when I was in fourth grade.
   That old barber shop had two chairs, with Larry’s colleague Wayne using the other one. They both cut my hair, but I preferred Larry. Wayne sometimes “scalped” me, as kids called it then, and that was the last thing I wanted in those Beatles heydays. Many boys wanted to grow their hair long, but our parents said no.
   Larry tended to cut my hair a more reasonable length than Wayne. Plus, Larry was simply a nice guy, so he was my favorite.
   I don’t know how Larry and Wayne put up with me. I’d convince them to leave my top and bangs long – a preposterous pineapple look, in hindsight (at right). But that was mom’s compromise: hair on top, as long as my sides and back were short.
   More than once, after seeing my new haircut, mom would make me march back up to the barber shop and ask that more be cut off. Larry and Wayne patiently complied.
   In ninth grade I hatched a scheme. Mom would give me $3.50 to get my hair cut, but instead I’d go to my buddy Rick’s house. His older sister was a hairdresser who taught Rick some skills. He’d cut my hair for free, and then I’d head to Valu-Mart and buy an LP (that’s a vinyl record, for younger readers) for $3.33.
   That worked until my senior year, when I started going to a stylist. That was the early-‘70s rage for guys with longer hair: shampoo, blow dry, razor cut, layered into a “shag.” Salon cuts went on for years with a short list of stylists – Bob, John, and my current guy, Gail.
   It’s funny how you develop friendships with your barber over the years. Even long after my hair grew thin on top, when I could have justified simpler and cheaper haircuts, I kept going back to my old pals. John cut my hair for 25 years before moving to Boise, and Gail’s been doing it for the past 10.
   Anyway, back to Larry. I assumed he was long gone from the area. Then I saw a Facebook post on a retro-Bellevue site saying Larry was still in business, with his son and daughter, in the same location.
   On Tuesday I stopped at the Lake Hills QFC for groceries and ambled into Larry’s Barber Shop. And there was Larry, cutting hair, and looking amazingly unchanged after 46 years.
   “You’re Larry!” I said. “You used to cut my hair years ago, when I was a kid.”
   
Larry eyed me and smiled and said, “I remember you.” I figured he was just being polite, but his co-worker later told me, “No, Larry’s got a mind like a steel trap. He probably does remember you.”
   We chatted briefly before I figured I’d interrupted his work long enough and said goodbye. I was pleased to learn he still cuts hair on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, so perhaps I’ll go back.
   I’d like to ask him, just how annoying was it, anyway – to repeatedly cut a kid’s hair twice in a day, yet only get paid once?

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UPDATE: Larry Knoeb was featured in this Bellevue Reporter article June 10.

by  Jon Osterberg

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