Editor’s note: former News + Record Managing Editor Bob Wachs, a frequent contributor to the newspaper, penned this profile and reflection about Pittsboro barber Cadle Cooper, who’s been cutting …
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Editor’s note: former News + Record Managing Editor Bob Wachs, a frequent contributor to the newspaper, penned this profile and reflection about Pittsboro barber Cadle Cooper, who’s been cutting hair downtown for more than half a century.
PITTSBORO — The year was 1963.
Cadle Cooper was graduating from Pittsboro High School. I was in the ninth grade
In a few months, he’d finish at the Durham Institute of Barbering, marry Sarah Partin of Bynum and complete 18 months of apprenticeship in Chester “Gene” Barker’s Pittsboro barber shop.
It would be the only place he’d ever work...except when he had a second shop in Bynum that the State Board of Barber Examiners made him close because, they said, one barber couldn’t manage two shops — even though he was.
Cooper is still behind his barber chair in the building on Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro’s main drag, pushing 55 years of snips, cuts, trims and shaves. The business, now Cooper’s Barber Shop since Barker’s death, is still there...and he’s the only person still in business who was on main street the day he first picked up a pair of scissors.
Lest someone challenge that, yes, there’s a bank on the corner of Hillsboro and Salisbury streets, at THE stoplight – the only one in town until someone came up with one for the west side at N.C. 902 and 87. But in 1965, it was Bank of Pittsboro, later CCB and now Suntrust. And Tommy Morgan and W.H. McAllister — “Mr.Mac” — and Mrs. Viginia Rives and many other great folks are gone.
But Cadle isn’t.
Since I grew up and my Uncle Lewis closed his Bynum barber shop, maybe 10 times someone besides Cadle has cut my hair. Even when my little family lived in Asheboro or south-central Virginia, I’d go by when we came home. I’m not suggesting you want to look like me and I hope you won’t blame him if my “do” looks ragged sometimes. It’s not his fault you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
The other day when I went by to “have my ears lowered,” we spent several minutes remembering 1965 folks and businesses up and down the street. I think we came up with all of them.
On the north side of Hillsboro Street, where Circle City Books tempts me too often with books and vinyl 33 RPM records, Harry Horton had his law office in a building shared with Ed Hatch, hence “Horton and Hatch” on the door. Horton later became an Orange-Chatham district court judge and Ed Hatch moved to other pastures in Raleigh.
Also in that block building were magistrates, the juvenile court counselor (Mrs. Mabel Herndon), the probation officer and a room for the Chatham Record office. W. B. (Willie) Morgan was the local editor. When he retired in 1970, I replaced him, although I’m pretty sure I never replaced him but rather just used his chair.
It was into that room that my better half, who wasn’t my better half then, came one June day when she was filling in for Billy Smith’s legal secretary Jean Bryan, who wanted the summer off to be with her children. Between her junior and senior years in college, Shirley needed a work experience for her degree so Smith — next door — hired her for three months.
When she came into my office for an affaidavit of publication to settle an estate, she noticed stacks and piles of newspapers strewn on the desk and floor, assorted cardboard boxes here and there, empty Coke bottles and coffee cups, the full trash can and other tools of the newspaper trade. As I dutifully and professionally worked at honoring her request, she looked around and casually said, “I really like your filing system.”
Being impressed, I responded with, “Thanks. I did it myself,” handed her the needed form and followed her out of the room. As she left the building, I asked magistrate Earl Parker, “Who was that?”
“Don’t you know?” he asked.
“Earl, if I knew I wouldn’t have asked you.”
“She works next door for Billy Smith.”
A day or so later, I found a reason to go over and soon asked her if she’d like to live with me as long as possible, promising to endow her with a version of the filing system she so admired, a promise I have kept through almost 50 years.
Today, Smith’s office is home to Loose Leaf Botanicals; next door is Full Blown Gifts. Years ago, it was an office that struck fear in the hearts of many a Chatham County boy — Local Draft Board No. 19. Mrs. Charlotte Stevens knew everything about all of us, including after I flunked out of UNC for the umpteenth time I was no longer classified as a student but could potentially be on Uncle Sam’s payroll. Sure enough, the day came when I met 39 other lads at 4 a.m. to ride to to the U.S. Army’s Raleigh examination and induction center. Ray Gunter, who now calls Goldston home, was the only person I knew at first; we all got acquainted before it was over. Uncle never called my name.
Beside the draft board was Shenandoah Restaurant, a place many folks simply called “Bolejack’s Café,” after owners Bob and Ruby Bolejack. When Progressive (food) Store — later Piggly Wiggly — was where Pittsboro is building municipal offices, you could come in the restaurant back door into the kitchen. There Don Bolejack made the first bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich I ever tasted. Thought I’d already died and gone to heaven. Today, that space is Deep River Mercantile, next door to a business owned and operated by Tommy and Cindy Edwards that’s open, according to a sign on the door, as often as possible.
There you can find antiques, musical instruments, CDs and conversation. In the 50s and 60s, it was City Electronics Shop, a fascinating collection of radios, vacuum tubes and a fast-growing invention called “television,” presided over by Gene Robeson. Later, Jimmy Harris opened a Sears catalog store and eventually Archie Hackney operated Pittsboro Appliance Center.
Across the street heading south is the Woodwright’s Shop, where you can use old tools to make new furniture. Decades ago, Colon and Lois Shaw sold furniture, lots of it, from that building and later in what’s now S&T Soda Shoppe. Before that, S&T’s was Dave Roberts Jewelry & Soda Shop. He gave me my first non-lawn mowing job in 1963, 50 cents an hour. After Dave built a new store on Salisbury Street, beside the old post office, the Shaws opened the wall between the two, expanding their business.
Back then, Pittsboro had a “five and dime,” although it wasn’t Roses. Instead, it was Popes, where the Ladies Fitness Center and Chatham Park are. My high school buddy Renny Kremer managed Popes until Uncle Sam called his number for Vietnam, forcing him to cancel his order for a new Mustang from Cooper-Harris Ford.
The barber shop is next, seeing many changes not only on Main Street but also in the shop. In 1965, haircuts were $1.25; today they’re $14, “except flattops,” Cadle says. “They were $1.50. We sold a lot of Butch Wax, still got some but nobody uses it. People with flattops just let their hair stand on its own.
“Short hair was the style when I started,” he says. “In the 70s it was real long; today short hair is coming back. Today there are more hairdressers and salons, more females cutting hair in cosmopolitan beauty shops. There are some 40-year old men who’ve never been in a barber shop.” Besides the haircuts, Vance Crews operated a shoe shine stand. He could take a pair of muddy shoes and turn them into new. Only fellow I ever knew who put on polish with his fingers.
South of the barber shop Pete and Edith Wasko owned Pete’s Market, a family grocery known for fine meats and letting people charge groceries until payday. Henry Blair operated a hardware store next to Pete’s until Carey Jones took it over. Today Carolina Properties Realty occupies Pete’s location; Russell and Associates is in the hardware site.
Next in line was Baldwin-Stout ladies shop and McCrimmon Drug Co. Mrs. Alma Crutchfield was one of the fine folks at Baldwin-Stout; every day she came into McCrimmon’s and asked Bea (Harris) O’Quinn or C.W. Harris or Johnny Justice or me for a small Coke. They were a nickel. The drug store also was the local bus station for passengers or flowers from Gould’s Flower Farm, which was behind where the State Employee Credit Union is. A one-way bus ticket from Pittsboro to Durham was 55 cents in 1965.
On the corner was Flynt’s Florist, where Polly and Jim Flynt and Kathlene Griffin created all kinds of arrangements. Next door was Baxter Rigsbee Insurance Agency. Today Flynt’s is home to Blue Dot Coffee; beside it is The Salon.
Crossing to the east side of Main Street, Western Auto, operated by Bob Blanchard and featuring J.A. Stevens and his checker board, was on the corner where Screaming for Vintage is today. The offices, showroom and service department for Cooper-Harris was next. Owner Ken Cooper often stood on the sidewalk, jingling the change in his pants front pockets while making deals. One day, some employees tried to trick him by gluing a quarter to the sidewalk. When he couldn’t pick it up, he got out his pocket knife and scraped it up.
Today that location is home to a number of businesses: Joyful Jewel, Post/Foushee/Patton law firm, Harris Insurance and Horizon Renovations, a contracting firm.
Griffin’s, known to most folks as the shoe shop, was next. Sam Griffin started the business, later taken over by his son Sammy and his wife Dottie. They sold great work clothes, shoes and boots. Not so long ago, I found, in the back of my closet, a pair of work boots at least 35 years old I bought from Sammy. Still in good shape.
Sammy also made and repaired leather goods – belts, holsters, wallets. And at his shoe shine stand Charles Farrar could put a shine on a pair so good you could see your reflection. And two of the sharpest dressers I’ve ever known, two black men — Roy “Crown” Harris and a fellow I knew only as “Papoose” — came in on Saturdays to have Charles do his magic. Today that loation is home to New Horizons, a dealer in art, apparel and gifts.
For the longest time, until the late 70s, Cooper Harris Ford used a vacant lot next to Griffins for new cars; used cars were where Hardee’s is. It took skillful manuevering to get the cars in without damaging any. Henry Hearne later built a restaurant there, which later became the Scoreboard where Cathy Bolejack Cash, calling upon her family’s Shenandoah Café experience, and her husband Paul, better known as “Shorty,” held court. Today, of course, it’s Virlie’s.
Next up heading north was Mrs. Harris’ alteration shop and pickup station for Chatham Dry Cleaners. Today, it’s home to Turnberry Interior Design. Beside her was Arthurs’ Men’s Store, where William Ray and Gladys Arthurs sold the latest fashions. At the back of the store was a large raised section of floor featuring couches and chairs where conversations about more than clothes happened. I remember the day William Ray said, “Come here; try on these new pants; they’re polyester. They’re so light you’ll think you’re not wearing any.” William Ray’s was also where many a Pittsboro boy rented his high school prom and wedding monkey suits, yours truly included. Gene Griffin and George Justice measured many an inseam in that building.
Next was Lemuel Burns and his dry cleaners. After he passed away, Roy Siler, a valued employee, took over the business, becoming an early local successful black businessman. In that spot today is a buiding with multiple occupants, including the United Way, lawyers and a massage therapist. Next door, at Eric Michael’s Salon, Jimmy Thomas operated an antique shop where he put on the wood shingle awning that still stands and was an architectural signature for many businesses.
Beside the antique shop was a vacant lot. On one side, a sidewalk led to Clyde’s Pool Room, where many a local lad furthered his education around a game of 8-ball. Upstairs over the antique shop was Bob Gunn’s law offices, today it’s the Violin and Fiddle Shop. Eventually a building appeared on that vacant lot; in its lifetime it’s held many businesses, including a bakery and Liquidambar, a gift shop.
The Bank of Pittsboro was next, a clock hanging out front. In addition to the bank, J.M. Odell Manufacturing Co., owners of the Bynum cotton mill, had offices there. Crossing the street brings you to a vacant building, most recently the site of Reclamation, a home furnishing business. Years ago, it was First Federal Savings and Loan of Sanford, managed by Watson Nordan and ably staffed by Dora Byrd and Nancy Griffin.
The last business was Thomas Brothers Furniture Co., owned by brothers Julian and Jimmy Thomas (the antique shop owner). Prior to that, it was the Progressive Food Store, a defunct business headquartered in Sanford. Today, it’s home to M2 Graphics, a screenprinting and embroidery business.
Fifty-five years have brought numbers of changes to Pittsboro businesses. Cadle remembers the past and wonders about the future. “I remember it used to be that by 5 p.m. the town was gone,” he says. “Now it’s turned into a night spot with lots to do.
“When Chatham Park gets here, who knows what Main Street will look like. With 55,000 to 60,000 people in 35 years, you can’t imagine. I won’t see it but I don’t blame folks for selling their property.”
No doubt, Cadle hopes some new residents will feel the need of a trim and find his shop. He’s closed Mondays and by lunch on Wednesdays and open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until 6 p.m. or so. Saturday is half a day, until lunch.