The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 27, 2012

Cutting career: South Fork barber retiring after more than 7 decades

Arlene Johns

— David Crute set aside his clippers last week.

After barbering in South Fork for nearly 74 years, the 86-year-old retired Thursday

– handing the business solely to his daughter.

“I was 15 when I started,” Crute said.

Prior to that, he “peddled papers” to help his widowed mother make ends meet.

“There were six of us,” he said. “It was tough, so every little bit helped.”

Then he got an offer that was to change his life.

Crute is not sure what made Roy Bloom, the town barber, offer to teach him the trade.

“Maybe he knew my dad had passed away,” Crute said.

The teen didn’t think he could do the job.

“I said, ‘I can’t cut hair.’ And he said, ‘I’ll teach you,’ ” Crute said.

So the 15-year-old started working evenings and Saturdays at the barber shop.

“I started by just getting the customers ready,” he said.

But Crute’s mentor pushed him to do more.

“He’d say, ‘Go ahead, Davy,’ ” Crute recalled.

Eventually, he tackled his first haircut.

“You have to pick the clippers up and start sometime,” Crute said. “It was a little hard at first, but you pick it up.”

His budding career was interrupted at 18 when he was drafted into the Army.

The nation was at war so, after just 13 weeks of basic training, he found himself far from home – in the European Theater.

Crute didn’t lose his clipping skills while serving his country.

“I cut a lot of guys down at the old latrine,” he recalled.

He made 50 cents a cut from the enlisted men and a dollar from the officers. It cost a bit more than the standard-issue haircut, but the men preferred their barber buddy.

When he returned home, he picked up where he left off at Bloom’s Barber Shop. He also became an official barber.

“I went to Pittsburgh to take my state board,” he recalled. “I told the mailman, ‘If you get a big, brown envelope, I failed. If you get a white one, I passed.’ ”

He was looking out a window when he saw the mailman coming up the street, a white envelope showing from the bag.

“I saw the envelope,” he said.

“I passed. I was so happy.”

He also had success in his search for a wife and didn’t have to go far to meet her.

Irene “Jo” Stafford also spent her life in South Fork. But the two didn’t meet until her friend started dating his friend.

“I met her down at the Dairy Nook” – a little soda place in the borough, Crute said.

“We got to liking each other real good.”

They have been married for

62 years and have lived in the same house for 54 of those years.

The couple had two daughters and now have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In 1956, Crute bought Bloom’s Barber Shop and later relocated into a shop built in the front of his daughter’s home.

That daughter, Peggy Glacken, will continue the business alone.

She is hardly a newcomer – she has been cutting hair for 35 years. She started the trade right after high school.

Her father is quite proud.

“She’s a terrific barber,” he said. “She does the women, too.

“I don’t do the women. I don’t do the kids much anymore, either.

“Too nerve-racking.”

Glacken said she appreciates all her dad and mother have done for her.

“They taught me to trust God in business and in everything in life,” she said.

As he reflected on his long career, Crute said he could write a book on his experiences.

He has no regrets.

“I am glad I learned the trade,” he said. “That’s all I’ve done all my life.”

None of his current customers has been with him all

73 years.

“I’ve been losing them over the years,” he said. “But then you pick up new ones.”

Crute is grateful for his loyal customers – some who came many miles for his haircuts.

“I want to thank my customers for all the years they’ve been with me,” he said.

“And I give thanks be to God for all the wonderful years.

“My health has been terrific all these years. My hands are getting a little arthritis in them now.”

But Crute intends to keep busy.

“I am a guy who loves to be working around the house,” he said. “I like to keep the yard beautiful.

“I help Jo, and we work together. We’re fussy.”

Perhaps that’s what has kept his customers coming back for more than seven decades.

Perhaps you have to be fussy to be a good barber.


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