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Retiring after 45 years of barbering
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Its all about opinionated conversations that have set Dan Southwick apart from fellow barbers. It is almost like an imagined set from the Lum and Abner radio show of the 40s. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Dan Southwick is hanging up his clippers after 45 years of haircuts and conversation. 

His wife Joan describes her husband as being known for verbalizing his strong opinions in his give-and-take with customers in his chair.

Southwick opened his shop in the 100 block of South Maple Street in January of 1969.  He had worked for the popular Joe Salcedo for two years before that in his Yosemite Avenue barber shop.  He had also worked for Cecil Rich in Tracy, getting his license when he was 22.

There were some 11 barber shops in Manteca when Dan opened his doors.  But, even then, barbering alone wasn’t always enough to put bread on the family table he said.  Southwick remembers pumping gas at the once busy Regal Service Station on Moffat Boulevard and working at the Fiberboard plant in Stockton.  He also milked his share of cows in his early days of cutting hair in Manteca.

A graduate of Manteca High, Dan met his wife Joan at a dance at the MRPS Hall.  It was late when he got off work at Fiberboard at about 11 o’clock when he went looking for excitement.  He found the Blue Notes all black band from Merced playing rock ‘n roll. And he found Joan.

In his mental book of memories one woman customer stands out who brought her two sons into his shop for haircuts.  After he started on the first youth, she excused herself and said she had an errand to run saying she would be right back.

When Dan started on the second boy, the first one left to find his mother.  With the second haircut completed, there was no sign of the mother and her oldest son.  The second son ran out the door.  The haircuts went unpaid.  Southwick later learned that the woman had pulled the same free haircut scam all over town.

The Maple Avenue shop had become a museum of sorts with Dan collecting memorabilia and what his customers would bring in to him.  Wife Joan refers to his endless treasure trove as “Junktiques” that include a 1906 pistol with the grips that were burned off in the San Francisco earthquake.

He displays with pride a doughboy army helmet from World War I and a 1920s refrigerator.  The refrigerator still works and is found in the shop today.  It holds an array of soda that customers and nearby merchants alike purchase in the barbershop.

Dan continues to work part-time for the new owners,  but he will hang it up with a reception at the shop on Friday, July 29.  He said he has had three generations of families come into his shop for a haircut.  There are some now in their 40s who got their first haircut from Southwick as children.

“In the prime of my shop, I did 18 to 25 haircuts during an eight hour day,” he said.

From flat tips to tapered look

Dan had gone through the Moler Barber College in Stockton where he later returned to learn the art of styling.  He has done everything from the once popular flat tops to cutting women’s hair who, he recalled, wanted a tapered look on their necks similar to a man’s cut.

One customer that stands out in his mind was a woman preparing for a nearby rodeo.  She had wanted to look like a man under her cowboy hat and glued a beard and eyebrows to her face.  The beard was a little too bushy and she plopped down in Dan’s chair asking that he trim that facial hair.

Southwick has also cut the hair of his two sisters and that of his mother as well along with taking a chance with his wife’s.  Asked if he always did a good job on his wife and never messed up, he noted he never had a problem cutting her hair.  Sitting next to him on the family room couch, she nodded to the contrary.

There were a lot of camping trips to the Mother Lode with the Southwick family. Dan always took his barber tools to patronize everyone who was willing.  His grandson would make the trip from Burbank in Southern California to be with the clan and especially to get his hair cut.

Southwick recalled friend Bill Rocha – a name the old timers in town will remember – bought used barber tools from him to take on a trip to the Klamath River.  Chuckling while telling the story, he said Bill set up a barber shop in a trailer and traded haircuts for salmon.

Dan did his share of bartering in the early days of his shop too.  He even had his window signs painted by Manteca sign painter Freddy Kooistra – in exchange for haircuts.

He learned his lesson well when bartering with a welder who fixed a barber chair for him.  The mechanic took it out in haircuts after the 15-minute weld job was complete.  Dan was shocked when the welder told him that he had a minimum of $60 an hour.

Southwick is proud to display the first $1 bill he put in his money box for a haircut.  It came from Bill Morris who owned Morris Electric in Stockton.  Both Dan and his wife had gone through elementary and high school together with Morris.

Among his customers over the years were Manteca Bulletin advertising manager Jack Lathrop, John Mendosa of Mendosa’s Men’s Wear, Charles Porterfield of Porterfield Jewelers, Vince Indelicato, school principal George McParland, Charles Bergthold and Curtis Swenson. In fact, he said, he had all the business owners on Maple Avenue.

Part of the character of his shop was enhanced by the barnwood Dan put up on his walls.  It came from Frank Mendes’ dad’s old barn.  It even had square nails, he recalled.

Among his collection of things are old license plates he mounted on the walls, Joan’s dad’s fishing creel, a caboose lamp, one of the seats out of the Manteca High auditorium and a ballot basket from his French Camp School.

While he has continued to cut hair in the two years,  after selling his shop to Gloria Edwards, Southwick has worked his 17 acres of almonds, made his share of freezer jam and berry and zucchini jellies.