January 6th…“WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE BARBER IN YOUR CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN OF KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”
It was the late 1950’s. Spring was in the air and Easter was just around the corner for our village of Kiester, Minnesota. A gorgeous, sparkling Saturday morning found my father, with this tiny son of his in tow, as we walked down Main Street and towards our town’s barber shop.
Approaching the building, it was plain to see that the town’s tavern (known by most as “Forever Berma’s”) shared the same entry door with the barber shop. All patrons, intending to do business, entered the same doorway……to the left, for those wanting to purchase a beer at “Berma’s”; or, to the right for a shave and a haircut in the Barber Shop. Of course, since my parents didn’t want a shaggy little boy walking through the doors of Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church on Easter…..Dad and I obviously made the right turn into Pete’s Barber Shop. Classic, masculine fragrances greeted my nostrils each time that door swung in on its hinges. Manly mixtures of powders, shaving lotions, after shave and colognes filled the air with a pleasant maleness about them. Even as a tiny boy, I felt clean before it was even my turn to get that haircut. So tiny a customer was I, that Pete would pull out an upholstered “booster seat” that went across the barber chair’s arms just for me. That way, when he hoisted my little self up in the air to the “booster seat”, he could easily reach my head for that special, snazzy clean haircut that I was about to receive.
For purely selfish ulterior motives, I always urged Dad to get his haircut first. Why? It’s easy to figure, that way I could become happily lost in the giant cardboard box FULL of comic books that Pete kept along towards the end of the line of customer waiting chairs. Various cartoon heroes as Richie Rich, Popeye, Casper The Friendly Ghost, and others kept me entranced in a little boy’s world of color and imagination while snipping scissors and electric barber shears could be heard behind me. Barber shops, in those sweet days, were also hubs of manly socializing; even beyond when the cutting of the hair was completed. Many men, including our farmer father, Russell, often maintained conversations with fellow farmer neighbors in the waiting chairs, as well as those in the barber chairs. Topics of chat ranged from the growth of new crops or maybe the latest methods for getting your hens to produce more eggs. And, like the forever debate between Ford and Chevrolet lovers, there was always good-natured ribbing about the latest new tractors being sold at the Sime’s John Deere dealership or the local International Harvester dealers selling Farmalls.
Little did my young mind comprehend that the kind soul of a barber, that was cutting my hair on that fine day, was truly a hometown boy, himself. Born the same year as our mother, Clarice, (in 1919) Pete Herrick grew up in our wonderful village there in south central Minnesota. His father, M.J. Herrick (along with Pete’s uncle) had come from Webster, Iowa, in 1912, and purchased a grocery, dry goods and clothing store in our town. Having graduated from our local Kiester High School, in the late 1930’s, Pete was ready for what life had to offer him. When World War II broke out, in 1941, Pete answered his nation’s call and became a Seaman First Class in the United States Navy. Coming back to his beloved hometown after the war, Pete eventually went into partnership with Arnold Hamren and kept the menfolk of our village always looking sharp and fashionable. I was thrilled, as a little boy, to even enjoy Pete, and his beautiful family as they attended worship at the same church we Noorluns attended……Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church. And as a testament to the integrity and honorable nature of her fine parents, I saw and enjoyed seeing the same loving ways of Pete in his daughter, Lynn, who was in my same grade level during my years at Kiester Public School.
With my new haircut looking so sharp I “could’ve cut myself” (tongue-n-cheek), Pete would reward us little guys for being all grownup as we sat still in his barber chair so that he could carry out his “art form” undisturbed. Out would come some sticks of gum (Teaberry or JuicyFruit were my favorites) or a stick of black licorice as a treat to say, “Thanks for being a good boy!”.
Men of kindness and integrity, like Forrest “Pete” Herrick, maybe never knew just how magnanimous they were in the daily lives they led in front of us little ones. Men of noble character, like Pete, were a common thread among the townfolk of our village of Kiester, Minnesota. Personally, in my own humble opinion, I sincerely believe that as they themselves were raised in God-fearing, Christian homes, they too, naturally exuded those Christ-like attributes to others in their daily life among us. Together, as a whole, those godly men and women of our town created an aura of a loving and peace-filled community; living together as “each other’s brother’s keeper”.
In the Old Testament, in the book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, Verse 1 and 2. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven. A time to be born and a time to die;……” For the well-loved man we all knew as “Pete The Barber”, that day came on April 19th of 1968. Complications of a blood clot ended Pete Herrick’s life at the young age of just 48 years. Sad as his loss was for his dear family and our community, I can rejoice that his legacy lives on in the wonderful lives of his children and grandchildren. And, I can assure you, there will always be a place of honor for Forrest R. “Pete” Herrick in the heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.