For many, the golden years are a time to hang up your working boots and enter retirement, but not for one local barber.
Joe Brown of Esquire Barber Shop in downtown Pensacola, has been barbering professionally for 80 years. Mr. Brown will celebrate his 100th birthday on March 11 and has no intentions of slowing down.
Brown was born in Georgia in 1916, but he didn%u2019t spend much time there before moving to Cobbtown, Fla., with his parents and nine siblings in 1919. He was raised on a farm and helped his parents in the gardens by planting peanuts, corn and other varieties of crop to make ends meet. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and, though times were not easy, it was not always all work and no play for Brown. %u201CI enjoyed going swimming in the creek about a quarter of a mile from where we lived,%u201D explained Brown, recalling a memory of his mother with a smile. %u201CIn the summer, my mom would get us to fan her while she slept, and would tell us she%u2019d reward us by taking us to the creek when she woke up.%u201D
We asked Mr. Brown how he plans to spend his special day, and, it came as no surprise that he has every intention of barbering.
%u201CI%u2019ve got customers already lined up for a trim on my birthday, I wouldn%u2019t have it any other way,%u201D said Brown. %u201CI care about my customers and it goes both ways. But, after work, my family does have a special service planned for me at our church%u2014 First Church of the Nazarene.%u201D
He speaks fondly of his large family%u2014 from his three daughters and son to his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, who mean everything to him.
One thing many may not know about Brown is he served our country in World War II, joining the ranks of the Army and spending 28 months in Belgium. Even then, while he was on occupational duty, he would cut the hair of his fellow troops.
Although Brown received his official barber license in 1937, he began cutting hair much earlier at the age of 14 when he started trimming his younger brother%u2019s hair. Eventually, his neighbors received word on how good his cuts were and it wasn%u2019t long before he realized he had found his calling.
After the war, Brown was in St. Petersburg with a fellow barber friend who told him about Pensacola%u2014a city close to his childhood home in Cobbtown. Not too soon after, Brown moved to the Florida Panhandle and settled down in Pensacola in 1940. Before he started at Esquire, Brown spent 31 years cutting hair for guests at the famous San Carlos Hotel in Pensacola.
What he enjoys most about his job is seeing his customers, meeting new people, and spending time with old friends.
Written by Marsha Wood and Dawn Gresko
Photograph By Guy Stevens
Council on Aging of West Florida is compliant with the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability. Learn more at www.bbb.org.