By Will McClure
A warm atmosphere, good conversation and great haircuts; that’s the feeling one gets when walking into the Service Barber Shop where the proprietor, J.W. Golden, is celebrating his 50th year as a barber, cutting his first head of hair as an official barber on September 18, 1965. Aside from moving twice on the same block, nothing much has changed for Golden over 50 years as he continues to put in hard work and dedication for his loyal customers who have supported him throughout the years. On a particularly busy week, Golden was able to sit down and reflect on his 50 years as Stamford’s barber.
Cutting his first head of hair while serving in the Army, Golden did not originally pursue the career of being a barber. While living in Krull, Golden says that he had a friend that went to barber school who tried to convince him to attend as well, obtain his license and return to work for him. Golden said that he had thought about it, but ultimately decided against it as he was working at a seismograph office in East Texas. After quitting the job due to issues with him and management, Golden moved back to Krull and helped with the wheat harvest in 1964. Even though he adapted well to the job and learned quickly, he began to think about what to do moving forward that would get him out of the wheat field and the heat and into someplace cooler; a business where there would always be a need. Boiling down his options to becoming a barber or a mortician, Golden believed that he would be a better barber than a mortician and decided to do what his friend had originally suggested: obtain his barber license.
After completing 6 months of school at Wichita Barber College and passing his exam in Austin, Golden found himself accepting a position in a shop located just two doors down from his present location. His new boss, Frank Pierce, one of 11 barbers in five shops in Stamford, offered Golden a rate that rivaled the norm for barbers at the time.
“The going rate at that time was 70% of [the price of] a haircut and 30% of it for the rental on the chair. Well, old Frank told me ‘I’ll give you 80% if you come down here and work for me.’ Stamford population at that time was 5500…and Krull had three barber shops and 2100 people and I figured I’d be better off moving to Stamford,” Golden said. “The first day I worked, September 18, 1965, haircuts were a dollar and a quarter. I made $19 for my part of it that first day.” After working for Pierce for five and a half years, Golden was able to eventually break off on his own and move across the street. He would end up purchasing a shop called Smitty’s Barbershop and a shop in Knox City, even purchasing the name Service Barber Shop, which adorns his business to this day.
50 years later, Golden has been able to continue doing what he loves along with many other ventures, including 35 years as a volunteer fireman from 1971 to 2006, eventually becoming assistant chief at the end of his tenure. Golden said that there would be times that he would have to leave the shop in order to fight a fire, but would usually encounter no issues. He did, however, relate a story in which a call came in while his shop was full. Not wanting to leave his customers waiting but also needing to answer the call, Golden was conflicted until his customers told him to go. When he eventually returned, one was still there, ready for his haircut. When one walks into the Service Barber Shop, firefighting memorabilia covers the wall on the left along with the helmet plaque behind the barber chair that was presented to him upon his retirement in 2006. Golden said that he enjoys putting things on the walls to give the shop character, a practice he had continued for many years, saying that he owns 500 caps that filled the walls of his previous location before he moved in 2003.
When asked what his secret was to maintaining his business for so long, Golden said that conversation and good haircuts are what keep people coming back, believing that a satisfied customer is the best form of advertising. He says that when customers come in for the first time, he does his best to make them happy and finds that many of them would say they would be back. In fact, one his many loyal customers, C.T. Stovall, has been having Golden cut his hair for all 50 years. Golden enjoys getting to know his customers and always has a good story to tell as they sit in his chair, which Golden said is at least 60 years old and is still being used to this day.
And so, 50 years after he cut his first head of hair as a licensed barber, J.W. Golden continues to open his shop five days a week, preferring to always be there when he can and saying that he “never was one to sit at the house.” He says that if one were to pursue a career as a barber, they need to learn all that they can and start out working for someone, as it would help them in the long run. When asked if he had any words for the people of Stamford, Golden said with a smile in his usual, thoughtful way: “I’m thankful for all the ones that have stood with me for 50 years. I’m thankful for those that are still coming around and all the new ones over the years. I’m still in business and going to be here a little while longer. As long as I can get up, I’ll be here.”
And so, we thank and honor J.W. Golden for his 50 years of service as Stamford’s barber. He has worn many other hats throughout his career whether it was bailing hay, working at the cotton gin or fighting fires, J.W. has always been able to continue to make his customers happy and keep his business going with no signs of stopping. Thank you, J.W., for your service to Stamford, both in and out of the barbershop, and for being a part of the Stamford community for so many years. In other words, thank you for being you!