FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — For the first time in more than 68 years, Fort Ashby is without a barber from the Kenney family.
Doug Kenney, 67, closed up shop for the last time Thursday, after 50 years of service to generations of men, women and children.
The owner of Doug’s Barber Shop along state Route 28 began his profession following in the footsteps of his father, Ed Kenney, who started barbering full time in the area in 1942 and continued until his death in the early 1960s.
“A lot of people are upset because they’ve never had their hair cut anywhere else,” Kenney said. “I’m still cutting people’s hair that my dad cut when they were kids.”
That includes customers who now live several hours’ drive from Fort Ashby, but make a point to get their locks lopped by Kenney when they get the chance. It also includes children of parents who were themselves once squirming youngsters reluctant to face Kenney’s scissors.
“I’m going to miss a lot of them,” Kenney said. “I just want to thank everybody for their support and for coming here over the years.”
How many people occupied his series of barber’s chairs over the course of five decades? Too many to count.
“I have no idea,” he said, shaking his head. “No idea.”
In some ways Kenney is part of a disappearing profession. The number of barber licenses issued in West Virginia dropped gradually but steadily in recent years, down 8.4 percent from 2005 to 2009, according to statistics from the West Virginia Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists.
At the same time, other areas of the state’s cosmetology industry have grown significantly. The number of manicurist licenses issued increased by more than 31 percent over the same period, and the number of aesthetician licenses issued grew by more than 125 percent.
Kenney said it’s become harder, because of licensing regulations and other factors, for young people to pursue barbering as a profession, as he did when a young man. He began attending barber college in Henderson, Ky., in 1960, then finished his required certification hours in Wheeling.
He worked side-by-side with his father for just six months before Ed Kenney died unexpectedly, and Doug carried on the work alone.
At that time a child’s haircut was 35 cents, and an adult cut cost 50 cents.
In 2010 Kenney charged a flat $7 for all comers. He joked that he never understood why barbers charged less for children’s haircuts.
“Kids are a lot harder to cut,” he said.
Kenney’s dealt with his share of screaming kids. He’s also cut hair in nursing homes and funeral homes, made house calls for shut-in customers, and served in a role reserved especially for barbers and bartenders — a community sounding board.
“Politics, religion, marriage — I get it all,” he said.
After 50 years there are things he won’t miss, like the shrill of the alarm clock early in the morning, or customers who come knocking for haircuts before opening time.
But among the things he and wife Cindy will miss are the friendships formed, whether through barbering, Doug’s 25 years as a Mineral County school bus driver, or their membership in the Springfield Assembly of God church.
Now the Kenneys plan to start a new adventure in retirement, moving to Tennessee to be closer to family and devoting their time to a shared love of the outdoors.
So why hang up the scissors now?
“Fifty years ought to be enough,” he said. “It’s time to relax and hunt and fish.”
Contact Megan Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.