NITRO, W.Va. -- In February, Donald Boggs chalks up 55 years of barbering.
At one time or another, virtually every male in Nitro, babies up to great-grandfathers, has crossed the threshold of Boggs Barber Shop.
They linger, despite the wait, because, well, it's a barbershop -- a social hub, a place to chew the fat. "Barbershop talk," he calls it.
He grew up in "paradise," otherwise known as Ivydale, and Nitro is as close to city life as he cares to get. At 75, he's still just a country boy, a simple man with a hankering for hunting and fishing.
He didn't like barbering when he started. Obviously, something clicked along the way.
"I grew up in Ivydale, Clay County. My dad opened a garage there in 1928. He had five boys and not one of us was a mechanic. My dad was too good. He expected perfection. He was one of the best there was.
"In the high school yearbook, I wrote that I was going to be a barber. I don't know where that came from. My dad started to barber school in Cincinnati and didn't like it, so he went to school in Detroit to be a mechanic and came back and opened a garage. He always cut our hair.
"I graduated from Clay High School in '55. I went to Glenville, but the second week there, my cousin came to the door said I had to get home. I had a brother just out of the Navy and he got polio in the neck. They thought it was killing him, but he survived two or three years.
"Anyway, I got so far behind in school. And college wasn't for me. My brother was going to State. He saw Felix Warren who was over the barber college. I enrolled in February of '57. I got out in February of '58.
"When I went to barber college, I lived in Orchard Manor. I want you to know that was the finest place in Charleston. Everybody was in the same boat. Nobody had any money, but it was a fine place to live.
"Before I got out of school, I was what they call a jackleg. I wasn't supposed to work, but I needed money. I worked in the Arcade Barber Shop on a Saturday without my license. I worked from 8 to 2. Haircuts were a dollar. I'd clear about 12 or 13 dollars. We were busy in there. They did shaves, too. I never could shave people very well.
"I didn't like barbering, but I had a wife and baby, and I had to do something, so I stayed. I worked at Busby's Barber Shop on Quarrier Street two or three months, then worked for a guy in St. Albans a month or two.
"I came to Nitro in June of '58 to work for a guy named Ernest Payne. He had a shop on 23rd Street. I left Payne's in '71 and I've been right where I am since then. This shop was called Cisco's when I came.
"I never got less than $1.25. Most shops were $1, but I started at $1.25. There were a lot of flattops back then. And you did tonics. We don't do tonics now. We used to use a vibrator on their heads. I've still got one, but nobody wants that now. They don't even know what it is.
"We had to learn to give shaves, shampoos, facials, everything you could do in a barbershop we had to learn in school. Nobody asks for a shave anymore. I'm probably the only barbershop in Nitro that still shaves around your ears. They don't use a razor anymore. I still do. I've got a lot of old people, and they expect it.