While making rounds in the area, collecting raffle prizes from the awesome local businesses supporting our upcoming 573 Magazine & Motion Dog Films event, I accidently stumbled upon a most wonderful story…
Right in the heart of Downtown Farmington is the Farmington Barber Shop, the oldest barber shop in the area, still as busy as ever! And in that Barber shop, in the last stall at the end of the row, there was a very special man enjoying his last day of work after 60 years.
Meet Bob Bone
Originally from Old Mines, Bob Bone began working in a little barber shop in Farmington owned by John McCoy on June 20th 1961, right after graduating from barber college. A young buck at the tender age of 19, Bob made a name for himself in no time at all, and after being there for nearly 18 years, he bought the shop with partner, Tom Sloan, renaming it “Bob Bone’s Head Quarters”, joining the ranks of the owners before him who had kept the place running and packed with happy customers for decades.
After working for nearly 44 years, Bob sold the shop to Lynda Chipman, owner of “Farmington Barber Shop” in 2005 and they merged shops with the promise from Bob to stay on for three more years to help out while his youngest son finished college. More than 16 years later, Bob Bone is still here trimming up his regulars, but at long last, ready to hang up his shears and enjoy retirement life.
573: How did you come to live and work in Farmington?
The wife and I got married in ‘64 and moved here. We started having a family and fell in love with this little town. I was gonna serve my apprenticeship here, I thought, and then go back to the Potosi area and open a barber shop there, and that just didn’t happen. Things don’t happen in life like you think they might sometimes, but they do fall into place. The good Lord was really watching after me.
573: Tell us more about your family.
We have 5 children. They’re 57, 56, 53, 50, and then I got a 35 year old that came 15 years later. My oldest son, Bobby, retired from the Airforce after 22 and a half years. His wife was also in the Airforce, and they both work for Social Security now. And I got a boy that’s in the shoe business. He’s a shoe salesman over about 19 sales people. My younger daughter is a counselor at school, and my older daughter works out at US Tool. My youngest boy, who came 15 years later, he’s a biomedical engineer. He works with orthopedic surgeons and doctors. And then one of my granddaughters, the one in Kansas City now, she followed in her uncle’s footsteps and became a biomedical engineer, plus she’s a mechanical engineer!
I have 14 grandkids and 5 great-grands. I got ‘em all the way from 34 years old down to 2 years old. You know at least one of them. Emma was in your magazine a while back. She’s a dancer, and was in the Nutcracker not long ago.
573: Tell us about when you first started at Farmington Barber Shop.
I started in ‘61. It was 75 cents for a haircut. The shop owner, John McCoy had put a window air conditioner over this door so we had an air conditioned shop after a while, but before that we just had them big ole fans and that hair’d fly all over ya while you cut.
573: What’s your favorite thing about being a Barber?
I guess how close you get to people. They get to be...well, you got your family, then you got your clientele family, the Barber Shop family. They get to know your history and your family and you get to know their history and their family cause you’re one on one all the time. There was a lot of kids that I tried to counsel while they were in my chair, because they didn’t have a mother and father to talk to, or they were living out of their cars, or somewhere like that, and they’d come in and I’d try to lead ‘em down the right paths. Some of them I did, and some I didn’t, and some were sent up the road for a little while, but as soon as they’d get out, they’d come back in and I’d be the first one they’d come see.
573: I hear that June 20th is now Bob Bone Day. What an amazing honor! Can you tell us about that?
Kevin Engler was a friend of ours, we knew him from up in Old Mines and helped support his campaign. Well then his friend Tilly come along and he ran in Kevin’s place when Kevin gave up his Representative position, and he ran for Senator. Tilly didn’t know us, so Kevin brought him over to my home, and my wife and I helped support him, and he got in. So Tilly’s been a real good friend of our family’s ever since. But anyway, Tilly presented me with a deal from our state Governor, and we’re going to get to have dinner at the State Capitol Building with him. The proclamation said Bob Bone Day is June the 20th. It was unexpected, and it was very nice. Yeah, it was very nice. Mark Kellogg, the City Councilman, he presented the honor to me, he’s a real good friend of mine too. Hell they’re all good friends!
573: So I guess your customers are pretty bummed out you won’t be here anymore?
Yeah, they’re sad. I was kind of sad too, but also kind of happy.
Bob looked out ahead of him as if looking into the past and his future all at once. Momentarily lost in a short but sweet nostalgic daydream, he was quickly brought back to the present with a jovial “Congratulations Bob!” shouted by a regular customer as he crossed the street on his way to the shop.
“Thank you very much! I appreciate that.” Bob responded as the man walked up to shake his hand. And as the man stepped into the shop, Bob looked up and said, “I’d just like to express the thanks, and how the good Lord has taken care of me, and molded me... I never really had time to just sit around, I’ve always been kept busy, with an appointment about every 30 minutes... I was proud of my product I put out, and when people come around town and say, who cut your hair? They knew before they even said it, it was a Bob Bone haircut.
I done a lot of razor cuts, a lot of flat cuts, I done the whole circle. But where I really made it, and become my own true Bob Bone, is when the long hair come along. In the 70’s, I left their hair like they wanted it. I left it long. And most barbers, they’d say, “go see Bob Bone, he’ll cut your hair.” Because they liked to cut it off. So, I made my name back then, and I caught on real quick too.
The mothers would call and say, “hey Johnny-Boy’s comin’ down, you need to take a little bit of his hair off this time.” Well, if you did that, they’re gonna go to another shop the next time, but I caught on to that real quick. I’d say, “Johnny, your mother called and said to take some of that hair off this time, how do you want it?” They’d say, “Like you cut it the last time, Mr. Bone.” And I’d say, “well, here’s the problem, if she sends you back down to the shop, you gonna have to pay again.” And they’d say, “well, I guess you better take a little bit off then.” But they’d come back to my chair the next time around.
There’ll never be another Bob Bone, or a John Cozean or a Chuck Koppies, ya know, people around town. And not necessarily because of who we are, but because our customers and our clients made us what we are. I mean, we also had to work at it, ya know, stir the pot up and meet people, like yourself. Lol
573: So, now that you’re retiring, where will all your clients go?
Well I hope they still come here! But I don’t have any idea. Ya know, if they want recommendations, I recommend them to stay here with the girls. Lynda is an excellent barber. So is Holly! But that’s gonna be their choice. Ya know, when they found me, they were looking, so now they’ll find somebody else. That’s kind of how I have to look at it.
There’s not a whole lot of Barbers left in the world anymore, they’re harder to find than priests. We had the largest class at Molar Barber College when I went in 1960. And we had to wait 2 years to get accepted. Now you can go up there today, to the Barber College, wherever it’s at, and you could start tomorrow if you want to. And when I first started working here in ‘61, there were nearly 30 barbers serving about 3,800 residents. Now there’s nearly 20,000 people living in Farmington, and only a handful of barbers to serve them. We need more. It’s a nice trade, my wife got to stay home with the first 4 kids, and we put 3 of our kids through college on what I made in the shop, but like a lot of other great things, it’s starting to be a lost art. Not too many of us left. But maybe y'all can put the word out?”
We’ll do our best Mr. Bone. And hopefully your story, your passion for your art, and your mentoring words to the youth that had the privilege of your counsel while getting a shave and a haircut, will inspire a whole new generation of future barbers.
Get out there!.