Thursday, December 11

Johnny Lovato

Johnny Lovato is 84 years old.

He started his business 66 years ago. At age eighteen.

His shop is at 1900 Rosecrans Street in San Diego. It's one of those nondescript buildings you'd probably just drive by without taking much notice. I did. Twice. Back from the street a bit, the only identifiable marking on the building is a barber pole. A classic, red-and-blue striped barber pole, spinning maniacally. That, and the neon "Johnny's Barber Shop" in the window.

Yes, Johnny Lovato is a barber in the classic style.

He's been in this same location for forty years. The previous 26 years he was downtown, but moved out when the hippies of the day made the area un-workable. That would have been 1968 by my calculation. Man hadn't yet set foot on the moon, but Johnny knew he had to get out of there. To 1900 Rosecrans.

I spent what seemed like an entire afternoon talking to Johnny as he worked his magic on my hair. It was only an hour or so, but consider this: how long was your last haircut, let alone how long has it been since you've been to a REAL barber? We're not talking a salon, or a chain-store hair-cutter, no, a real barber.

He had many stories to tell, about being in that downtown San Diego location, about how his clientèle has dwindled, how he was a big draw during World War II since all the other barbers had been drafted. There he was, fresh out of high school and he literally was the only barber in town.

So how dows a guy from Salt Lake City happen to be searching for a barber in San Diego, California? Since I was to meet Marilee's parents the next day, she wanted me to be as spit-shined as possible - that meant visiting a real barber for a shave and a haircut. Well, beard-trimming anyway. We were staying at the Sheraton in San Diego, so I did the natural thing and asked the concierge for a recommendation.

Johnny's Barber Shop was the answer.

A real Barber. With a barber pole.

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