A thousand words beyond the hill

Samuel M. Simpkins

McKinney’s Barber Shop on 31-W Bypass is a step back in time.

Mirrors line the wood-panneled walls. Leather barber chairs take you back to Saturday mornings when you and your dad shared the same crew-cut hairstyle. It’s a place where straight razors are still used, and patrons catch up on the family news and how little Johnny’s first date turned out.

Kerry McKinney, 51, trims Pete Barks’ hair on a Monday morning. Barks has been a customer of the shop since McKinney became part owner in 1986.

McKinney finished high school in 1969. His great uncle told him haircutting was a great profession; so he started cutting hair in a shop on Main Street in 1970. He worked there for 18 months to get his license.

When asked what price he charged when he first started, McKinney had to stop and think.

“$1.25 for a regular haircut and $1.50 for a flat-top,” McKinney finally said. Thirty years later, he charges $11.

“Some days we are covered up (with business),” McKinney said. “. But it’s more or less an old-time barber shop.”

There have been some improvements over the years.

Once, hair covered the floor. Not anymore, thanks to the new clippers with a vacuum attached. The vacuum sucks up the hair while McKinney cuts.

McKinney said all types of people come in – everyone from Western students to people who’ve grown up in Bowling Green and still come back with their children.

But not as often as they did once upon a time.

“People used to get a haircut every two weeks, but now it’s every month,” he said.