BRENTWOOD -- Keeping up with family tradition, 11-month-old Hudson Enos got his first haircut this week from his great-grandfather, George Billingsley. Billingsley has been a family barber for some 65 years, not only cutting the hair of young Hudson and his older brother 2-year-old Kyson, but also three generations before them.
Realizing he couldn't afford college, Billingsley decided to attend trade school to become a barber. At 17 he got his first barber job working for Antioch's Golden West Barber.
"I didn't have the money to attend college and I knew I had to do something, so I decided to become a barber," the 82-year-old Billingsley remembered.
At the time a barber was expected to apprentice with
"I met a Brentwood girl and decided to move from Antioch to Brentwood," he said speaking of his wife, Ellie, of 62 years.
Last week Billingsley marked 65 years working as a barber either full or part time. During that time he has seen the ups and downs of the barber industry. For a time Billingsley was in the Navy and worked as a barber and even had a chance to cut the hair of the Secretary of the Navy.
Later, in the 1960s, he came home to open his own business, The Barber Shop, in downtown Brentwood.
"One time I told the Liberty football team if they won the division championship I
That was in the 1960s. It was also a time when a movement grew toward longer hairstyles for men, costing Billingsley -- and thousands of other barbers -- the opportunity to keep his barbershop open full-time. The Brentwood barber was forced to go to work for the Irrigation District and later the Contra Costa Water District. He never did go back to working as a barber full-time.
But, even though he worked another job, he didn't want to totally give up his work as a small-town barber. So, over the years he worked for various barbers who have come and gone in Brentwood. It was six years ago he started working at a different business called The Barber Shop, which is at 150 Chestnut St., with owner Brandon Coburn. Coburn was new to owning his own business and Billingsley was happy to help where he could.
"I keep him (Coburn) young by chasing after me," Billingsley said while Coburn sat by nodding in agreement.
Billingsley can remember back when he started cutting hair the charge was 75 cents. He also recalls a time when people would come in on Saturday just to talk about the local gossip and not get a haircut at all.
"Old man Baker used to come in every Saturday just to start a fight," he remembered with a nostalgic smile. "He would talk politics just to rile people up and get them mad so they would argue. I called him on it once and he said. 'Of course I do, where else would I get my entertainment?' "
Billingsley professes to be the "best flattop barber" in town, but admits that that profession, like the scissor barber, which he also is, is a dying breed. He says this will be his last year as a barber, but his wife, Ellie, says that he has been saying that for the past 10 years.
"What else would I do?" he says. "I'd be bored if I wasn't a barber."
For a slideshow on barber George Billingsley, scan this code.