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Local Barber Retires After 45 Years in Business

The barber at St. John's retired Friday (4/3) after more than four decades in one location. KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

Back when Larry Roesslet started working as a barber at the Appointment Barbershop at St. John’s Hospital in 1965, haircuts cost 1.50. They cost $13 now, but that’s not all that’s changed...

"When I went to barber school in 1963, we were cutting nothing but short haircuts--crew cuts, flat tops, and then, of course, the late 60s, when the Beatles came, the anti-war movement, the Vietnam era hit, everything went to real long hair, and that's when a lot of barbers quit. I think it was in 1971 or 72 Springfield lost about 50 barbers total."

But Roesslet perservered, and he walked out of the shop toward retirement today after 45 years in the same location—the only place he ever worked. He started working for a barber at the shop—Dusty Rhodes—when he was just 13 years old, sweeping floors and shining shoes. When he decided to become a barber, Rhodes guaranteed him a job.Appointment Barbershop, which got its name because appointments for haircuts were a novelty at that time, opened with the hospital in 1952. When Roesslet started working there in the mid 60s, he decided he would break from tradition and wear a brown jacket to work rather than the white jacket that most barbers at that time, including Rhodes, wore…

"Barbers always wore white jackets, and they were these real starchy, came up high on your neck, my neck was always broke out, but they came up with these that just zipped up the front, and they had an open collar kind of like a shirt, and so I bought 'em and he thought I was being very radical when I left my white jacket."

The 65-year-old Roesslet still has his first appointment book, which contains the names of some people who continued going to the longtime barber up to his retirement today. He guesses there were several reasons why people kept coming back…

"Just the way you treat 'em. You try to do the haircut the way they want it. It's a convenient way to come in. I've always worked on appointment. There's no waiting. It's a nice, clean shop. The hospital does a good job taking care of it."

Longtime customer Andy Busch says Roesslet has been cutting his hair for so long he’s lost count of the number of years. As Roesslet snipped away at Busch’s white hair, the 80-year-old explained why he’s returned to the barber for so long…

"'Cause he knows how to cut hair. Why, he's a fairly good guy, too (laughs). As a matter of fact, the reason I keep coming back is because my wife insists on it. I've been to one or two barbers in my day and everytime I come home she has to fix it up. Larry does a fine job."

Roesslet knows he’ll miss the conversations he’s had with customers like Andy Busch over the years. In fact, he says they’ve kept him “in the know” on a lot of Springfield happenings…

"Oh, we keep up on all the politics and stuff. We spread rumors daily."

Roesslet has handpicked his successor…28-year-old Nathaniel Struble who has nearly 4 years experience as a barber. I asked Struble if he thinks he’ll be there as long as Roesslet…

"Well, (laughs) 45 years is a long time, but if things go right, yeah, I would say so."

Roesslet is looking forward to doing more woodworking and having time to volunteer—he might someday return to volunteer at St. John’s where his parents volunteered for many years. He explains how he feels as he leaves the place where he’s spent so much of his life…

"Well, they use the term mixed feelings. I feel like I'll miss the people. I'm not going to miss standing on my feet holding up my arms cutting hair. That part I'm not going to miss, but I see different people every 20, 30 minutes all day long, and a lot of them have become real close friends. I know that as I shake hands with them and leave them, there's going to be a lot of them I'll never see again."

As Nathaniel Struble takes over as barber at the Appointment Barbershop in St. John’s, he’s not worried about having customers…many have said they’ll give him a try, including Andy Busch. But he knows he has some big shoes to fill…

"Larry's definitely put a good dent here at the hospital and has a great reputation, and I just hope to leave the great impression that Larry has throughout the years."

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.