Doug Hore celebrates 50 years
as a barber in the very same shop
LITTLE CURRENT—For 50 years, Honora Bay’s Doug Hore has seen Little Current change, grow and prosper from his vantage point below the Anchor Inn on Little Current’s main street.
Last weekend marked Doug’s 50th anniversary at Doug’s Barbershop on Water Street and The Expositor sat with Manitoulin’s only barber last week, encouraging him to look back on 50 years of life behind the chair.
In between customers last Thursday afternoon, Doug explained that it was a suggestion from his father, Ernie Hore, that the young man attend barber school. Taking his father’s advice, Doug enrolled at Bondy Barber School in Toronto in December of 1961, graduating on July 23, 1962.
Only one month later, on the afternoon of August 26, 1962, Doug opened up shop in the lower level of the Anchor Inn with his shop getting its daylight from two sidewalk-lined windows (that also gives patrons a visual idea of how long they’ll have to wait for a trim).
“My dad helped me set up that morning and before we opened he sat in the chair and I gave him a haircut,” Doug recalls. “When he was finished he reached into his wallet and pulled out a dollar. I told him no, but he insisted, saying he was my first customer.”
After officially opening his doors, Len Howard, a former schoolmate, was his first customer.
Doug chatted about style, noting, “Traditional, conventional haircuts have always been in style. Long hair didn’t hit here until about 1967. By 1970 it was all over,” he quips.
The barber cites the 1964 Beatles invasion to America as the cause of the long hair craze in men. “Some of the American kids were coming up for the summers and growing their hair long,” he says. “I didn’t think it would last, but it stayed in style until the early 1980s. Many, many barbers had to quit because there just wasn’t enough business at that time.”
When Doug opened his doors, Manitoulin had five full-time and two part-time barbers, three of whom, including Doug, were in Little Current. “Now I’m the only one.”
In his line of work, Doug gets to meet people from around the world. This summer alone he has seen customers from Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Peru and from across North America.
Not only does Doug get to meet a lot of people, he also hears a lot too, a lot of which is not for repetition, he advises. “The secret is to not repeat it,” he says, noting that keeping one’s mouth shut was also taught at the Bondy Barber School—a lesson he’s stood by for 50 years, not even sharing stories with his wife.
“A lot of people build up a confidence with their barber,” Doug muses. “I’ve never really been able to figure out why.”
Weather, he says, is the most talked about subject in the barbershop. “So much of what we do on Manitoulin depends on the weather. What else do we have to complain about?” he asks, stopping for a moment from a cut to emphasize his point.
“That’s true,” his customer, John Finlay, a Big Lake retiree, adds.
Doug says he’s seen a lot of change in downtown Little Current over the course of 50 years. “I’ve seen it change from two drugstores, hardware stores, jewellery store, two grocery stores, a shoemaker, men’s clothing store, seven cabs and three barbers,” he points his scissors, noting the lack of Great Lakes freighters with Mr. Finlay. “The streets and parking areas have changed too. They were pretty crude 50-60 years ago, and sewers didn’t come downtown until 1965.”
Upon finishing his cut and receiving a final dusting of hair from his collar, Mr. Finlay takes an admiring glance in the mirror before paying up. “I come in looking like John Finlay and leave looking like Brad Pitt,” he chuckles.
Over the years Doug has also had the privilege of cutting the hair of many of Little Current WWI, WWII and Korean War veterans and listening to their stories, from fighter pilots to those who survived their ships being torpedoed, Doug’s heard it all.
Stories from those who have since passed on that were handed down from their parents, pioneers of Manitoulin, are also among his favourite tales. “It was so primitive, and no roads,” he adds.
Doug goes to the Manor once a month to cut the residents’ hair and makes the odd house call too for those who can’t make it to his chair. Just then Sheguiandah’s Bill Strain poked his head in the door, wishing Doug well on his 50 years of business.
Lloyd Taylor of Little Current came in for his once-a-month haircut from Doug, noting that he’s been coming to see the barber since he first opened 50 years ago.
“Doug’s very good,” Mr. Taylor says. “I’ve known Doug my whole life. I even went to see him get inducted into the Great Northern Opry (in Sault Ste. Marie). I went to make sure he was coming back,” he smiles.
Doug is probably almost as famous for being a barber as he is for being a musician, the fiddle case in his barbershop a testament to this. The barber says he plays it every day between customers, whenever a tune pops into his head.
Mr. Taylor chats about the old days of Little Current, of the Little Ocean House Hotel, of sailors and bootleggers to lots of laughs.
The Haweater says he is working on cutting the third generation of heads of hair in many families and has watched many customers grow up. His barbershop has remained in the same place for 50 years, but has seen a few makeovers throughout the half-century, he explains. The price has changed too. From $1 for men and 50 cents for boys on opening day, to $15 and $14, respectively, today. Doug only does the odd hot shave now too.
Something that hasn’t changed is Doug’s love of the job, and the rarity of holidays in his world. “Just maybe a day or two at deer season,” he says.
Dave Sylvester of Little Current stops by the barbershop with a delivery for the Manitoulin Health Centre Auxiliary. “It’s just like FedEx,” he laughs. “Yeah, except I don’t charge,” Doug replies.
Doug makes a point of treating everyone the same in his chair, “and there’s been some pretty fine folks in my chair,” he says. “I’ve met a lot of good people and made a lot of good friends.”
As for retirement, that’s just not in Doug’s vocabulary. “I’m going to work as long as I can,” he says. “I enjoy my work, and if I wasn’t working, I would certainly miss the people.”
A party for Doug was held Saturday afternoon at his barbershop, with plenty of cake, good music, visits from friends, family and loyal customers to celebrate this milestone.
Doug’s Barbershop is open from Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm.