Local People Wednesday June 9, 2010
Hank da Barber
Yarrow legend still finding ears after all these years
Hank Giesbrecht aka "Hank Da Barber" stands in front of his shop in Yarrow where he's been since 1945.
anks for the memories. Where do you go when you want to remember how it was way back when? You go to Hank Da Barber's.
These days they're more apt to be called a beauty salon or a hairdresser and back before words like "moptician" were coined, they were just called barbershops.
Barbershops have always been about more than just haircuts. Not so much anymore, but at one time they were firmly attached to the town's central nervous system. For the last 150-years or so, barbershops in every small town have been the hub of happenings. Buy a cigar, read the paper and get a shave or maybe a cut. To find out anything, you went to the barbershop.
Like a trip back in time to Moses' place in Barkerville, you travel down the the main artery in Yarrow BC and ultimately end up at Hank Da Barber's. The heart of Yarrow. One that's been beating steadily for 65 years in the very same place.
A barbershop is also about character. Hank Gieslbrecht has that, and then some.
"My name's Hank Da Barber," he said, pointing to the custom made welcome mat .
The clock winds backward the moment you walk in. It's a living, breathing museum and Giesbrecht is a legend. The chairs inside are over a hundred-years-old. His pride and joy – a small yellowed photograph in a plastic sleeve. He takes it down from the shelf.
"Look here, I've got something to show you," he says with a smile. "It's the first licenced barbershop in BC."
Back in the 40s and 50s, it was easy to tell how many heads he cut simply because he knew everybody and he knew their schedules.
"At one time, I knew how often the people came for a haircut and they would even ask 'How many haircuts have you given me?" and so it was easy for me to tell because they came in every month on a Thursday at 10 o'clock in the morning or in the afternoon, it was so easy to remember."
Even at an amazing 84-years of age, he has no plans to retire and will keep on cutting. He's lopped-off everyone's hair, well almost everyone. He still hasn't trimmed royal locks but does find the ears of some local politicians now and then – pun intended.
"The Prince was here in Yarrow on the canal, but no cut for him then, but I've cut you know, MPs hair, people like that," he said. "And I just love Mayor Gaetz."
To say Giesbrecht works all the time is an understatement He recently took seven-minutes off per eye for cataract surgery and is glad he did and is ecstatic about being able to see the trees on Vedder Mountain once again – and people's ears.
The surgery was done by Dr. Heinrichs and he was back to work in two-days time. Amazingly, Giesbrecht gave Dr. Heinrichs his very first haircut when he was a baby.
Giesbrecht does perms too. He's always done them for the ladies in town and said he even used to give Heinrichs' grandmother one. He can also still give a straight razor shave and will do it again for a soon-to-be-filmed documentary.
In 1945, and fresh out of a barbering school in Vancouver, Hank moved to Yarrow where he set up shop and cut hair at 25¢ for kids and 35¢ for adults. It's a flat sawbuck at his shop for a cut now and it will be post-HST too.
Giesbrecht doesn't care what taxes the government throws at him and isn't paying any attention to it. He admits that although he knows the value-added tax is coming, he knows nothing about it and doesn't want to because it's not going to affect his business.
The reason is because he cuts less hair these days and doesn't get the customers in like the good old days.
You'd think that with more people living in the area than ever before business would increase. But not for Giesbrecht.
"I don't have the volume of people that I used to have," he said.
And wouldn't you know it, the gentleman in the white coat has even sung in the local Barbershop Quartet.
Drop-in for a cut and his store is at 42297Yarrow Central Rd.
Hanks for the Memories. Just a bit off the top please.
© Copyright (c) 2009-2015 The Valley Voice