Bruce Woodcock’s Tonsorial Parlor

Posted on February 12, 2011


East Jordan is not all art and manhole covers.  It is a small town with unexpected pleasures.  On Thursday, after a grueling morning watching Babs and Jacky work, I went to lunch with them at Murray’s.  We passed a window that caught my eye.  A squirrel in a fishing hat.  You don’t see that every day, even in Charlevoix County.

After lunch we passed the window again, and I veered off to investigate.  Inside the shop I met Bruce Woodcock, the town barber, customer Harry Ahlborn, and Jill, the official greeter.  Jill is friendly, but takes a dim view of cameras.  Bruce says he can’t get a decent picture of her either.

No picture of Harry today—the man was getting his hair cut after all—but here is a fish that he carved for Bruce’s collection.

And that brings us back to the window ledge, with its wonderful clutter of fly-tying tools and shell-loading tools and carved fish decoys and that squirrel.  The light’s good there, so it’s a nice place for Bruce to work on his hobbies in between customers.

While I explored the Woodcock Collection, Bruce and Harry bantered.  The shears went clip-clip.  Jill dozed.  Another customer, Richard, dropped in just to say hello.  He wasn’t due for a trim yet.  Just checking in.  Clip-clip.  Peaceful.  Harry said he was 91 years old.  He’d laid a lot of brick in Detroit back in the day.  He wants to write his memoirs.  I am in favor of that.

In due course, Harry climbed down from the red velveteen chair and headed home, looking well-barbered, as is proper.  Bruce started to sweep up, digressed to show me a photo of himself on a horse in Alaska.  A portrait of his fiance, Margaret.  (They’ve been engaged, he says, for 30 years.  No point rushing things.)    A vast collection of panoramic photos of ore carriers and lumbering camps and mill workers from the East Jordan Iron Works.  Mounted heads of Dall Sheep from Alaska and the skull of a bear.  A restored and enhanced photo of the barber shop dating back to the turn of the last century. 

Karen Walker, he said, did the artwork and won a prize.  (This is a photo of a photo under plastic, so don’t judge Karen’s work by it, but cool old building, eh?  Bruce claims that’s him in the short pants, but I doubt it.  He likes to tell fish tales.) 

I was thinking what a wonderful story I could make from it all when Bruce showed me a framed copy of a the one Susan Ager did almost four years ago.  Scooped again.  I was desolate.  But then I perked up.  Susan made a feature for the Detroit Free Press.  I will make a blog post.  Different niches.  Then I headed off to find Karen Walker’s studio.  Don’t tell Susan.