Surprise party planned for retired Friendsville barber
By Linda Albert | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shhhh. It’s a secret, so don’t tell Keith Graves a surprise gathering celebrating his contributions to the community of Friendsville and beyond is going to be held at 6:30 p.m. May 17 at First Baptist Church of Friendsville, 403 N. Farnum St., Friendsville.
Keith was the town barber for 51 years, retiring a few weeks ago much to the chagrin of his friends and customers. Keith’s Barber Shop, at 206 College Street in Friendsville, served men and boys from as close as a block away all the way to Sweetwater. The barber shop was a rite of passage for many young men who came with their fathers or grandfathers for their first haircuts. And they just kept coming back.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Keith for a story two years ago. He only cut men’s hair, and only provided regular men’s cuts, burrs and flattops. The final “cleanup” was with lather and a straight razor. I spoke to one of Keith’s longtime clients who said one of his earliest memories was of receiving his first haircut in 1981 at the age of 4. “I was afraid he was going to cut my ear off, but sure enough, I’ve got both still to this day,” the customer said.
Men visited Keith’s shop for not only a great haircut at a great price, but also for the fellowship. Keith told me during our interview, “I’ve always told everybody I didn’t allow a lie in here, they had to tell the truth. But they abuse it a lot.”
The barber shop holds a special place in the memories of Keith’s customers. Judy Bass recalled how her father, Rufus Rogers, and her four brothers always got their haircuts from Keith. As a tomboy who loved hanging out with her dad, Judy couldn’t understand why her mother would not let her go to the barber shop with them.
“I begged and begged,” she told me during a phone call shortly after Keith announced his retirement. Finally, her daddy said she could go.
“It was like a whole new world,” Judy said. “Men lined up along the wall. They were laughing and talking. ... You know, men are not catty like women,” she added with a laugh.
Years passed, and her father’s health declined. He couldn’t drive anymore and was suffering from dementia. One day, Judy took him to Keith’s and settled down in her car to wait for him.
“When he started up the steps, he stopped,” Judy said. “I thought he was having trouble getting up the steps. But even with his dementia, he remembered that time when I was a little girl and he took me to the shop.” Then Mr. Rogers looked at Judy and asked if she wanted to come in with him again. Naturally, she did.
“When my daddy sat in that chair, he was young and strong again,” she said through tears. He died in 2008.
Judy, like many others touched by Keith in his half-century of barbering, sees his retirement as bittersweet. So many good memories are wrapped up in the shop, so many stories to tell and share. And this is why Dan Crumley, of Friendsville, decided to put together a celebration of Keith’s life — his 70th birthday is May 15 — his retirement and the 50th wedding anniversary of Keith and his wife, Patricia, coming up on May 30.
“It’s going to be fun,” Dan said. “When all the people get there, we’ll have people with mics walking through so everyone can talk about their experiences with Keith.”
Dan said all of Keith’s friends and relatives are invited to come to the celebration. He warns everyone to keep it a secret, though. “It’s a surprise. Do not let Keith know about this,” he said.
Anyone who wants to help with the planning and execution of the celebration is welcome to give Dan a call at 995-0020.
Contact Linda Albert at 981-1168 or (email@example.com)