The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

End Of An Era

Darrell Brenna, Glasgow's Last Barber, Retires

 

Bonnie Davidson / The Courier

Glasgow's last barber, Darrell Brenna, closed his shop's doors this month as he welcomed retirement. After 57 years in Glasgow as a barber, Brenna stated that it perhaps is the end to the era of the barber.

In the old days it was a place to hang out, a place to catch up with neighbor's and friends, but those days died out before WWII. The local barbers were pretty busy keeping up with business and one local, Darrell Brenna, remembers it was a time where Glasgow had around 10 barbers keeping up.

"As a kid, I remembered them playing cards," Brenna said. "But not so much in my time.

Brenna retired and closed shop after 57 years in the business. He agreed that it is an end to the era of the barber. He was the last barber in Glasgow. He started out in the Rundle Building, where he kept clients for 30 years off 5th St. After the air base closed and the era of long hair for men moved in, things started to slow down.

He left that location and moved into his small office located in front of the Montana Bar, when he left one barber behind at the old location and took his old fashioned register with him. He explained that over the years the barbers retired and passed away, only three or four years ago he became the last barber in town.

When asked why he decided to close shop he replied with a smile, "I'm old! I can't work forever."

You might not guess it looking at him, but he is 81-years-old. He said that he's just gotten to a point where he didn't want to continue, but he felt a little remorse about leaving the town without a barber. He explained that when he called the president of the barber board they discussed how the end of the era was closing in. In the whole state only 106 barber shops remain, but there are 500 barber's licenses out there.

So where are those licenses going? They're going to employees at salons and beauty shops. The barbers colleges are disappearing and Brenna said gone are the days where you have to work under a barber before obtaining your license. He explained that barbers use to do facial massage and hair, but beauticians do the same thing, and now beauticians, barbers and cosmetologists are all combined under the same rules. He said when he started he had to work under a licensed barber for a year, and now they can obtain their license and set up shop right away.

All that remains in Brenna's shop is his old register, bought in 1908 from Butte and moved to Miles City. The register was in the shop when he started working as a barber. It followed him when he moved locations. He hopes to one day track down more history from the old register that worked for him for 57 years. He also still has his chair sitting in the same place it has for nearly three decades. He might sell it, or leave it at the location in hopes that someone will set up shop there.

With that much time in the profession, he said he's seen many changes. Haircuts started out $1.25 and slowly moved up to $12. He said that during the busy years when the air force base still existed he did a lot of crew cuts for $3 to $5.

Brenna didn't start out wanting to be a barber. It was a girl that led him to the profession. He served from 1952 to 1955 in the Air Force and an engineer. When he came home he wasn't sure what he'd do. He met a girl he liked who had ties to the local barber, and he said that the barber in town suggested he try to go to barber school. He spent six months going to school and started work at the local shop and never changed jobs.

"I never went anywhere else, it was my first and last job," Brenna said.

He said he's seen businesses and the entire town of Glasgow change over the decades. He explained that businesses in the downtown area moved, business owners switched hands and main businesses moved away from the south side of town. He said one thing that stayed common over the years was the comments of friendly people in town.

When asked if he had regrets staying in one profession, he jokingly said maybe. Fiends from the service went to work for the railroad, the post office and other professions and retired 20 or 30 years ago. Meanwhile, he remained on his feet and working. But all around he enjoyed his customers, and he had several people stop in and make calls in his last few weeks to congratulate him on his retirement. He said that he was going to miss it some days.

"I raised seven kids here, it was a good place to raise kids and I wouldn't want anything else," Brenna said. "I'll have to be the guy around town now that talks a little bit."

He explained that the job had him visiting and meeting lots of people all the time and he might find himself doing that but on his own free time now. His tips to future and current business owners were to pay yourself first, put a little aside and live off the rest.

 

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