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Sapulpa barber in business for 56 years

Published on NewsOK Published: December 2, 2012

SAPULPA, Okla. (AP) — A man doesn't forget his first flattop.

If you're from Sapulpa, chances are the barber wielding the electric razor likely was Herb Carner, who has been cutting hair downtown for 56 years.

"There's only one person who gives a flattop in this town, and that's Herb," said Creek County Commissioner Newt Stephens, who was in the shop recently among several other men who were waiting for their turn in his chair. "I've had people in Broken Arrow ask where I got my flattop. When you get a good barber, you stick with him."

Getting the hair perfectly flat on top requires skill.

Carner uses both hands for the leveling work, then pulls out a straight razor to shave the hairline behind the ears.

He started cutting hair while he was still in high school, when he realized that he could make more in one day as a barber than the $5 a week he was paid in the hayfields.

He was an apprentice under another barber's license for two years, then passed the state board test and has cut hair ever since - starting at 75 cents.

"I've cut about everybody's hair in Creek County at one time," Carner said. "When we went to $1, people liked to have had a heart attack."

Charlie Nation said he was in high school in the '50s when Carner gave him his first flattop. But he prefers to keep his white hair a little longer these days.

Flattops are just one style that Carner has mastered over the years at a tiny shop sandwiched between an Italian restaurant and a bail bond agency across the street from the Creek County courthouse on the main drag, Dewey Avenue.

There's no sign - only a barbershop pole decal in the window.

But everyone knows where he is even if the shop doesn't have an official name. Over the years, people have called it the courthouse barbershop or Herb's barbershop.

"If they want me, they'll find me. Whatever they call me is fine, I guess," Carner said.

Compared to today's salon prices, Carner is cheap. Haircuts cost $11. Flattops cost $13 and up. Beards are trimmed for $3 or $6.

But it's not just the prices and good haircuts that fill Carner's shop. It's the talk.

When it comes to language, though, Carner insists on keeping it clean. A sign is posted prohibiting any vulgarity.

"I'm the only one who's allowed to do any swearing," he quipped.

That's also why jokes, which can become raunchy quickly, aren't allowed, either. But talking about your wife is OK, and so is playful bantering over college football teams.

"Can you imagine a guy from Oklahoma rooting for Notre Dame," Carner said about one customer. "I guess he has a right to root for a bad team."

Carner said he gives about three haircuts an hour if he's not "poking around."

Dick Turnbull, a retired teacher whose first haircut from Carner was in 1957, said he met up with two old friends at the shop recently. They soon realized that they had something in common - they all served in Vietnam.

"I don't think he (Carner) ever said a word. He just listened and let us talk," Turnbull said. "In this day and age and everything we have going on with our electronics, it's just a real throwback.

"When I go to Herb's, I'm still Dicky," he said of his teenage nickname.

Carner said his customers are the reason he stays in business. At 76, he has no thoughts of retiring.

"That's for old people," he said. "I'll probably die cutting hair, I guess."


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