Welcome to Part 2 of – Barbershops of America. A passion project by Rob Hammer created as a respectful nod to the traditions of an industry steeped in heritage and nostalgia.
Part 2 sees Rob visit Mack’s Barbershop in Crestview Florida.
Words and Images by Rob Hammer.
Florida is different place, but I suppose you can say that for just about any of the United States. The panhandle in particular though seems to operate at it’s own speed. Mack Brooks has been cutting down there for 57 years, so he’s definitely beating to his own drum. In fact, if you talk to him for any amount of time, the conversation will quickly turn to music. He’ll talk to you about the time he played in a band during a ceremony for Johnny Cash in Tennessee after his death. And he’s proud to mention all the talented musicians that have been through his shop to play with him.
Despite all that, he’s got a strange view of things. He calls everybody “honey”, but doesn’t seem to recognize much past his section of the world. After finding out that I was from California, he talked about it for a while. Quite a while. The way he talked though, seemed like he didn’t believe it actually existed. Like California is only a place that happens in movies. I didn’t want to stir the pot, as it’s really not my place to correct him. Respect your elders, and all that.
He couldn’t have been nicer to me. Invited me to lunch, and on the 5 minute walk to the restaurant he probably had 10 people say hi to him by name and with a smile. Everybody inside certainly knew him and what he wanted to eat. After lunch we made our way back to the shop. The afternoon was slow, so he took a nap in the chair while I continued shooting. About ten minutes later the doorbell rang. That’s a metal bell hanging on the inside of the door, not the electric kind on the outside. No surprise, he knew the guy who walked in.
About 6 years after my time at Mack’s, I checked google to see if the shop was still around. The phone number listed, unknowingly routed me to his house. It was 9pm Florida time, but I was just calling to see if that number really worked. He was in bed when he answered, but happy to talk. I told him why I was calling and asked if he remembered me. He said “honey, i just meet so many people…..”. Despite that, it was ok for me to call back at another time, which I did.
He talked about his career as a barber, and it was clear that the people are what mean the most to him. The relationships that he’s built over the years are what he’ll miss the most. Of course it’s not all good. Everyone goes through some hard times. Mac talked about the 60’s and 70’s, and how hard it was to make money off the hippies. Not because they didn’t have money, but because their hair was so long he couldn’t cut enough heads in a day to make any.
He was old when I first met him, and seemed a lot older when we talked again. He’s got a lot of health problems now, but no plans of retiring. None. He puts a smile on the faces of everyone in Crestview, and I like to think that’s what they do for him. Hopefully those smiles will keep him going for many years to come.
To purchase a copy of Rob Hammer’s BARBERSHOPS OF AMERICA book visit