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Main street barber bidding farewell

Fifteen-year Jim's Barbershop client Cornell Berg of Park Rapids had his last trim from Jim Christenson who is retiring at the end of October. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

The classic barbershop pole on the first block of Main will disappear at month's end.

After nearly a half century of trimming locks and sharing conversation with clientele, Jim Christenson is retiring the barber shears.

Christenson, 73, began in the business with his father-in-law, Red Rider, who'd been providing the service since 1930, when Park Rapids was home to 12 barbers. Christenson was the eighth when he began clipping hair in 1962. "Now there are four."

"The clientele has changed," he said. Fifty years ago, "people had time to sit and wait. Now they don't have the patience for that."

When he first began in the profession, beauticians didn't cut hair, so he saw men, women and kids. Shaving was a frequent request, a leather strap and razor at his side.

A century earlier, barbers' tasks included blood-letting and pulling teeth, he said. The barber poles, originally white, were to hang bloody rags, the spiral red design evolving from the original use.

The Vietnam era, he recalled, put a damper on business when long hair was the trend. "But I survived."

A cut cost $1 when Christenson started in the business; he now charges $10. And he's never had a phone in the shop.

Active in the community, he served as president of the Eagles and is a former member of the Mounted Posse. He was part of the group searching for Jacob Wetterling when he was first reported missing.

"I will miss the people," he said of retiring - woodworking and, next spring, gardening on the docket. "A lot of good people.

"Some of them have been with me 49 years."

A farewell party will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at Bullwinkle's with friends and family welcome to reminisce.