Thursday, April 19, 2018

Don B Snyder. Part 11: Barber

Climbing My Family Tree: Don B Snyder
Don B Snyder

This is Part 11 of a 13-part blog series sharing my Grand-uncle Don’s life story, in his own words, via an autobiography sent to me by Don’s grandson, Ron Oldfield, after Ron stumbled across one of my prior posts about his grandfather. It is shared with the permission of both of Don’s children and Ron Oldfield. [Note – Anything in brackets with green type is my added explanation of something in Don’s text.] 

(I'm sorry, I've tried and tried to fix the fonts and line spacing on this post, and it's all okay until it posts, then it goes haywire and just won't conform. I've tried for an hour. I'm giving up. What is, is. ) 

Don’s story: 

Part 11 – Barber


I have often thought how foolish that was. I was a top worker on a top job, tire builder as well as inner tube splicer (putting the two ends of the tubes together, plus the valves). I soon realized that jobs were scarce and I couldn’t find one. I took a job sailing on ore boats on the Great Lakes. I kind of liked it but didn’t like being away from my family. One day I was on a detail while leaving Duluth, Minnesota. There was a cold wind and of course, the water was very cold. I asked what we were doing, putting a cable from the bow to the stern. I was told it was a lifeline that you hooked on to as in the fall sometimes it got pretty stormy and the water comes over the sides. I thought “hmm.” After the job was done I went to the captain’s office and told him I would be getting off at Toledo. He was a nice old man and he replied “oh no.” I said “oh yes,” and I did. At that time you could leave any time and it was not held against you.  (See a 2:25 minute YouTube video “Shipping Iron Ore on the Great Lakes, 1955”)

Next I worked in the auto plants in Toledo, driving 100 miles round trip each day. Getting laid off, as I had no seniority. One time I got a job with the Gandy Dancers railroad crew. There were about 30 blacks and myself plus another guy my size. They treated us fine. One time I passed a big guy who never talked. He looked at me and said, “you’re going to get schotted.” I wasn’t going to take any crap from him and I said: “what did you say?” He repeated it and I did too. My buddy got nervous and spoke quietly to me “I think he means scorched.” I was bare from the waste up and it was hot. I said, “you mean scorched.” He said yes and we both laughed.

Climbing My Family Tree: Railway workers drag a railway cross tie using tie tongs, Practical track maintenance, Track series, vol. II, Railway educational press, inc., 1916
Railway workers drag a railway cross tie using tie tongs,
Practical track maintenance, Track series, vol. II, Railway Educational Press, inc., 1916

Since I couldn’t seem to find a good steady job, I built 250 small lawnmower engines from the castings and assembled them. My neighbor was an engineer and I enjoyed working for him. My wife Ardith suggested I go to barber school. Me! A barber, no way. However, I did change my mind and went to Andrew’s Barber School in Toledo under the G.I. Bill. They paid for my schooling and compensation besides, as I had a combat disability. We had classes for half a day and cut hair the other half. We all seemed to like it and felt sort of bad when we graduated, as we knew we wouldn’t see each other again.

Barber Pole (from

The new students started in the back room where we had about six or seven chairs. Haircuts were 25¢ and facial shaves free. That was not hard to figure as the razors were very sharp and we nicked a lot and sometimes cut a guy. Of course, most of them were down and out on the streets and felt it was nice getting out of the cold and being treated nice. A lot of them got pimples removed (accidentally). Doctors get paid for that but we didn’t.

One time a middle-aged woman came in and sat in my chair. I asked her what she wanted and she replied “a haircut.” I’d never cut a woman’s hair but I hacked, thinned, cut, and sheared till I had hair all over the floor. She paid her 50¢ and didn’t complain, for which I was glad.

Barbershop (from

I was interviewed by a barber who had a five-chair shop. I worked for him for nine years. Then I took over another shop where two guys had failed. I made it for nine years and later started another shop. I later moved to Florida where I had a shop. When my wife died I got lonely and moved back to Toledo.


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