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50 years of trims and shaves

Photo by Jessica Sly Rick Johnson gives his son, Mark, a hair cut. He is celebrating 50 years as a barber.

With deep fascination for crew cuts and mild dislike for mohawks, Rick Johnson has spent 50 years doing what he loves­­ -- cutting hair.

Owner of Rick's Barber Shop in Wadena, Johnson knew what he wanted to be when he was just a sophomore in high school. He was friends with a man named Roy Melin who used to cut hair and gained interest in the profession by observing him.

"I used to go and watch him cut hair, and I was always fascinated by it," Johnson said.

As soon as he graduated, he began barber school right away at the Minneapolis Vocational High School in August, giving his first official hair cut on Aug. 3, 1959, to an older man called Patsy. The man was drunk a lot of the time, Johnson said. Patsy normally hadn't had a haircut in about three months and needed a shave.

"It took me a couple hours," Johnson said with a laugh.

Following his schooling, he obtained a job in Minneapolis before joining the Army. Then he moved back to the Wadena area and has been here for 44 years. He and his wife, Gail, have two children, Mark and Kelly. Mark resides in Wadena with one daughter, and Kelly lives in Rogers with three children. Johnson is very content with the small-town environment.

"That's one thing about living in a small town. Life gets to be good," he said.

Johnson likes cutting hair and going to work. He has cut nearly four generations of people's hair in Wadena, and he said that the people were the best part of the job.

"It's just a small town barber shop, and, you know, you get to know everybody," he said.

Along with being the vice president of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, one of his biggest hobbies is collecting shot glasses from the Hard Rock Cafes around the world. The objects of this collection line the walls and shelves of his barber shop, drawing the customers' gazes.

For the most part, he enjoys giving haircuts to people of all ages and of any gender, and he is also willing to cut all but one hairstyle ­-- the mohawk.

On the other side of the spectrum, his favorite hairstyle to cut is the flat top, more commonly known as the crew cut. And his reason for enjoying them is simple, he said. Crew cuts are fun.

Johnson has noticed that the hairstyles that were popular back when he was first starting out, such as the short hair that later fell out of style and was replaced with long hair, are starting to become popular again.

"It's gonna come full circle and just keep repeating," he said.

Another aspect that has changed in the barber industry is the tools. The quality of the tools have improved, he said, and that helps his job, but along with the quality, the prices have also gone up.

"You used to be able to buy a brush for 50 cents, and now you're lucky if you can buy one for under five bucks," he said.

Come Aug. 3, Johnson will have been cutting hair for 50 years, and he does not plan to quit anywhere in the near future.

"I always said, when I got tired of coming to work or my health wasn't good, I would quit," he said. "And so far, I'm on the plus side."

There will be an open house from 1-4 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Rick's Barber Shop in Wadena. Coffee and cake will be served.