Wharton: Bountiful from a barber's chair
Bountiful • When trying to learn about a place, finding the Main Street barber shop and dropping in for a trim is not a bad way to start.
Such was the case recently when I stopped in for a haircut at Lee's Barber Shop, a fixture at 68 S. Main in Bountiful since 1952.
The place has changed ever-so-slightly since the time when the late Lee Benard opened it. There used to be three chairs, but that number has been reduced to two. Current owner Leah Bryson took out some of the "dead animals" that once hung on the walls and put in a new hardwood floor because the old one was starting to buckle. A jar of suckers waits for kids who survive their haircut experience.
Yet, the place feels as though time has stood still. The big leather barber chairs are well worn. A photo of Bryson's dad holding a big fish, a shot of the old shop and a set of antlers decorate the small, clean place.
An old-fashioned electric shaving cream dispenser stands on the counter. Bryson uses it, a traditional straight-edge barber's razor and a hot towel.
Customers waiting their turn sit in hefty wooden chairs purchased from the Relief Society Room of the Bountiful Tabernacle, located directly across the street from the barber shop on the maple-tree lined Main Street.
A large black-and-white photo of Bountiful's Main Street, taken in 1952 when Lee's Barber Shop opened, hangs above the waiting area. Though Main Street itself possesses the same feel, what is noticeable from the old photo is that there are no homes on the east bench, a place now covered with development.
Bryson said her husband, a Bountiful City police officer, sometimes jokes that the barber shop looks like something out of Mayberry, the fictional town on The Andy Griffith Show, "except that I don't look like Floyd."
Indeed, Bountiful's Main Street remains a throwback to a simpler time. Though there are a few franchises, it mainly consists of small, independent stores and restaurants. There is a mortuary, a post office, a church, a furniture store, a book shop, music stores, a dentist, doctor's offices, several jewelers and some clothing stores.
It is as different as the ugly maze of big box stores and strip malls on Bountiful's west end or in nearby Centerville as the 1950s are to 2012. Main Street Bountiful is a refreshing change.
And Bryson said the street is as busy as ever. In fact, the opening of Vito's in a small storefront a few doors down has brought even more traffic as people come in to sample his Philly steak sandwiches, which have become locally famous.
Bryson probably has as good feel for the pulse of Bountiful as anyone in town. She said her husband, the law enforcement officer, often comes in to listen and "get all the dirt."
On some days, a group of patrons will get a conversation going in the morning and it will last much of the day, with those coming in adding their opinion to the topic at hand as others leave.
When I had my hair cut, much of the talk on the chair next to me involved the barber and client sharing Army war stories. It would be enjoyable to perhaps spend a day simply sitting in the big wooden chairs listening. Chances are, you could learn much about Bountiful.
Alas, my time in Lee's is all too short. I have an assignment to cover a high school football game at nearby Woods Cross. But I make a mental note to return to Main Street Bountiful soon, perhaps to sample one of Vito's sandwiches, have a cup of coffee or just stroll the street exploring the interesting stores.