For six decades, barber Harry White has been moving at a good clip.
Known by customers and friends as “Whitey,” the Olde Tyme Barber Shop employee was introduced to the industry at 8 years old when he started shining shoes and running errands for a local shop.
The first person he shaved was his father, who later told a bar full of patrons that his son was shaving for free.
“By the time I got done, I think I was drunk,” White said with a chuckle.
He got his master barber license at 15 years old and served as an instructor at a barber school before being drafted into the Army. He was assigned to transportation operations and got to drive to Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In Germany, especially, he felt comfortable enough to let his hair down.
“Germany is like Maryland,” he said. “It’s the same type of weather. They had snow and everything else, and it reminded me of home. I felt relaxed.”
After his tour, he opened his own barber shop at the intersection of Charles and Fayette streets in Baltimore. When he started, haircuts were 75 cents for men, and 50 cents for kids, with another 25-cent discount for kids on Wednesdays.
Whitey’s Barber Shop served an interesting cast of characters, and White personally cut the hair of Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, future Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and many opera singers.
“Being a barber, you meet a whole lot of people — lawyers, judges, and doctors from Johns Hopkins and Mercy Medical Center — different people from all walks of life, from the big wigs down to the people who pick up the garbage,” White said. “I learned things about life from them.”
A husband and father of three, White learned that most kids, and not just his, went through similar challenges growing up. He also learned that he could use his connections to spread the word about the Jaycees, Special Olympics and other charitable causes.
“With my influence, I talk to people about what they do in life, and if they want to help, they do it,” he said.
White also hosted exchange students from France, Ireland and China.
He continues to build relationships at Old Tyme Barber Shop, where he has worked for the last 25 years since closing Whitey’s Barber Shop. Old Tyme Barber Shop owner Brian Mears said White is dependable, hardworking and lives life to the fullest.
“He will do anything for anybody,” Mears said. “If they’re sick, he’ll go to their house and give them a haircut. We do haircuts for the homeless every year [through Winter Relief] and have done fundraisers for hospice patients before. There’s nothing I can ask him to do that he wouldn’t do.”
When White is not at work or with his family, he enjoys other hobbies, such as being a member of Ravens Roost 27, shooting pool or walking a few miles each day to stay active.
As he looks toward the future, he shared advice for young adults entering the workforce.
“Thank God for what you have and what you don’t have because you’ll eventually get it,” he said. “If you want something that bad, work for it and you’ll get it.”
White will celebrate his 79th birthday in May. He has no plans to leave his scissors and clippers behind.
“It’s like psychiatry,” White said. “People come in and sit in the chair, and if they’re really relaxed, they tell you about everything in their life.”
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