Blossom retires his scissors after 68 years cutting hair
As the afternoon sun caused the temperature to rise, William (Blossom) Ezell and his wife Ann sat under a covered swing in their backyard. They were surrounded by a tableau of blooming tiger lilies, climbing clematis and tall oak trees.
The swing moved slightly back and forth, as gentle as the breeze.
This is where you find Ezell now. Two weeks ago he was still cutting hair at Dalton’s Barbershop on North 3rd Avenue.
But now he’s hung up his scissors and his electric trimmer for the last time. After 68 years of barbering, he’s shaped his last flat top, trimmed the last beard and tapered his last haircut.
He’s been around so long most people only know him by his nickname: Blossom.
A name given to him in the 6th grade. A meaning that he will not elaborate on, once a secret and evidently still is.
But, it is a name that everyone calls him.
“That includes the preacher, the undertaker, and everybody.”
Ezell has been a barber since 1949. A profession he settled into after serving in the infantry.
“I cutta many of ‘em…a lot of heads—lot of good memories.
“I wouldn’t do nothing else. I wouldn’t have swap it for nothing.”
When Ezell got out of the service, he “piddled” around—sold vacuum cleaners, went to auctioneer school in Indiana. As an auctioneer in Fayetteville, Tennessee, he sold cars from a platform while people placed bids through their car windows.
When the weather changed and the temperatures dropped, Ezell decided he needed a different profession—something to stay warm.
“Oh, hell, got to find something to do in the winter,” he said, recalling the career advice he gave himself years ago.
He said he could have attended college for training in another career. “But, it wouldn’t have been fun like barbering.”
Ezell attended Nashville Barber School for six months. The majority of the students were veterans who were attending school after War World II ended.
After graduating, Ezell acquired a job within a couple of weeks. “And, I ain’t never sold another car.”
His first barber job was in Melrose in Nashville, Tennessee. “Made big money back then getting a quarter…50 cents.”
Ezell only worked in Nashville for a few weeks before returning to the Lewisburg area.
Blossom and Ann, a cosmetologist, worked together side by side (well, with a wall between them) for 28 years in Ann’s father’s barbershop in Cornersville. There was a barbershop on one side and a beauty parlor on the other.
A hole was trimmed out between so both sides had access to the joint phone.
“Daddy owned the shop, and that put us [working] together,” Ann said.
Ezell’s busiest day at the barbershop was on Saturdays. The unwritten rule was that all the townspeople were supposed to come in through the week so farmers could get their hair cut on Saturdays—the only day they usually came to town.
“Ain’t like that anymore.”
But, Ezell remembered, there was a contrary townsman who was determined to keep getting his hair cut on Saturdays. One Thursday, Ezell saw him at the pool room next to the barbershop and tried to convince him to come on over for a haircut.
The man refused…saying it was too soon and waited until that Saturday.
Ezell proceeded to snip a little here and there, and the man asked if he was still going to charge him the full 75 cents.
“Yeah, that’s a town loafer’s haircut on Saturday,” the barber told the man.
Well, the town resident decided to challenge him another time.
“He did it again, and I took all of his hair off,” Ezell said with a grin.
“He never came back again.”
Ezell remembers his longest day holding the clippers at the barbershop in Cornersville, was a Saturday before Easter.
Saturdays were usually a “big day”—opening at 7 a.m. and not closing until 11 p.m., but this day he was there until 12:50 a.m.
“Of course, had to get all the little ones cut, big ones too. My daddy-in-law was sick that day, and I had mine and his both to do.
“Took me a long time to get over that.”
After Cornersville, he and Ann bought the Fox Motel in Lewisburg and put their barbershop and beauty shop in it. “I had a dignified name, called it The Centurion. I went and took a style course in men’s hair…I was a centurion.”
Blossom and Ann owned the shop for 18 years.
“Best job in the world. And, you learn a whole lot of jokes…lots of jokes. Real religious jokes, you know,” he noted with a heavy dose of dry wit.
Until his retirement, Ezell had been working two days a week at Dalton’s Barbershop in Lewisburg.
What he liked most about being a barber was meeting people.
“Ain’t nobody like people. I made a lot of friends.
“I hate to [not] see ‘em…but, have to quit sometime.”
Ezell’s retirement was a decision that was made at his doctor’s recommendation. Some things have become more difficult, like buttoning his shirt that morning. His family and coworkers also seemed to feel it was in his best interest.
“I tell ‘em I’m gonna quit when I get old…I ain’t but 92.”
But, he noted, his hands are not as steady as they once were.
Blossom and Ann have been married for 68 years. They have three children, six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
When Ezell cut back to working two days a week, he started making birdhouses that are displayed throughout their house. “I don’t know which of my grandchildren will get that one,” he said pointing to a recent creation.
Ezell likes building things.
And, he still enjoys “piddling.”
“Pretty good in the kitchen, too,” Ann said.
Ezell still wakes up at 6 a.m. every morning. He thinks about sleeping in, but his body and mind are so accustomed to waking early that he’s stopped fighting that contemplation.
Ezell said he enjoyed the routine of going to the shop and cutting hair.
Now his hair cutting days are over but the barber in him wants to be behind the chair, snipping and combing and sharing jokes with those that come in.
“I miss it,” he simply said.
Barbara Harmon is a journalism major at Middle Tennessee State University. She was one of several students who recently spent a week in Marshall County writing stories for the Marshall County Tribune.