A downtown Puyallup barbershop in business for almost 90 years had its rotating barber pole stolen this week.
Ray Colburn, long-time owner of the Mirror Barber Shop, said the pole was purchased in 1948 at Stephen’s Barber Supply of Tacoma.
Thursday a man came into the shop at 111 W. Meeker St. and asked if there used to be a barber pole outside.
“I went out to look, and it was gone,” said Colburn, 79. “It happened during the night some time.”
He said he reported the theft to police.
“I’ve had it for so long, you know,” he said. “People always look for it when they come.
“I don’t know why anybody would take it.”
Colburn’s not sure what the pole cost 65 years ago, but said a modern-day version to replace it would run almost $900. Beyond covering the price, he’s afraid to put a new pole out, because he figures someone might steal that one, too.
But that doesn’t mean his barber shop won’t have a barber pole.
“I was thinking about getting a indoor mini-barber pole,” Colburn said. “Then I wouldn’t have to worry about it out there.”
The oldest barber shop still operating in Puyallup, the Mirror opened in 1928 at the corner of Meridian and West Main, Colburn said. The pole made the trip when the shop moved to its current location in the early 1960s.
Colburn finished barber school in 1956 after wrapping up his army service, and worked at shops around Pierce County until he bought the Mirror in 1974.
An old school kind of guy, Colburn says he doesn’t discard things often. If something’s broken or run down, he fixes or refurbishes it.
The barber pole needed work a couple of years ago, so he had a friend rebuild the motor after finding the parts to fix the machine in California.
“It’s kind of an antique,” Colburn said. “It was so old they don’t make that kind of a motor anymore.”
It had been working like a charm, brand new practically, ever since, he said.
His twin Theo-A-Kochs barber chairs, chrome and made in Chicago, got similar attention. A barber from San Francisco was ready write a check to buy the chairs for his shop on Fisherman’s Wharf but Colburn said no. He’s reupholstered the chairs with Italian leather twice and re-chromed them once.
As for barber poles, many newer outlets don’t have them, Colburn said. But patrons looking for a shop with history and tradition might choose one with a barber pole, he reasons.
The poles’ red, blue and white stripes represent the veins, blood and bandages, and stem from the days when barbers did procedures such as bleeding and pulling teeth, Colburn said.
Some customers have expressed worries that the loss of his barber pole might cause Colburn to retire.
Not to worry – yet.
“I’d like to stay open another two to three years,” he said. “I enjoy the customers mostly. I would hate to disappoint them.”