MERIDIAN — After 57 years, Wayne Venso has learned a lot about life and hair.
The owner of Wayne’s Barber Shop on W. Third Street, just off Meridian, is retiring after six decades as a barber.
Venso started his career in 1963.
“I wanted something that was inside,” Venso said. “I didn’t want something that was outside in the weather. I worked for Phillips Industries building windows and cutting down trees for Alliance Service Company. I was building bridges for King Construction. I think everybody needs to do three or four months of that just to find out what life is all about.
“Being cooped up in a plant, being repetitious, I didn’t like that at all. My uncle told me if you get a job where you do a service for somebody, you always have a job — like a doctor, a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician — any kind of service for somebody, you always have a job. That’s been true until now.”
Venso prepared for his profession with nine months of school, followed by 18 months of apprenticeship. He then had to pass a test to be licensed by the state.
“They don’t have to do that any more,” Venso said. “Now they just have to finish school and they can open up their own shop and take off. We had to work for a master barber when we first got out of school. That was 18 months. Then we had to take a state board exam to get our master’s license. You’re known as an apprentice from the time you got out of school until you took the master’s test.
Venso said there have been a lot of changes in popular hair styles in his years of practice, but it has come full circle.
“When I started out, it was all flat tops and crew cuts,” he said. “Then the Beatles went and landed. That’s when we lost a lot of our barbers in town. We had 27 barbers cutting hair and everybody had somebody working with them, and when the long hair came in, we all didn’t know how to cut the long hair. They started going to beauty shops to get their hair cuts.”
Venso likened his job to being a bartender.
“I was close to a lot of my customers,” he said. “They were like family. It was a wonderful life. Everything I own and have, I owe to my customers. I wish any barber who comes into town would have the same experience. You can learn a lot if you just listen. It’s just like a bartender. You hear everything — the good, bad and the ugly. Being a barber, you have to listen.”