A barber and a citizen

With a neighborhood as large as ours, it’s not all that easy finding someone to write about. Sometimes a walk leads me to someone interesting, other walks seem to lead nowhere in particular; yet they are all enjoyable.

With the wind blowing so hard this past week, my mind wandered to how much time (and money) I used to spend on my hair when I was younger. These years it’s more of the “I have Hawaii hair — hair today and gone to Maui.”

Gone are the days I would actually look forward to a haircut, the sound of the clippers, the feel of the white paper collar wrapped around your neck before the large cloth cover was snapped tight. The smile and conversation enjoyed by the barber you knew because, after all, you’d see him often so you’d look clean cut. Now I feel more like: Oh, there’s a Cost Cutters. Maybe I should swing by and get a trim. Here’s to the times when finding the right barber, or beautician, meant everything.

John Whaley, of Webster City, will be remembered for many things. He was mayor, a county supervisor, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, a member of Company E of the local Guard; the list of his civic accomplishments and involvements is a long one.

He was also a barber. If the large number of articles on him in the digital archives is evidence, this was what he is probably most remembered for. His barber shop, which occupied several different locations over time, drew many different barbers through the years. It must have been “a hopping place,” full of patrons and those all-important conversations.

John was born in 1900, the son of Nelson and Laura Whaley, who lived in the Saratoga area and now reside in Our Neighborhood. John was named for his grandfather, the “other” John Whaley, who arrived in Hamilton County in 1857 and resides near Stanhope in Saratoga Cemetery.

John A. Whaley, the barber, was already cutting hair when he was married to Louise Nelson, of Packwood, Iowa, on February 15, 1931.

I absolutely love the “Society” pages of the newspapers; much more fun to read than Facebook. The two settled here in Webster City and began a very involved and connected life together as both became vibrant and active members of the community. In the spring of 1936, an article in The Daily Freeman Journal tells of them deciding to build a new home in the 800 block of Division Street. That same spring, Harold Farnham joined the Whaley barber shop at its location of 615 Second Street, the current location of the Second Street Emporium.

John’s work as a barber, being a part of so many conversations and personal connections, must have served him well as he became more and more involved in civic affairs. As he worked at the Chamber, as mayor, as a county supervisor, he must have remained “approachable” to all those he knew. In any event, he was certainly an asset to this community and a welcome addition when he moved to Our Neighborhood back in 1968.

Our Neighborhood is a column by Michael Eckers focusing on the men and women whose presence populates Graceland Cemetery in Webster City.


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