THE DART: Longtime barber learned from dad

Published 10:28 pm Thursday, February 23, 2017

Haircuts don’t quite cost the same they did back when Walter Polnitz first started cutting hair as a teenager. Nowadays, a haircut costs anywhere from $10 on up depending on what kind of cut.

But when Polnitz’s father, James, started cutting hair in East Selma, a haircut only cost 10 cents.

“He started cutting hair when he was a young man before he even got married,” Polnitz said Thursday as he stood outside that same shop his father started on Division Street. “He was a young, young boy when haircuts weren’t but just a dime, and if you got the whole thing it was 25 cents.”

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Polnitz said his father only cut hair part-time because he also farmed, but he made pretty good money back as a barber.

“My daddy cut hair and saved up enough money when he was a young man before he got married just with those dimes and nickels and quarters to buy a brand-new car,” Polnitz recalled. “It was a Chevrolet.”

Polnitz said he learned how to cut hair by watching his father do it at Polnitz Barber Shop. The shop still sits there today on Division Street between Hardie and Dexter Avenues. But he said his father didn’t always cut hair there.

“My daddy, he opened up a place right down the street down there, so when the lady wanted to stop renting it, he came over here on his own land and built a place,” Polnitz recalled. “Our cousins built it for us.”

Polnitz was in middle school when his father started his new shop.

“When I first started coming to the shop I used to shine shoes. I’d make enough so I could take two girls to the movie,” he said with a chuckle. “A movie wasn’t but 10 cents. If you had three or four dollars in your pocket then, you were considered as one of the top because most people didn’t even have a nickel or a dime.”

Polnitz said people would come from miles away just to have his father cut their hair.

“He was cutting a lot of men’s hair,” he said. “They’d come from out in the country, all out in Autauga County and different places because they liked the way he cut hair.”

After shining shoes for a while, Polnitz learned how to cut hair by watching his father all those years.

“I started cutting hair when I got into about the 11th grade. I just started myself watching my daddy,” he said. “It’s just something I just loved to do because it came from my daddy.”

None of the barber chairs were filled with customers Thursday, but that’s only because the shop is open on the weekend.

Just like he and his father used to do, Polnitz, along with his son Michael, cut hair there together now.

“It’s just something in our family, and he liked to do it from when he was a little boy. He shined shoes too, and then he went from shining shoes to cutting hair just like I did,” he said. “My son, he cuts all the young people’s hair, and I cut the older people’s hair.”

Polnitz said his son also teaches at School of Discovery.

“I’ll be here all day on Fridays, and when my son gets out of school he’ll be here from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.,” he said.

Polnitz said he hopes to pass the shop down to his son, and hopefully it will continue a family tradition that has gone on for years and years.