SOUTH DEERFIELD, Mass. (AP) — In a small porch at his Eastern Avenue home, Victor Waryas cuts, trims and styles hair a few days each week. He has cut the hair of countless clients from South Deerfield neighbors to Eaglebrook School students to actor Michael Douglas.
Sixty years later, the South Deerfield man is still in the barber business. He is 95 years old.
With a mischievous glint in his eye, the witty man recalls many humorous memories, from Douglas’ invitation for him to join his family in Florida to the time he met Roland Trembley, a sulky driver, in his Elm Street shop.
From the 1950s until the 1980s, Waryas ran Vic’s Barbershop on Elm Street, a local establishment that became one of the popular spots for town news and gossip.
Growing up in Turners Falls, Waryas followed in the footsteps of his father, who was also a barber.
“I decided I’d try it out. I enjoyed it,” Waryas said.
Waryas attended Vaughn Barber School for six months. To get his license, he had to serve an 18-month apprenticeship. He spent three months training in Boston at Copley Plaza before returning to Greenfield to train at a barbershop on Chapman Street.
After his apprenticeship, Waryas served in the Army during World War II. He served three years, nine months and 16 days under Col. William Clark as a chauffeur, he recalled precisely.
In the service, Waryas also continued to cut hair, alongside Perry Como, the famous singer.
In 1954, he opened up his shop in South Deerfield, where his wife, Rose, grew up.
Over the years, Waryas’ shop became the heart of many memories and moments typical of the small farm town where every kid seems to get a nickname. He even cut hair at Eaglebrook School, where he met the young Michael Douglas. Years later, Douglas invited his former school barber on a trip to Florida to hang out with the Douglas family.
Vic’s Barbershop also became the place for politics and gossip. Waryas often played the devil’s advocate, switching between political parties depending on his clients.
“There’s no fun to just agree in a debate,” Waryas said.
An emblem of his shop was a poster of the University of Connecticut girls’ basketball team hanging on the wall. Though many South Deerfield men guffawed at the sports’ poster, it wasn’t too long before Waryas converted many to the game.
Waryas also developed many catchphrases for his clients.
One of his notable tips is “the difference between a good hair cut and a bad one is two weeks.”
In the 1960s, the Beatles captured the music world and ruined the barber business, Waryas chuckled.
“Everyone was growing their hair out. I had to go to Springfield to learn how to cut and style long hair,” Waryas said.
Waryas treats every client’s hair like a work of art. He sees his customers as showcasing his work.
“I like when somebody comes in with long hair and tells me to cut it anyway I want. It usually turns out good,” Waryas said with pride.
In 1984, he closed the Elm Street shop and moved his business to his home. He transformed a porch to his shop. It was a business decision to save him money. From Elm Street to Eastern Avenue, his loyal customers continued to stream in, giving Waryas a steady business that allowed him to put his three children through college with no school loans.
Waryas continues to cut the hair of friends and family, but he is no longer looking for any new customers. He is slowly retiring.