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The Final Cut
- Knightstown Barber Dick Voris Clips Career at 46 Years
April 4, 2007 - Saturday morning, longtime barber Richard Voris opened his shop one last time.
Inside Mr. Richard’s Barber and Beauty Shop, vintage 1960 hand-pump barber chairs claimed their usual spots on the center of the floor. The first broom Voris used to sweep up hair in 1961 was brought to this location and still did its job today. The swirling barber pole he purchased nearly 50 years ago still served its purpose on the outside wall next to the front door.
Inside, the radio played “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” by legendary crooner Frank Sinatra. Voris had surrounded himself with an atmosphere of yesteryear, keeping with the rock-solid consistency of the man who chose this community for many of the same reasons.
Very little had changed inside the small shop Voris has operated for the last 46 years. Although it was another Saturday morning in Knightstown, it wasn’t a typical morning at the shop, located east of town on U.S. 40.
This day would mark the last time Voris would cut the hair of select customers who made a special trip for one last trim by the man who had become an institution of sorts. He first started cutting hair in the area in 1961, and had set up shop at his current location in 1969. Over the years he has served thousands of loyal customers, including four generations of some families. After giving his final haircut shortly after noon Saturday, he officially retired.
The very thing that has kept him in Knightstown all those years – a solid community that has stayed consistent – was reflected inside his small shop.
“I once read a story about a guy who came back to Knightstown after 25 years, and nothing had changed,” Richard laughed. “The town hasn’t progressed as much as some people want, but that’s what gives it its charm. I love that about this town.
“I love Knightstown, and this town has been very good to me,” he said, taking a seat in one of those 1960 barber chairs. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere in the United States besides right here.”
He has allowed little dramatic change in his life over the years. He has been married for 53 years to his wife, Nora Jean, and she was his childhood sweetheart.
They raised four children, including sons Victor, who lives in Kentucky, Chris and Pat, both Knightstown residents, and daughter Angel, a high-ranking Indiana Department of Corrections official.
Patience and consistency, Richard said, is the key to keeping a marriage and a business strong for all of those years.
A jet engine mechanic with the Air Force, Richard had been cutting the hair of buddies for several years, usually for free. But as he got better, he began charging 25 cents per cut. That price eventually went up.
“I got so good at it, I was charging a dollar while the base barbers were just getting 75 cents,” Richard said. “I pretty much knew that’s what I wanted to do then.”
He completed his service in 1958 and went to barber school. After working for a few years in Indianapolis, he came to Knightstown.
In the late 1960’s, after the new Interstate 70 changed the landscape, several businesses went belly-up due to the reduced U.S. 40 traffic. His parents NAME HIS PARENTS had owned the Valley Drive-In Restaurant, which was located on the same spot now occupied by his barber shop. That restaurant eventually closed and later burned down. He rebuilt on the same spot, attaching his shop to his house, and opened for business in 1969. He brought in the chairs and the broom.
“They worked just fine, why replace them?” he laughed.
He has heard more than his share of funny stories over the years, but “None that you could print in your newspaper,” he said. He once traded haircuts for tickets to the high school state finals, when New Castle earned a trip in 1967.
At 10:45 a.m., retired Indiana State Trooper and former Knightstown Police Chief Dennis Hoppes emerged through the barber shop front door.
“You probably don’t remember me, but I’m here for one last hair cut,” Hoppes said. “It’s been a while, but you used to cut my hair a long time ago.” Richard remembered. “You were the kid who blew up the commode in high school and didn’t get to graduate with his class!”
Hoppes laughed. “That was a long time ago!”
At 11 a.m., in walked longtime Knightstown businessman and retired banker Doug Wilson. He too was visiting his friend for one last haircut.
In the background, Dean Martin sang, “Standing on the Corner, Watching All the Girls Go By,” and minutes later, Mary Ann Sitler emerged through the front door. She was there for one final trim.
“I just want him to trim my bangs, he been doing that for a long time,” she said.
Voris reminisced about the many people who came through his door over the years. He talked about a young paper boy named Jerry Jordan, who used to deliver the Indianapolis Star and News on his pony.
And he talked about what is next on his agenda.
“Nora Jean and I are going to do some traveling,” Richard said. “I’m going to be out doing something. I love woodworking, and I even made my own casket.”
He reached into a drawer and pulled out a photo of the casket – with him inside – and showed it around.
“It’s a beauty,” Voris smiled. “I told my son Chris it was kind of tight on the shoulders, and he said ‘Well dad, you’re not going to be playing cards in there.’ I said that’s true.”
As he finished Sitler’s bangs, his thoughts returned to retirement.
“I’m just going to do what I want to do for a year, because I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Voris said. “When I started there were two barbers in Lewisville, three in Straughn, three in Charlottesville, and I-70 changed all of that. But it’s coming back, because nothing is forever.”
As the clock ticked closer to noon, the scheduled closing time of the barber shop, “Raysville Mayor” Forey Wyatt entered the shop. Wyatt would be Voris’s final haircut, bringing an end to one of the longest runs of any current Knightstown business.
The final cut would perhaps be the quickest in those 46 years. Wyatt didn’t have a lot to work with in the first place.
Once Wyatt took his seat in the old barber chair, Voris walked over to the front door and turned the lock. He flipped the sign from open to closed, pulled the shades, and finally, hit the switch to shut off the barber pole.
The two swapped old stories while Richard put the finishing touches on a career that spanned nearly five decades.
“Business has still been very good, because, like I said, Knightstown has been very good to me. But I’m tired, and it’s time to enjoy some other things,” he said.
The two men shook hands, the final cut completed.
Richard then grabbed that old broom he’s kept since 1961, swept up the hair from the last customer, and turned out the lights.
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