June 17, 2011

USA: 50 years of haircuts go by fast for Red Bud barber

BELLEVILLE, Illinois / Belleville News-Democrat / Your Life / June 17, 2011

'Congratulations, you old goat' 

Red Bud barber Charlie Mudd was expecting another day of haircuts and chatter among friends and old customers on Wednesday, pretty much like the days he has known for the last 50 years, but he was surprised.

Instead, friends and family put together a celebration to honor him with burgers, hot dogs, drinks and a special T-bone steak for Charlie, who is 72.

His partner in Charlie's Cut 'N Style, Kathy Valleroy, helped his friends line up the event.

"It was totally a surprise," Charlie said. "I was driving and watching for when I could turn and I looked over and saw this tent. Then I saw all these people waving. I realized those were my friends."

"What did you say?" Valleroy asked. "I don't have time for you people," Charlie said. But he did. Instead of the full schedule of appointments he thought he had, he had a free day because Valleroy had filled in fake appointments so he could enjoy his anniversary.

Charlie Mudd gets a hug from his great great niece Madison Mudd, 6, while at the party to celebrate the fifty years of Charlie running Charlie's Cut'N Style Wednesday in Red Bud. Friends and family threw a party, grilled and served lots of home-made goodies for Charlie at the shop. - Steve Nagy/BND

Many of the people grilling burgers and passing out desserts were a group of friends that Charlie said were sort of a card club that has gathered about once a month since 1963.

Larry Mehring and Ken Niehmann were cooking on the grill. Milton Weber was showing off the lone T-bone steak that was reserved for Charlie.

"I'm a personal friend as well as a customer," Weber said. "We've done all sorts of stuff together."

Charlie said he started barbering with Pete Holtmann on June 15, 1961, at 115 W. Market St. after graduating from the first class at Belleville Barber College.

"He was elderly and wanting to retire," Charlie said. "He called and asked me to come in. I did my 27-month probation with him and then bought him out."

After 25 years, he moved a block down the street to 207 W. Market St.

"I've been on my own ever since," he said. "It's been good. I really appreciate Red Bud."

He is a widower with seven children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He is deeply involved in the community.

Valleroy said she has been in business with Charlie for 18 years.

"He really is the greatest," she said. "He's pretty well-loved down here."

You could tell how much he is loved by how people greeted him.

"Congratulations, you old goat," said one passerby.

"Hey Charlie, how many bad haircuts is that?" another man yelled from a passing truck. And these were his friends.

Actually Charlie said he couldn't even begin to estimate the number of haircuts he has given, but he was pretty sure that one person's estimate of 10 per day was way low.

"I grew up around Prairie du Rocher," he said. "I was going into the Army and my brother, who had a hairpiece business and barber shop in Colorado, told me when I got out of the Army, I should become a barber and come work for him.

"By the time I got out, my brother was in Belleville and Pete called."

The rest is Red Bud history.

Longtime customer Mike Reed said the barber is kind of like an old wagon wheel, with the barber being at the hub, and information coming in and going out along the spokes.

"If something is going on, Charlie will know it," he said.

The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Charlie said he is not sure about retirement or even when he might start cutting back, so to speak.

"Time really goes fast when you enjoy what you do," he said.

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