The year was 1970, 40 years ago, and only a few days after I had painted ‘The Country Barber, Mr. Roy Hunt.’
I carefully packed and shipped this painting along with another painting of an old barn both found right here in Oktibbeha County, to the Ligoa Duncan Gallery in the heart of New York City, N.Y. They remained there for two weeks, and when they were returned back to their “home” again to my own personal collection, a note inside read, “Carole, so this is what rural and country Mississippi must be like, and we loved seeing Mississippi!”
Rural and country Mississippi at its very best is down at Sturgis, only a few miles from its nearest little city, Starkville, compared to big ‘ole New York, City, N.Y.
I remember driving right to Main Street, Sturgis to the corner barber shop and to my destination to paint Mr. Roy Hunt’s Barber Shop.
Roy was one of the most respected gentleman and known as one of, “The Best in Sturgis!”
I proudly claim Roy as one of my kinfolks on grandmother’s Edwards side of our family cause we are distantly related as cousins.
It was very early in the morning and I found a perfect parking spot right there down from Adam’s Hardware Store to begin to unload all my outside art studio for the day. I was going to spend the whole day with Roy Hunt, and he would be my very extra special face (portrait) and his barber shop would be my extra special place (landscape) to sketch and paint for this day.
I suddenly looked at this tiny corner of his existence, and thought: “This looks just like ‘Gunsmoke’ on our TV back home that we all use to gather around and watch every Monday night at exactly 7 p.m. on our Sylvania Halo TV.
Do you remember our first TV’s? The ones that lite up with what was called a Halo Light?
I glanced up at the metal holder which use to hold a real sign right across the street from Roy’s barber shop, and it was merely dangling and slightly swaying in the cool morning breeze.
I gave Roy a big hug, and ask him if he might come on outside into pretty sunshiny early morning, and maybe just make himself comfortable on the stoop of his front door entrance way into his barber shop. He agreed, and I began to sketch his portrait.
Let’s look at his portrait together. Start on the left side and see the barber pole red, white, and blue painted on a piece of straight board tacked and nailed to the side of his very old building —one of the oldest buildings in town.
Here proudly sits Roy Hunt —very comfortable and ready for his first customer of the day.
I can hear him now, “Good morning to ya, want a hair cut?”
“Y’all come on in now, have a seat in my barber’s chair!” “How y’all doing today?” “Been fishing or hunting yet?” “Had any luck?” “Is Sturgis gonna have a good football team this year?” “How bout them ‘Bulldawgs’ at Miss State?” “Y’all know anything going on around Sturgis?” “Kind of dull right now, agree?”
This was in 1970, and I wonder what in the world would Roy Hunt think now... in 2010... about the up-coming huge...with thousands and thousands of Motorcycles... “roaring” loudly and with great “gusto” into Sturgis on the hottest day in August for the Sturgis Bike Rally right in front of his ‘ole barber shop? I know he would probably say the same thing, “Y’all want a hair cut?” “Come on inside now!”
Who is the real Roy Hunt? Who are his folks and who are his friends? I knew his fine son, Mr. Billy Roy Hunt too.
Billy Roy called me several times about making him a print of his daddy’s portrait and barber shop. I never did this, and I regret not getting around to doing this for Billy Roy.
I talked to Walter Turner who inherited his own drandaddy’s store, Adam’s Hardware Store, “right on the same side of the street down a little ways”... as we say!
Walter Turner told me also that he heard from folks that when Billy Roy, Roy Hunt’s son, was just a tiny little boy, he use to “hang” out at his daddy’s Barber Shop, and when a customer would come inside, “Little Billy Roy” would say over and over again, “Gimme some money too!”
Then the hair cut customer would say, “Hey, Roy, do you think Little Billy Roy is worth a penny?” “Sure, he is,” Roy would say.
“Little Billy Roy” would have lots of pennies jingling in his little pockets at the end of the day, almost as much money as Roy Hunt made in a whole day cutting hair.
Billy Roy has gone on now to the Church Triumphant and to Heaven, but his only sister, Mary Elizabeth Hunt Bullock is still alive.
I did not get to speak to her. I did talk to Roy Hunt’s grandson, Michael Hunt, our Oktibbeha County Coroner.
I ask Michael,” what do you remember about your granddaddy?”
Michael said, “I was very small, but I remember so well a big old cylinder blue can with a lion on it filled with hard peppermint stick candy. My granddaddy would always give me a piece of that red and white peppermint candy every time I would see him and get a hair cut. I loved my granddaddy so much!”
Pete Thomas told me that he heard that during World War II, Roy Hunt closed up his Barber Shop and went to the Gulf Coast to become a welder to make ships at the ship yard there. I have heard that Roy Hunt use to jog every day from his home near the railroad track to his shop, and I can just see this cute, dumpy, precious little man jogging along to Main Street, Sturgis, can you see him now too?
He kept fit and in shape by jogging in those same slip on leather shoes, brown, shiny, and silky slacks, leather like suspenders and white starched two pocket long sleeved shirt.
On that day in the year of 1970, I went back down the road to the good ‘ole country town filled with good ‘ole country folks, “my favorite people”...my roots where the best people in the whole world who call Sturgis “HOME!”
These folks are genuine, kind, sincere and friendly to strangers and family alike.
These so called, “FOLKS” are real and true and not counterfeit people, just “FOLKS” belonging to the original stock of Scot/Irish/English decent and they are “pure bred” free from affectation or hypocrisy.
What a portrait, (a face) what a landscape a place) I discovered and placed on my two stretched pieces of canvas.
This place, Roy Hunt’s Barber Shop met its fate by a fire that destroyed it some 10 years ago when a lightening storm hit a utility pole burning it to the ground.
This barber shop is gone forever, but I have it and the memories saved forever captured within pencil marks and paint strokes on my canvas.
To New York City, N.Y., Ligoa Duncan Gallery, “YES” you got to see what life is like way down South in good ‘ole Sturgis, Mississippi! We got a great, happy, and wonderful life here, and the greatest and finest folks call this simply “HOME!” And back in 1970, New York got to met, know, and love one of my very kin... The Country Barber, Mr. Roy Hunt!