In July 26 issue, Russell County NewsBy Derek AaronRussell County News EditorABOVE: Roger Blankenship has been cutting hair at his barber shop on Jamestown’s square for more than 43 years. Blankenship said he has heard many “wild tales” through the years in his profession. His friends are many and his always positive attitude, sense of humor and story-telling keep his patrons happy while they wait for their turn in the chair.
Roger Blankenship has been cutting hair at his Jamestown barber shop for more than 43 years and as he celebrates his 62nd birthday this weekend, we recognize him as a “Russell County Hero.”
“They say time flies when you’re having fun and I must’ve had a lot of fun because time has flew by,” Blankenship said.
Blankenship owns and operates Blankenship’s Barber Shop on Monument Square in Jamestown.
“My dad was a barber and had a barber shop but I wasn’t aimed to be a barber,” he said. Rather, Blankenship hoped to farm for a living.
He said that his friend, Mitchell Marcum, was going to Tri-City Barber College in Louisville and urged him to follow suit.
He said Marcum told him it would be the perfect job for him since he had a place to work in his father’s shop.
“So we went and started barber’s college in September 1964,” he said. “I took about nine months to complete.”
Despite his father, the late Edwin Blankenship, being a barber, he said he had absolutely no experience cutting hair.
His father began as a barber in 1948, two years later he moved to the current location below Popplewell’s Family Dentistry to work alongside barber Jack Allen.
Allen had started his business there in 1941, Blankenship said.
“Him and dad worked together until 1967,” he said. After Allen retired, Blankenship took over, moved another chair in the shop and Roger began working alongside his father.
It would remain that way for 32 years, until his father’s passing.
“I watched him work all my life and that helped me by watching another barber work,” he said.
Besides his father, Blankenship has worked alongside Josh Marcum, Mitchell’s son, for six years and Glenna Helm, who has been at the shop since January.
He said working with a female for the first time has caused for some change at the shop.
“We can’t tell those dirty jokes like we used to,” he laughed. “At least not many.”
Blankenship said he has made innumerable friends through the years in his profession.
“Every few days a stranger comes in,” he said. “I’ve noticed that over the past 10 to 15 years as more people come to this part of the country.”
He said many people who vacation around Lake Cumberland also frequent the shop during their time here.
“I’ve seen them in here from all over the country,” he said.
Blankenship said his shop was one of only three or four in the county.
“We’re a dying breed,” he said of his profession. He said people from off who visit the shop say it is hard to find many barber shops anymore.
Being self-employed, like he is, can be both good and bad, he said. He and his wife, Connie, have put two of his children through college and their third, a son, Brett, is currently in college.
“I’ve just got some money in my pocket,” he joked.
As a barber, Blankenship said he was exposed to many stories and “tales” over the years.
“You hear something wild everyday,” he said.
He compared his job to that of a bartender, who also hears many stories and tells many of their problems to them.
“But I like meeting the people and getting to know them,” he said.
“I’ve made a good living, I’m not rich but I’ve fed myself and paid the bills, that’s about all you can ask for.”
He said his shop is busiest the first of each month, when people get their checks.
“Then it will slow down for a week or two before it picks back up again,” he said. “You have a little lull in their sometime but I never have had a day without cutting one head.”
He said one day back in the 1970s, during a bad winter storm he thought he wasn’t going to cut one, until someone came in.
He said the most he’d ever cut was 60 heads in the late 60’s. “And that was for a dollar a head,” he said.
Now, Blankenship said a good day sees 40 or more people come into the shop.
When he first started in 1965, hair cuts were $1 each, he said. Today they are $8.
“They haven’t gone up much,” he said.
“There was one guy in from Chicago last week, I hadn’t ever seen him before, and he said it cost him $22 where he got his cut. And he gave me eight more dollars.”
“People are tickled to death to get a haircut at this price,” Blankenship said.
He joked that the key to keeping his haircut prices low was “starving a little.”
Over time, hair styles have changed also, and forced Blankenship to adapt with the times.
“Back when the Beatles were really popular in the 60s everybody wanted to let their hair grow out,” he said.
He said at that time there were three barber shops in Jamestown and two of them had to close.
“If our rent had been any higher we may have closed,” he said.
“There just wasn’t enough business for three shops and we just struggled along and ate a lot of beans and taters for a while.”
As the years progressed, one hair style has remained popular with many of his patrons, the flat top.
“But you can’t find many who’ll give a good flat top anymore,” he said.
When he’s not giving out flat tops, Blankenship can be found squirrel hunting with his three dogs, or dove and turkey hunting when in season.
He said he also enjoys working on his farm with his cattle and enjoys horseback riding.
“If I had to do it over, I’d be a school teacher and be retired right now,” he joked.
All jokes aside, Blankenship has been blessed with a great family and has made many friends all over the county.
He and his wife Connie have three children, Karyn Hoover, Kelly Milburn and Brett Blankenship.
His mother is Ella Blankenship of Jamestown.
His son-in-laws are House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown and Bryan Milburn, an assistant basketball coach at Campbellsville University.
He has three grandchildren, Blair Hoover, Ryan Hoover, Evan Hoover, Jay Milburn and Ty Milburn.