Anything to be a barber

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Joe Davidson was a man of many talents and jobs until he opened his own barbershop on East Washington in Paris.

He was born in Paris in 1928 and started to school at Tanner School on the south end of Paris. He recalls his first day at school not quite knowing what to expect. When his teacher Mrs. Edwards, announced it was recess time and she said, “You may be excused.” He went out the door and onto the playground, but he didn’t stop there, he went back to his home on Austin Street.

His mother asked why he was home and he said the teacher excused them. He didn’t know recess was only for a few minutes. She immediately gave him a spanking and sent him back to school posthaste.

His next experience in education was at North Arm School, a one-room country school. He lived with his parents and brother in the Herb Lewis House, which was on the north end of the first curve on the Clinton Road. He sometimes walked the mile down the Clinton Road going east until he got to the next road and then another half mile till he got to the school. Many times the fourth grader and his older brother walked across the fields when they could, like a lot of the country kids of that era did.

Davidson remembers the first night in the new home with them going upstairs to bed. When he and his brother, “Bud,” got to the top of the stairs they came upon the sleeping room, which he thought had a bunch of wooden caskets. He wasn’t sure about that. The supposed caskets were incubators for hatching chicks that were left behind by the former tenant Ross Wright. Davidson still remembers the scary thought about sleeping among a bunch of caskets.

His dad worked at that time as a night watchman for the Merkle Broom Company. Davidson distinctly remembers a unique co-worker of his dad’s who always had green arms. The co-worker was called Jap Alexander, and he was involved in dipping the brooms in some kind of green dye. For a little kid, that was something to see and ponder.

The next year Davidson went to South Union School where the school district had to scrape up enough kids and a teacher to stay in service. They finally got seven students and James Dively for a teacher. The students were three Davidsons, three Divelys and a Grant boy.

Davidson, his little sister and big brother had three ways to get to school, but mostly they walked across the pastures, woods and fields, which was the most interesting and shortest.

Dively was good at teaching mathematics and Davidson excelled in that field partly because of this teacher. Davidson recalls going to track meets at Oliver School on state Route 1. He also recalled a track meet at Forest School when he went to North Arm School. Davidson remembers Sam Arbuckle the Superintendent of Edgar County Schools giving him his sixth grade diploma as he completed his schooling at South Union School.

Mayo School was where Davidson finished his grade school years and then off to high school. As he got to the mathematics classes at Paris High School, he really excelled while taking all the higher math classes available. He remembers Francis Hoke taught math at that time which complimented the teaching of Art Forster at Mayo. He took typing his senior year, which was a little unusual for a boy not on track for a business degree and was taught by Stella Risser, who was very strict.

When she reproached him for not doing exceptionally well he told her that he didn’t need the course to graduate and that made her mad. He may have done better after that and especially when he later apologized to her. He played a little football for Ernie Eveland, but Eveland did not give him the nod for playing basketball. Eveland did want Joe’s bother, “Bud,” to play basketball seeing he was large and well built, but Bud decided to go to work after grade school. Bud lost his life by drowning just a couple of years later.

After high school, Davidson went to work surveying with Floyd Ford and then in a few months worked at the Omar Bakery in Indianapolis.

In a few years, he found a job he liked working on the railroad living in a bunk car on the road anywhere from Indianapolis to St. Louis. He was part of a team that did the wiring and setting up centralized controls for the New York Central.

He was called to the Army in 1954 and served in a stateside capacity as an instructor when many recruits ended up in Germany or Korea. After service, he worked for General Telephone until a big layoff occurred.

Davidson was married with a couple of sons when he got laid off and needed to provide for his family. Using a G.I. Bill to help with tuition, he went to barber school in Decatur. The schooling was from noon until 8 p.m., but he had a family to support so he worked at a dairy until noon.

He completed barber school in 1959 and started with the Sizemore Barbershop on West Court in Paris until a fire shut down the operation in 1960. He then worked with the Harry Dean Barbershop along with Tom Willett until he decided to open his own shop.

In the 1970s, he bought a home on East Washington Street and put his barber sign out after Howard Yeargin remodeled part of the house into a barbershop. He barbered for more than 50 years until 2017 when he retired. He and his third wife now live very happily and comfortably on Jefferson Street.