'An absolute privilege' - Barber reflects on 60 years beyond the fringe
- Credit: Danielle Booden
All around him young barbers in their 20s are opening up but Philip Jones always makes a point of dropping by and introducing himself.
After 60 years trading in the same street in Great Yarmouth he wishes them the same level of enjoyment, satisfaction, and success the job has given him.
He jokes that with him getting long in the tooth they can have his clients soon, but he has no intention of giving up just yet - he loves it all too much: the chat, the camaraderie, the clients he regards as friends.
Mr Jones has met people from all over the world, mingled with the stars, and got up close and personal to many of the movers and shakers that make his town tick.
He is not bothered whether a dustman or a surgeon is next to sit in his barber's chair - he's always up for a chat in his unassuming shop where many of his clients have become friends.
The 75-year-old has been cutting hair in Deneside for 60 years this month - and up to five generations of loyal clients are testimony to his service.
PJs, in common with every other hairdresser, is closed under the coronavirus lockdown.
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"You meet all sorts of characters," he said.
"People have told me amazing stories from the wars. They weren't boasting, it wasn't like that, they just wanted to tell me because we got on.
"In the old days it was like a private members club.
"Some people would come in every week and have the same appointment at the same time and the same people before and after them would be there and everyone got to know each other."
Mr Jones started just along the street at the barbers above Jany's Pets.
There he was an apprentice for five years with an extra one for "improving" and is proud to be one of the last apprentices to register with the Royal College of Barbers and Surgeons before it abandoned the barbers.
Helping to hone speed and accuracy was a contract with the East Anglian School for the deaf and blind in Gorleston where he and boss Brian Burrell would sometimes see 100 heads in a day in a conveyor belt of cutting.
Seeing the children, some still in nappies, file in - the sighted leading the blind - was a poignant scene that has always stayed with him.
"They were lovely boys and they looked after each other so well. It was a real band of brothers."
The contract came to an end in the 70s when longer hair came into fashion, helping them to hide their hearing aids.
Having served under Mr Burrell he went on to manage the shop before setting up on his own further up the road where he still is and has been since 1980.
Being so close to the old ABC theatre meant all the stars of the day would come in for a tidy-up including Ken Dodd, Harry Secombe, The Shadows, The Bachelors and Lonnie Donegan.
During the oil and gas boom of the 1960s he had many wealthy clients which meant invites to swish parties including a first ever barbecue - something so exotic in Yarmouth at the time that he and girlfriend Jane (now his wife of 50 years) were mesmerised, saying they had "never seen anything like it".
The Americans, he said, were generous hosts and came from a culture where the barber had status in the way a doctor or bank manager did in the UK - some bringing their families to pose for photographs with him.
However the stories that really stick with him are the ones from the wars.
One customer was a Spitfire pilot who used to "buzz" over his mother's roof on his way home to let her know he was safe. Another had bailed out of a Blenheim over Berlin.
Meanwhile an early submarine commander had been the first to capture a German submarine after a battle where not a single shot hit target.
But he received no recognition because it was said he risked his craft and should have been concentrating on bringing in supplies.
His oldest customer was 104, and he did his hair at home until he died.
His longest travelled was one chap who would get three buses from Aldeburgh in Suffolk, and a hospital doctor who moved to Australia but would always come back to PJ's when he returned and did not have a hair cut on the other side of the world for five years.
Today some things were the same, and some were different.
Others were the same again - a short back and sides becoming a "fade" in modern parlance.
"If you live long enough things come around twice," he said. "Here's to another 60 years."