One of the staples of Knoxville, barber Flax, recently left the business for the life of a retiree. He spent 55 years cutting hair. Of those, 36 were spent in Knoxville. The final location of his business, on Robinson Street, was home to his shop for nearly 30 years.
Flax journeyed into his field by attending barber college. After losing an eye as a young man in Melcher, he was disqualified from joining the service and most factory work. Barber college was his best option.
When he was getting out of barber college, he became an apprentice in Knoxville. From there, he opened a shop in Melcher, one that he continued to operate for 13 years. Flax’s journey also included 13 months in Des Moines, as well as operating “one of the best barber shops in Iowa” in Pleasantville for four years.
Prior to coming to Knoxville, Flax also taught at barber college. His first shop in Knoxville was near Dan’s Village Pump. The shop opened during the Knoxville Nationals.
After the building was sold, he reopened the shop across from Iowa State Savings Bank. The third location was along Main Street, where Eye Health Solutions stands today.
In the early days of his barber career, Flax traveled throughout the country. He spent his weekends teaching other barbers how to do their jobs. By doing this, he was also treated to learning how to use the newest tools of the trade, as well as techniques. All of these trips, as exhausted as it left him, also made him eager to return to his shop and try the things he had learned.
“That was the greatest part of my career,” Flax said. “You couldn’t wait to get back to your barber shop to use them.”
He was left with little time to do much else.