Pella Chronicle

May 8, 2014

Flax reflects on 55 years in barber business

By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express

---- — 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.

Running his shop during the week gave him ample opportunity to appreciate Knoxville and her people. He made many friends over the years – Laverne Steineck and Jack Sterling to name a couple – but there was one who stood out over the rest. That was Ned Job.

“We were classics,” Flax said. He refers to Job as one of his “all-time great customers” and a good Knoxville person.

As a Knoxville businessman, Flax has not agreed with a few decisions made by the city council over the years. He laments what the Highway 5/92 bypass did to foot traffic downtown. After the bypass was installed, it was difficult to bring people downtown. The council’s decision to remove the flag poles and sprint cars is another thing that Flax does not support.

Despite his disagreement with these decisions, Flax believes Knoxville is a good town, one that has been good to him. He intends to spend his retirement years – at least six months of every year – still living in the Sprint Car Capital of the World. The other six months will be spent on his property in Arizona.