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Monte Gibson's barber shop has become a gathering place for Prineville fellas

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN 
 - Barber Monte Gibson gives a haircut to John Harrison while visiting with John Nelson. A lot of guys come into the barbershop just to visit.

Monte Gibson has no idea how many haircuts he's given in the 50 years he's been barbering.

"It'd take a dump truck to haul all the hair," he chuckled.

What he does know, though, is that he's enjoyed every one of them.

"I enjoy it. I enjoy the people. You meet a lot of people, and a lot of them become your friends," says the 74-year-old Prineville barber.

His best buddy, John Nelson, says Gibson is the only real barber around, and some fellows still want a real barber.

Barbering runs in Gibson's blood.

His father, Babe, worked in Burns and Bend, and his brother, Little Joe, was a barber. His mother's father was a barber, and an uncle also cut hair.

It was the spring of 1968 when Gibson started barber college in Portland. He was 24 years old when he graduated.

"Nov. 30 was the day I left barber college," Gibson says. "The first shop I worked in out of barber college, I got a $1.50 for kids and $1.75 for adults."

He worked around Portland a bit before moving to Bend and working with his father. He worked under his journeyman father for a little over a year before getting his journeyman license.

Gibson barbered in Bend for many years until about 34 years ago when he got word that long-time Prineville barber Wayne Parkey had died.

He decided Prineville was the place to be, so he set up shop in Parkey's place on North Main Street.

And he's been there ever since.

"I've even had some that drove from Bend and Redmond after I moved over here," Gibson said. "One guy just passed away a while back. I cut his hair ever since I've been a barber."

Gibson commuted from his home in Bend until about 15 years ago when he settled in Prineville for good.

He's cut hair for working people, loggers and mill workers. He keeps retired Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley looking sharp as well Dr. Denny Thomas.

John Harrison was in the other day for a free haircut. He'd received a certificate for one free haircut in a Christmas gift exchange.

Harrison said he used to come to Gibson for haircuts years ago when he lived in Prineville but had moved away to Ohio. Upon moving back to town more recently, he thought Gibson had retired but was glad to once again be in the chair of his former barber.

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN 
 - Harry Vaughan, of Prineville, was one of Monte Gibson's first customers when he opened his barber shop in Prineville 34 years ago.Harry Vaughan, who worked for years at Pine Products, was one of Gibson's first Prineville clients, and he's been coming to him ever since.

"He never notices I forget to pay him," Vaughan laughs. "Monte and I get along pretty good. He's put up with me for a long time."

The guys in the barber shop say Gibson has a lot of patience to have put up with them for half a century.

Stop in any time and likely half the fellas in there are just there to shoot the breeze. The shop is a gathering place for men who've come to know each other after all these years.

These days, a haircut is 10 bucks.

"Some of the seniors just have me give them a buzz job, so I don't charge them quite that much," Gibson said.

Not only has the price of a haircut changed in the 50 years Gibson has been in the business, but barber colleges are no longer around.

"People that come into the business now are basically out of a beauty college," he said. "I don't know of a barber college anywhere in the Northwest."

Aside from raising and racing horses, barbering is all Gibson has done for a living, and he doesn't really have any plans to set down his razor and scissors.

After all, he knows how to keep his business going.

"It's giving the person that type of haircut that he wants and being friendly and nice to people. You can't just be a smart aleck and expect to stay in business," he chuckled.

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