Barber leaves lasting legacy

You could get more than a trim at William Colson's shop. He's a lesson in perseverance.

06/29/2008 12:00 AM

06/28/2008 9:02 PM

William Colson is at peace with the bulldozers that will level his longtime barbershop on Gilead Road this week.

“I'm not sad,” Colson, 74, said last weekend as he and family members reminisced about his 42 years in the shop. “I'm looking forward to retirement.”

The bulldozers will clear the way for Discovery Place Kids. I never realized Colson's Barber Shop had to be razed for the project until Colson's daughter, Tamela, called.

Colson's is a Huntersville landmark.

Son Donald figures his dad cut hundreds of thousands of heads of hair in the 900-square-foot shop he's rented near N.C. 115. Haircuts were 75 cents when he started, and the shop was packed over the years with kids and adults.

His $10 men's haircuts are a bargain.

Colson said he runs into adults whose hair he cut when they were young, “and they have grandchildren.”

He moved into the Huntersville space in 1966 after working for barber Ralph Johnson in Davidson for a decade. The shop became available after barber Pete Clark died.

Colson turned to barbering after losing his left leg in an accidental shooting on a rabbit hunt in 1956. He has a prosthetic leg and uses crutches.

He underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in 1998 and is on daily dialysis at home due to kidney failure.

He is from Cottonville in Stanly County, where his grandfather had a 450-acre farm. Colson later was a laborer who helped build the Salisbury VA hospital.

He and his wife, Dorothy, raised three sons and three daughters in their Davidson home. Dorothy accompanied him to the shop most days. She's also had a cleaning service for 35 years.

Their children also hung out at the barber shop, where they learned the importance of hard work, they said.

“You work hard, stay honest, and good things will happen,” Donald said.

They also recalled how itinerants would occasionally come in asking for money. Their dad would let them clean the shop and then pay them.

The children also learned the importance of good behavior.

“Whenever we did something wrong, Daddy would bring us down here and cut our hair off,” Donald said.

It was the age of afros, son William Jr. recalled, so imagine the reaction of other kids to your suddenly bald head.

Tamela said her parents showed by example the joys of being your own boss. She is an information technology project manager in the financial services industry. But she and Donald also own VIP Courier Express, a Charlotte-based delivery service.

Tamela said she's sad to see the barbershop close “because of all it's meant to us.”

Her dad, however, said he's “looking forward to my new field: retirement.”

He'll help his wife on cleaning jobs, he said. And he'll cut hair at local homes for the elderly.

Barbers never really do retire.

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