End of an era approaching at Milton barber shop
Cal's Barber Shop on Parkview Dr. in Milton has occupied the same space since 1963.
MILTON Cal Calhoon is a barber.
He’s not a stylist or beautician or cosmetologist, though that’s what it says on his license, he notes derisively.
His shop is a good old-fashioned barbershop—no frills, no women and no political correctness.
But the regular crowd of men gathered in Cal’s Barber Shop to talk sports, politics and local gossip keeps shrinking, and Cal, 70, says he “probably” will retire this spring.
That still-unnamed date could mark the first time in more than a century the storefront at 231 Parkview Drive hasn’t been a barbershop.
Friendly, straightforward Cal—only his wife calls him by his real first name, Merlin—took over the shop in 1963 from Homer Green, who had been the local barber for 35 years before that.
Signs with pithy slogans—“Do not talk about yourself, we’ll do that after you leave”—hang on the wood-paneled walls. Even the creams and sprays on the counter look like they’ve been there forever.
Field & Stream, Petersen’s Hunting and Motor Trend magazines lie stacked on a table in back, but the men seem to prefer the local papers. Talk radio blares in the background.
“The Milton girls are playing here tonight,” Al Astin, 68, announced on a recent morning, peering over the sports pages of the Wisconsin State Journal. “The boys are away.”
Keith Kildow, 75, came in for his cut soon after, and he wasn’t there five minutes before he mentioned “the good ol’ days”—in this case referring to adventures on Clear Lake.
Cal worked quickly and methodically, carefully buzzing the hair around Keith’s ears and snipping it at the top of his head. He shaved the back of Keith’s neck with a straightedge razor and vacuumed the clippings away with a Shop-Vac.
A steady stream of men came in and out of Cal’s shop that morning. Al’s son Mike Astin, 42, came to make an appointment and sat for a few minutes with the newspaper.
“I can remember being a kid and my dad used to drag me down here,” Mike said. “Now I come every two weeks.”
The talk turned at various times to bowling, rumors of another cougar in Jefferson County and a scandal at the Janesville School District.
“Most of the guys say they come here because their wives send ’em here, and then when they get home they want to know what’s the latest in Milton,” Cal said.
But he remembers a time when the shop was always full, mostly with men not even there for a haircut. Many of his best customers and friends have died, and younger men don’t seem interested in shooting the breeze at the local barbershop.
He pointed to spots where customers and friends used to pronounce judgment on the news of the day.
“Our little troublemaker, Geno, used to sit there,” he said, pointing to the bench next to the door. “People used to ask where he was if he wasn’t there.”
Cal remembers Clarence “Geno” Klingenmeyer as a lovable rogue with a sharp tongue. He died about a year ago.
Once, a minister was so offended by Geno’s coarse language that he followed Geno out the door and tried to give him a religious pamphlet.
“I had tears coming down my eyes, I was laughing so hard,” Cal said.
Those are the memories that make Cal hesitate to name a retirement date. He loves being part of the downtown community. He loved watching his children and grandchildren enter school across the street at Milton East Elementary School.
But he admits the work can take its toll. The job comes with no benefits, no insurance and no retirement package. He’s taken two vacations in 46 years.
“It’s time to take a break,” he said.