July 17, 2013

Years of shears

Logansport barber cutting hair for more than 60 years

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — What’s Logansport resident Lillian Webster’s secret to maintaining her job as a barber after turning 90 this year?

“A miracle,” she said with a laugh.

In an industry dominated by men both in and behind the chair, Webster has found a living for more than 60 years that has provided her with clients from Cass County to Florida.

Her latest 14 years in the profession have been spent at the barber shop owned by Charlie Goudy at 921 N. Third St., where she works Mondays and Thursdays.

After graduating from Grass Creek High School in Grass Creek in 1941, Webster married Richard Webster, now deceased, who started out as a barber in Royal Center in the 1940s.

Deciding to take on the trade herself, Webster enrolled in the International Barber College in Indianapolis, where she studied for six months before becoming licensed.

Barbering extends further beyond Webster and her husband in her family, as her brother, Albert Leazenby, ended up following in her footsteps and now runs a barber shop in Mexico in nearby Miami County.

When asked what made her want to pursue becoming a barber, her answer was simple but sincere.

“I just liked it,” she said in the waiting area of Goudy’s shop on a recent Thursday afternoon.

She went on to recall a friend, Fern Smith, who used to own a barber shop in town.

“I thought, if she can do it, I can do it,” she said with a laugh.

Webster went on to say she worked at her husband’s shop in Royal Center before he started a shop on North Third Street in Logansport, not far from where Goudy’s establishment is.

The couple eventually moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the 1960s to start a shop up there, Webster continued.

Goudy recalled the couple coming back to Logansport on their vacations to fill in at barber shops in town.

While in Fort Lauderdale, Richard became ill with cancer, forcing the couple to close their shop before he passed away. After that, Webster returned to Logansport, eventually coming to work for Goudy.

“We’ve known each other for years,” Goudy said of Lillian Webster. “She’s a very nice person, very cordial and everything. She knows a lot of people and has known a lot of people. Really a pleasant person.”

It was a different time for barbers when Webster and Goudy first got into the trade, they said.

In the early 1900s, there were more than 100 barber shops in Logansport, Goudy said. One of them was his father-in-law’s, which was started in 1934 across the street from his current establishment. Now, he continued, the town has about 10.

“It’s a slow time in the barber shop,” Webster said. “I used to never sit down.”

The two attribute this ongoing decline in barber shop business to salons that continue to acquire male clients.

Illustrating the “miracle” Webster cites as the reason that allows her to continue barbering after all these years, Webster said besides a recent bout that left her bedridden for three days, she hardly ever gets sick.

“Before that, I couldn’t tell you the last time I was sick,” she said.

However, she does get tired more easily these days, she added.

More than 60 years in any service industry will acquire a long list of clients, as Webster will tell you.

“It’s hard to tell how many clients at my age,” Webster said, “there are so many.”

Goudy agreed.

“Most customers that know her have known her,” he said. “She’s cut their hair since they were kids. People are people and most are good people. That’s the nice thing about it.”

As Webster ages, so too do her clients, with some passing away as the years go by. She recalled losing five in one week.

“I lose a lot at my age,” said Webster. To say it makes her sad is an understatement, she added. “Sometimes I just feel like losing my clippers.”

Despite the challenges that come with aging and losing friends and clients, Webster said she plans to continue barbering for as long as she can.

“As long as I can do it and as long as Charlie has me here,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t start a shop at her age. “I’ve had a lot of good customers. I’ve never had any trouble with anyone. I really enjoy the work.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or