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McKee retiring after 59 years as a barber

| October 21, 2020

Bill Medley and John McKee share memories as McKee trims Medley’s hair. McKee has been cutting Medley’s hair for more than 50 years. McKee will be retiring on Oct. 23 after 59 years as a barber. (Jen Jones)

“I’m just going to miss the people. It’s going to be so hard to not see everyone.  The community has been so good to me,” said John McKee on his retirement after being a barber for 59 years.

McKee went to barber college with money he made hustling pool so his wife could go to college and be a teacher. “I always wanted to be a history teacher.  My English teacher told me I should be an English teacher. But – I ended up where I was meant to be.” He said his wife, Judy, would even tell people that he purchased her engagement ring with money he made playing pool.

“When I was a senior in high school, I worked at GE on the 11–7 shift, went home and got ready for school, then had football practice and went to work. My boss asked me once if there were money problems as home, but really, I told him the only problem I had was having to go to work when my teammates went to Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl.” He graduated from Roscoe.

“A friend of mine told me to never retire because I would end up finding another job so I’d have something to do and I would hate that job. But I have too many things I enjoy doing to get bored,” said McKee. He said his wife asked if he was going to wait to retire until they were too old to do anything, and he decided she was right. At 80 years young, it was time to retire.

His plans include golf, hunting, fishing and taking orders from Judy.

“I’m going to miss hearing all of the stories. Everyone who came in had their own story and I enjoyed hearing most of them. I do remember once a young man came in and told me to make the haircut a good one because lots of people would be viewing it. He killed himself soon after. The next time someone came in and mentioned people would be viewing it, I knew what he meant and tried to talk him out of it. That happened three times to me. One decided not to do it, but the other two are gone.”

One family told McKee that he has cut hair for five generations of their family. “I can think of lots of families where I cut four generations. Who would have thought I would be 80 and still doing this?”

McKee said his grandmother had a farm and knew he had saved about $1,800 to go to barber college. He was working at GE at the time and she told him if he would stay at GE, she would sell her farm to him for that $1,800. “She really wanted me to keep working there.”

He began his career in Newark and worked there for two years, before returning to Coshocton. He opened his own shop on Oct. 23, 1963 on Sixth Street. His last day will be Oct. 23, 2020.

He and Judy have two children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.  “I plan on spending more time with them.”

“The best advice I ever got about cutting hair was to look at how the person had their hair parted before I ever started cutting. Sometimes, you get to cutting and forget how it looked.” Judy also encouraged him to take up golf when he opened his business. “I told her I didn’t want to hit no little white ball and then chase it, but she told me men would be coming in and want to talk about golf, so I better learn.”

“I think, after I retire, I’m going to get up at 6:30 a.m. like I always have, get ready for work… and then go back to bed,” said McKee. “I’m just going to miss everyone.”

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