By Mike Goodson
On Sept. 29, Etowah County lost a landmark that had its beginnings in the county’s early history.
The Barber Shop on Hwy. 77 in Southside closed its doors for the final time on Sept. 29, allowing Judy Richardson to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
In a much simpler time, the countryside of America was covered with small places of business remembered fondly as a neighborhood barbershop, a place where one could get a haircut, a shave or even a shoeshine.
Such establishments were both alike and unique and will be fondly remembered by the men and young boys who frequented their favorite shop. Many men recall their first trip to the barber and the fear of sitting in the huge chair for the first time to get their first haircut that at one time cost the unheard of amount of 75 cents to $1.
Many things are recalled fondly about the small barbershops, from one to two chairs to the barber pole out front. The smell of hair tonic and shave cream will be remembered for a lifetime. Most shops featured a shoeshine stand where a man could get his shoes shined for 50 cents.
These wonderful places are slowly vanishing as barbers retire and are replaced by the more elaborate styling salons of today.
Richardson began barbering in 1979 under her own license. She had attended Gadsden Technical School, where she earned a technical degree in barbering and cut hair under an apprentice license. After graduation, Richardson went to work under local barber Arthur Green when the legendary barber had his shop on North 4th Street in Gadsden. Green was widely known throughout the area, as he was trained in the barbering profession by Mac Cummins.
The shop later moved to Broad Street and was well known throughout Etowah County. Richardson had the privilege of working with some of the finest barbers in the area, including Joe Hamby, Jack Bentley and shoeshine specialist J.C. Stokes. These barbers had over 173 years of combined experience.
In July of 1991 Richardson bought the business from Arthur Green and moved The Barber Shop to a larger building on South 4th Street, where she and husband, the late Tommy Richardson, operated their two businesses – The Barber Shop and Richardson’s Accounting.
Judy made her last move in 2004, relocating to Southside. Her barbershop soon became a local museum of Republic Steel Corporation memorabilia, antiques and University of Alabama prints. Shortly after announcing her retirement, Judy donated her vast collection of Republic Steel items to the Gadsden Public Library and the Alabama City Historical Association.
Upon her retirement Judy plans to spend time working in her home and doing yard work around her property. She also plans to continue offering barbering to shut-ins, a ministry she began many years ago and has continued throughout the area. Richardson has made plans for Southside to continue to have a barbershop, as one will open in her location in early October.