Dave Evenson believes there should be a government program to protect him. He's an endangered species. Evenson is...a barber.
Owner of Dave's Barber Shop in Morris, Evenson has been barbering in this town for nearly 40 years, making him one of the older business owners in town. His shop at 511 Oregon Avenue is not a salon -- it is an old-fashioned, simple barber shop offering simple haircuts for men who do not wish to smell like a perfume bottle after their cut. And it may indeed be the last of a dying breed.
"No one is going to barbering school anymore," said Evenson, now 65 and working four days a week. "There used to be a five year waiting period to get in. Now, they're begging for students."
When Evenson started with Bob Reese in 1970, there were 11 barbers in Morris. After his time with Reese, Evenson worked for Merlin Beyer. He eventually bought him out and Beyer quit barbering. Evenson cut hair at various locations around the Atlantic Avenue area until finally landing at his current location five and a half years ago.
There was a time when barbers could cut women's hair, but it was illegal for women beauticians to cut men's hair. Around 1980, the beauticians took the issue to court and were victorious. Soon after that, Evenson noted, wives would take their kids to the beauty shop. "I don't see any women now," he said.
Evenson still remembers the first haircut he ever gave. "When I was 16, my older brother bought a clipper set at a hardware store. He woke me up at 6 a.m. and said, 'Give me a haircut.' That was the first one I gave." Evenson paused. "He wasn't too fussy."
In those days, Evenson was driving a livestock truck in Sunburg, Minnesota and he carried a set of clippers in the back of his truck. Whenever someone wanted a haircut, he would set up in the back of the truck or in a yard. "People paid whatever they wanted," recalled the longtime Morris resident. "It's not legal to charge until you've got you're (barbering) license."
And he got his license by attending the Brooks School of Barbering in St. Paul, an institution which is no longer in existence. "You've got to be a doctor to get your first license," Evenson half-joked. In barbering school, he studied about bones, muscles, the nervous and digestive systems. There are 16 different sections of a shave, he shared, and he had to learn muscle groups with names like omohyoideus and triangularus.
"It's not so bad," Evenson remembered. "But to remember all those big words when you're Norwegian..."
In the days when barbers did more shaves for its customers, there were more cuts, scrapes and - well -- blood than today. So the barbers had to have some knowledge of the workings of the inside of the body. "An acne-ridden kid would get hacked up in a shave," as Evenson put it.
"When I first came to town, I had an injector blade," recalled Evenson. "I knew it was sharp. I told one guy, 'Did you quit drinking beer? Well, maybe you should start drinking beer again.'"
The super sharp blade was also used to thin out hair. "It feels like it's right down to the skin," said Evenson. "One college kid jumped out of the chair (at the procedure), yelling 'What the hell are you doing?!'"
The East Side resident told how his one-time partner Max Smedstad bought an injector razor to try to follow Evenson's early success. But his partner had a different cutting style, and the first time he used the razor he put a gash in the customer's cheek. "That was his first and last cut with a razor," noted Evenson, dryly.
Since the advent of the AIDS crisis, the State Health Department has stopped barbers from using razors for shaving.
Evenson hails from Sunburg, a town he refers to as "Norwegian country."
"They still talk Norwegian in the café," he said. "It's fun to go back and listen. I understand it all, but I can't speak like I used to." Before coming to Morris, Evenson worked in Golden Valley, St. Louis Park and Brooklyn Center in Minnesota, as well as three years in Seattle, Washington. But he yearned to get back out in the country and Morris had an opening in 1970 for him.
His shop is a virtual museum of Norwegian visual gags that hang from the walls. "People bring it in," he noted. "They like to pick on Norwegians." He claimed to have boxes full of the gags, such as the Norwegian briefcase, which shows a pair of underwear hanging from a wooden hanger. Or the Norwegian bowling ball, a rectangular brick with 3 holes drilled in it.
A joke is not far off from the jovial Evenson. In the middle of an interview for this story, Evenson answered the telephone in his shop. "I'm down here doing an interview," he tells the caller, "...for a new job!"
There are many highlights for Evenson looking back over the past four decades. He did 36 haircuts in one day, three shy of his personal record in barbering school. He recalled cutting the hair of William Moore, the author of "The Philadelphia Experiment," which was made into a major motion picture. There was a time when he would give monthly haircuts to juvenile delinquent boys from Totem Town. One 11-year-old had stolen a car. "I had to put him on a booster seat," said Evenson.
Then there was the time when a college student wanted a perm. "I told him he'd have to bring a 12-pack or I wouldn't do it," recalled Evenson. "And he did."
Or the older guy from Boulder, Colorado who traveled through the country roads to see the scenery and stopped in Morris for a haircut. Then he came two more years in a row. "I bet you guys didn't drive as far as I did to get a haircut," the man told Evenson's waiting clients.
Besides barbering, Evenson is also known in the area for his legendary horseshoe throwing. In his prime, he was ranked as the #10 horseshoe thrower in the state of Minnesota.
"Around 1976, I threw 17 tons of horseshoes, and walked 45 miles pitching horseshoes," he noted. The number of ringers that he threw averaged 58 percent. He ran the Tri County Horseshoe League for 21 years, which in its heyday had 127 male and female members but now totals around 20.
"I always wanted to be in the State A Class, but you needed to be one of the top eight (in the state)." However, he and his wife Yvonne (whom Evenson referred to as "a Swede with a French name") are both in the state Horseshoe Hall of Fame in West St. Paul as promoters of the sport.
Evenson doesn't pitch shoes much anymore ("all the competition died around me around here"), but he does enjoy golf, playing bridge and poker. For years, he has owned a 1963 Chevy Cruiser. He also enjoys traveling. Last year he spent two weeks in Alaska and met a man who knew one of his clients from Morris. This year he went fishing in Canada. And his barber shop will be closed from Sept. 11 to 24 while he travels to Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Dave and Yvonne have two sons, Jerrod in Minneapolis (who could pitch 50 percent ringers) and Nathan in Los Angeles, as well as three grandsons.
Evenson is not sure when he'll retire. "I'd kind of miss it if I didn't do it," he admitted. And with a tinge of sadness, this endangered species is left to concede: "I doubt if there'll be another barber (in Morris) if I quit."