Maybe it started long ago, Cleburne resident Pam Beebe considered while sitting in front of her Anglin Street home on Thursday morning.
“When I was little I remember going to the barbershop with my dad,” Beebe said. “I’d sit on the front porch while he was getting his hair cut and get my peanuts and soda.”
Whether that was the impetus or not, Beebe went on to log 34 years of experience as a hairstylist.
Beebe joked that she’s since retired twice from cutting and styling hair, or at least tried to.
“But I keep coming back to doing it,” Beebe said with a laugh.
This time around is different, in part because the world is different thanks to the COVID-19 crisis. But this time, Beebe said, is also about giving back.
“My husband is a volunteer firefighter with Bono,” Beebe said. “That’s how he serves our community. Then I thought, ‘Well, I need to do something to serve our community too, and I can do haircuts.’”
Thus was born Beebe’s free haircuts idea, a service she began providing Monday in the front yard of her 100-plus-year-old home at 203 N. Anglin St.
“We’ve been told it was built in 1880,” Beebe said. “But there’s papers going back showing it may be quite a bit older.”
Beebe and her husband, Wayne Beebe, have lived in the house since 2000.
“The head of the railroad built this house,” Wayne Beebe said. “And the one next door.”
The party balloons, signs and temporary tent in the front yard make Beebe’s temporary clip and trim operation hard to miss.
“We’ll probably shut down early today because it looks like we’re going to get some weather coming in,” Beebe said on Thursday. “But otherwise, I’ll be out here 12-8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Just look for the free haircut signs.
“I’m just doing basic haircuts for men and women. I’m not doing any styling or anything. Not doing any colors or perms. Just plain haircuts.”
The need is great, Beebe and her husband figure.
State and local orders that shut down barber and beauty shops several weeks ago have led to a shaggier than usual group of Cleburnites walking about.
Beebe’s setup, an awning partially sided, includes all the equipment necessary for a touch-up and trim.
“I just have them sit right here in this chair,” Beebe said. “Try to make it as comfortable as possible for them. The sides are up so there’s not a whole bunch of people that can stand around and watch them get a haircut.”
An argument could be made that Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest state order — that allowed barber and beauty shops to reopen as of midnight Friday — renders Beebe’s endeavor superfluous.
“No, because so many people haven’t been working these last couple of months,” Beebe said. “Yes, they got a stimulus check. But that doesn’t last long when you’ve got to pay bills. The barbershops are back reopened now. But I’m going to be here to give free haircuts as long as I’m needed.”
Free being the operative word, and the difference between Beebe’s service and Dallas hair salon owner Shelley Luther who was recently sentenced to seven days in jail for keeping her salon open in spite of Dallas County ordinances to the contrary.
“[Cleburne City Marshal] Clint Ishmael did his inspection yesterday, “ Wayne Beebe said. “Someone who was over at Burger Bar called on us to the Cleburne police. But Clint came over and did his inspection. He said that if we were inside he could say something about it. But since it’s outside and free unless we have a bunch of people lined up and hanging out.”
Which is unlikely to happen, Pam Beebe said.
“We’re not going to let that happen,” Pam Beebe said. “One of us is always out here making sure no one congregates and that everyone practices social distancing.”
Ishmael on Thursday characterized Beebe’s adventure as a gray area.
“It’s not really a business per se because they’re not charging, and they’re doing this outside,” Ishmael said. “If they were inside, if they were charging, it would be a different story. But what she’s doing can also be seen as a mission or charitable outreach service and those have been deemed essential throughout the COVID-19 situation.”
Plus, Ishmael added, the fact that barber and beauty shops are now allowed to resume operations makes the earlier concerns a moot point at this point.
“I talked to them about the guidelines they need to follow on safety, sanitation, cleanliness and social distancing,” Ishmael said. “I checked to make sure they have masks, gloves, sanitizer and everything. So as long as she follows those safety rules she’s free to give people free haircuts.”
Things started slow on Monday, but have since picked up a bit, Pam Beebe said.
“Oh, we had about four the first day, about four yesterday,” Beebe said. “We just started so word hasn’t gotten out yet. It’s been mostly men and boys though I’ve had two women so far. One guy, a paramedic, brought all five of his kids with him. Three of the boys needed haircuts so I did their hair. And then there were several gentlemen yesterday. One of them said, ‘Wow, you’re kind of making history here.’
“So we haven’t been busy, busy yet. But that’s OK. The weather’s been nice lately and I’ve enjoyed sitting out here and waving at everybody going by.”