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Doug Brewer 91, is back at his barber chair

Oct 24, 2019 11:11AM

91-year-old Doug Brewer is back cutting hair after over seven decades on the job and a very brief retirement. Brewer's seen with customer Paul Solomon and Belmont Beautique and Barbery owner Christine Wallace. Photo by Alan Hodge

by Alan Hodge

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After a “failed retirement”, 91-year-old Belmont barber Dough Brewer has taken up his scissors, comb,  clippers and returned to what he loves best- cutting hair.

About  a year ago, Brewer left his space in the former Belmont General Store for the last time and went home,  but even though some of his regular customers came to his house for a trim, he became bored.

“Retirement got old real quick,” Brewer said.

Meanwhile, beautician Christine Wallace, who was familiar with Brewer from his downtown Belmont days, opened up a shop named Belmont Beautique and Barbery in the Main Street Crossing  shopping center. She heard about Doug's downtime dilemma and offered him a chair in the shop and Doug jumped at the chance.

“One of my customers suggested I reach out to him and I did,” she said. “I hope to learn a lot from him.”

Doug's customers are glad he's back.

“A lot of them have been coming in,” Wallace said. “He even has his own facebook page now, Doug the Barber the Original”.

Last Wednesday, Brewer was giving Paul Solomon a trim.

“It's real fine that he's back,” said Solomon.

Brewer  has been  plying his trade for over seven decades now.

He turned 91 on August 26 and grew up on the Aberfoyle Mill village in East Belmont. Both his parents worked in the mill and so did Doug, but his interest turned to barbering when he started work as a shoeshine boy at Bill Ballard's Barbershop.

“I would hang out at the barbershop,” Brewer said. “There was a couple of little boys who used to play on the railroad tracks and then they would come in when Bill was at lunch and I would practice cutting their hair.”

In 1944, Brewer forged a birth certificate and joined the U.S. Navy. He was only 16 years old. He served on several vessels including the battleship Texas, aircraft carrier Champlain, and for a brief time on a sub. 

“On the sub I slept in a bunk with a torpedo above and one below me,” Brewer recalled.

While he was in the Navy, Brewer honed his haircut skills.

“I wasn't  classified as a barber, but could do a pretty good job job at it,” he said. 

When he returned to Belmont after the war, Brewer looked up Ballard.

“Bill said if I went to barber school he would give me a job,” Brewer said. “I went to work for him in 1946."

After a spell at Ballard's establishment, Brewer opened his own place next  to the Park and Shop grocery store on Wilkinson Blvd. He stayed there until the late 1960s when he came back to Belmont and opened a shop on East Catawba. Later,  he moved his base of operations to a spot in the rear of Belmont General Store.

Over the course of his career, Brewer has seen many heads- including some famous ones.

“I've cut the hair of many dignitaries,” Brewer said. 

Here's a list of just  a few of the Who's Who of Brewer's barbering- journalist Edward R. Murrow, and NASCAR drivers Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner, and Fireball Roberts. He also cut the hair of many Billy Graham staffers, and a Japanese ambassador named Yoshiki.

“Yoshiki gave me a five dollar tip when the haircut only cost $1.75,” Brewer said.

Many famous boxers and wrestlers were also among Brewer's regulars.

“There were so many I can't remember all their names,” he said.

Famous customers are one thing, but not Brewer's bread and butter.

“It's the people of Belmont that I love,”   Brewer said.  “They are such wonderful friends. They are just plain people but outstanding in every way.”

Even though he's 91 years old Brewer is still in good health and loves chewing  the fat with his customers and pals. Retirement is no longer in his vocabulary.

“I might as well keep on doing what I love,” he says.