Lifelong Devine resident and Natalia High School graduate, Manuel Rodriguez, after 48 years as a barber, is retiring! He began his career as a barber at Richard Chapa’s Lytle Barber Shop where he worked for 1½ years before opening his own shop at Pyron’s in Devine in 1972.
Recalling the early years, Manuel shares that when he first opened his Devine shop, there were five other barbers in the town. During that first year, he wanted to give up. “Some days,” his wife Melissa shares, “he would have only one or two customers, and all the while, he was trying to figure out how to support a young family and pay rent.” But, he never locked the doors early, and he waited patiently. He always went to work every day and never gave up hope.
His determination was rewarded, as, after a year or so, Manuel started to get busier. A couple of barbers in town had retired, and others just “shut their doors.” Subsequently, Melissa adds, “Manuel became the only barber in a big area who has been open for so long.” Customers have come from as far as Batesville just for a haircut. And, over the years, Manuel has made so many great friends. He even would make house calls when any of them fell ill.
Knowing that barbers hear gossip of every fashion, we asked Manuel for some tales, and to this Melissa responded: “Oh my goodness – Manuel says there are so many!! But they are all secrets and he promised not to tell…lol!”
Nevertheless, Manuel does share some amusing anecdotes.
‘Way back in the day’ when Louis Stroud was a Driver’s Ed teacher he would always make a quick stop at the shop to bring me Bill Miller’s tea.
It never fails that once a week someone would fall asleep while waiting to get into the barber chair and would keep the customers entertained by the snoring.
Back when I was in the fire department, I was assistant chief, and I drove the First Responder Unit. I remember we had a call one day and Richard Ramirez, at the time around 13 years old, was alone at the shop getting a haircut. We received a fire call, so I had to leave the shop and I didn’t want to leave this young kid by himself, so I took him to the call. (I couldn’t do that anymore.)
Number one conversation in the shop was the weather! Especially after it rained. All day long the men would ask each other ‘how many inches did you get?’ … all day loooooong.
With fondness, Manuel recalls how he cut the first haircuts for children, and for their fathers, and for their grandfathers. Importantly, he adds that for many years he cut hair with his brother, Gilbert Rodriguez, who worked part time as a barber.
Upon Manuel’s retirement, some men have remarked that they were going to put together a money drive to get Manuel into another building, as “they really don’t know where they are going to go to get a ‘real man’s haircut!” Melissa adds, “Wives of the men are even concerned about where their husbands will go next.”
Manuel shares some “fun facts.” In 1972, he charged $1.75 for a haircut and $2 for a hot shave. At his retirement, Manuel charged $10 for haircuts. He also recalls that in the early 80s, Tim Moeller was his Shoe Shine Boy!
The following letter of praise was recently sent to Manuel upon his retirement:
Manuel, I think you cut Bennie Anderson’s hair for all your 48 years. He would not let anyone else cut his hair. Our granddaughter cuts hair, but no way would he let her cut his hair. He liked to go real early and wait for you to open. He told me that you had to wake him up some mornings when you got there. He would be asleep in his pickup.
I hope you have a happy retirement and always know that Bennie Anderson thought you were the best.
Manuel and Melissa have four children, all of whom graduated from DHS ~ Alex, Veronica, Erica, and Jessica. They have seven grandchildren ~ Zachary, Kaitlyn, Kyra, Isaiah, Jacob, Alexandria, and Aubrey ~ and one great granddaughter, Aria.
Despite pressure from patrons, Manuel is ready for retirement. As for his future plans, he shares that he and Melissa want to add several destinations to their travel log. In the past, they have visited Lake Tahoe, NM, Las Vegas, NV, Florida, Portugal, and Spain. Now, they look forward to taking more trips abroad. Their next one is set for Italy this November.