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Connellsville barber: 'Enough Heads to Go Around'

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 7:18 p.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Curly or straight, men's haircuts sometimes take as long to trim up as women's cuts. Joe Mancuso measures the layers in the front, making sure everything is even and trimmed properly.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Barber shops are not only places of business, they are also places to catch up on news, discuss sports and talk about family and friends. Joe Mancuso proudly displays photos of his grandchildren on the walls of his shop with a collection on the wall in the background. With many regulars, Joe has also been able to watch the growth of many families over the years.

Joe Mancuso has trimmed men's hair since he was a youngster — and he still handles a mean pair of scissors nearly 60 years later.

He got his barbering stamina through genetics. His father, Joseph Mancuso Sr., taught Joe Jr. the trade.

“They carried Dad out of his shop feet first (in 1985 at age 74), and I'll probably go out the same way,” joked the Connellsville native, who served for many years on the Connellsville Area School Board.

Mancuso grew up watching his dad cut hair. He paid attention and he learned fast. By age 12, Mancuso swept his father's floors and was trustworthy enough to shave customers' necks. “Dad was the master; he taught me everything I know,” said Mancuso, 71.

To receive a barber's license, he had to pass a test in Pittsburgh and then serve an apprentice for 18 months under his father's tutelage, followed by the state board exam.

Long time on Crawford

In 1949, the elder Mancuso opened his shop along Crawford Avenue, a few doors up from the Brimstone Building. When Mancuso went out on his own after his father passed away, his shop was nearby. He stayed on Crawford Avenue for many years before moving to his present location on Arch Street, not far from city hall, about three years ago.

Although Mancuso has cut back on his hours (he works 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays), he has no intention of handing over his shears.

Some things have changed, but one remains the same ­ — the Saturday morning powwow sessions. Locals crowd into his shop for a jaw and to catch up on the latest local gossip.

Older clientele

His clientele has changed with the times, Mancuso said.

“It used to be there would be seven or eight kids every Saturday morning. Their dads would bring ‘em in. I don't get that many boys anymore; their moms take them to their own beauticians,” he said. “My customers are mostly middle-aged or older.”

Many of the heads he snips belong to faithful friends who have visited his shop for decades — all of them are men.

“I never messed with women's hair. I already had enough to keep me busy!” Mancuso exclaimed.

He takes appointments for Wednesdays, but the other days his shop operates the traditional barber way: walk-in, make yourself comfortable — and wait.

Mancuso said he uses mostly shears (scissors) and “a little bit of clippers,” but he's turned in his straight razor.

“There's a lot of health issues today. Things sure are different,” he said. “People worry about AIDS. It's just not worth the risk to use the razor.”

Puts out fires, too

When he's not cutting hair, Mancuso often can be found at New Haven Hose Fire Company on the West Side, where he has served as president for many years. New Haven's Thursday night bingos wouldn't be the same without the stocky local barber, well-known for his smile and cheerful greetings.

He and his wife, Joey, have two sons and a daughter — and five grandchildren. They like to go out on the weekends, just hanging out together, and especially look forward to visiting the kids.

“It's what we live for,” Mancuso said.

Connellsville has several longtime barbers, but Mancuso said that's never been an adversity.

“We all get along; there's enough heads to go around,” he said. “Competition is a good thing.”

Laura Szepesi is a contributing writer.

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