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by Lucie Roy
Morinville News Correspondent
After more than 50 years in the business, local barber Paul Henry Casavant is trading in his scissors and clippers for garden shears.
The 76-year-old Morinville man said Jan. 31 was his last shift at Paul’s Barber Shop located at 10404-101 Avenue where he has owned and operated his home business since 1996. Casavant reflected that it is strange thinking it will be all over. He will miss everyone. A lot of these guys have grown up and grown old with him.
“He is really going to miss it, winter time especially,” his wife Clara said. “Not too much going on outside in the winter time besides shovelling snow. But he will keep busy. He can’t sit still. He has to keep moving.”
Casavant ran the same shop a couple of streets over – down on Main Street at Paul’s Confectionery and Barber Shop from 1966 to 1988. After that, he started a barber shop and beauty salon named Paul’s Barber Shop & Family Hair Care from 1988 until 1996.
Both sitting in the barber shop chairs, Paul and his wife Clara reflected on his five-plus decades in the business, the joy of satisfying the customers and his plans for retirement.
Casavant was issued his Certificate of Proficiency in the barber trade in November of 1965 from the National Barber School in Edmonton, which is closed now. He then started barbering in Edmonton with Dieters Hair Stylist and worked there for four years. It is after that, he and his twin brother purchased the confectionery and barber shop on Main Street in Morinville in 1966.
The building is still standing to this day, (CX Shooters/ Free Press) but no longer has the barber pole outside the by the window of the store.
They were in that building until 1988 with Barber Ernie Comeau helping out for eight years.
They then went across the street and started a second shop. This was a barber shop and beauty salon, and they had suntan beds, esthetician and exercise bed, and four hairdressers. Named Paul’s Barber Shop & Family Hair Care they were there from 1988 to 1996, then decided to close it and create a home-business-type barber shop where they have been to this day.
Casavant reflected on the more than half century of haircuts, customers and memories his business brought him. He has seen lots of different hairstyles and did thousands of cuts in his career.
“Not much has changed in barbering equipment when it comes to clippers and scissors, but styles have changed,” Casavant said, recalling when the kids requested the Caesar cut. It was short and had the flip in the front, and then there was the skateboard cut. He didn’t really know what it was and he tried and got it. From the style of the 60s to the anything goes hairstyle of today, Casavant saw it all in his 50 plus years. Casavant said it started out with the businessman’s haircut of the 50s. “All the haircuts were nice and neat, cut straight in the back over the ears – whatever, and when boys starting growing their hair long that was a big change,” he said.
What made it special for Casavant was that he didn’t have customers per se – but instead friends, whom he happened to cut hair for.
Casavant said he had a customer who lived in Rocky Mountain House. This guy would get on his plane, fly to Edmonton, and rent a car to get his hair cut, go back to Edmonton and fly back out.
The last three to four years he lost many regulars because of age, seniors who have passed on. Those who moved from Morinville still came back to town to get him to cut their hair.
Casavant said he has many long- time customers. The longest was Keith Reid of Namao who used to run Johnny’s Store. Reid was a customer at Dieters where Casavant was cutting hair, then followed him to the Barber Shop in Morinville. “He was my faithful customer from youth to his 70s and was there on his wedding day,” Casavant said.
His customers ranged from very young to old, and several generations of local families. Regular customers would be sure to bring their sons in to have a haircut, and down the generations, the tradition would continue.
“Lots of kids all had their first haircuts done at Paul’s Confectionery,” wife Clara said, going on to say it was all by word of mouth. They did not have to advertise as they couldn’t keep up as it was. When they had a new customer, they would ask how they heard about the shop. It was always so and so told them to come there.
Casavant missed it already, no doubt about it, it’s hard to let go. But he is very grateful that people put their trust in him and let him serve this long, he appreciates it.
Casavant was born in Quebec in 1940. The family left Quebec when he was two years of age and moved to Leoville, Saskatchewan. After four years, they moved to Joussard, a small town situated in Northern Alberta. His parents Eugene and Irene Casavant had a little log house and store there for 33 to 34 years. Paul said Denise was the oldest and he and his brother all lived in the back of the little store. Paul went to school in McLennan and to the College Notre-Dame of Falher. Eventually, Denise went to the convent Sisters of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgins in Edmonton and would later marry Tom Houle.
Carla was born in Germany and the family came across to Canada about 1942 when she was 13 months old. The family decided there was nothing for them in Germany after the war and came to Canada by train from Halifax across the country to Onoway, where they had relatives that sponsored them. “I guess you came across when you had sponsors,” Clara said.
Clara met Paul when one of his best friends, Ernie Proulx, was getting married and they were all at a banquet hall in St Albert. Paul and Clara married in September of 1969 in Morinville and their children went to school here.
Casavant looks forward to spending more time with his wife, children Celine, Maurice and Joanne and three grandchildren. He is also going to try and get some fishing in as well. Other plans includes house renovations to convert the house back to its former self before the barber shop and have the dining room back.
Casavant said there are currently two barber shops in town and a third to open at the hotel and many hairstylists now do both men’s and women’s hair.