Barbers of The Stag ‘like therapists’

Lost photographs could shine a light on unrecorded Maple Ridge history

Arthur Wells shines Bob Kilsby’s shoes while a customer looks on

Arthur Wells shines Bob Kilsby’s shoes while a customer looks on

The Stag Barbershop has occupied a unique space in the municipality for the past 58 years. Under the watchful eye of moose and deer heads that lined the walls, friends could discuss everything from morality to politics, home life to sports, religion to gossip.

The barbers, who acted as companions and counsellors, were just as unique as the shop.

Al Clark, the original owner, worked at a logging camp in Harrison during his youth. One evening, he looked around the bunkhouse and saw a lack of grey hair; men didn’t grow old in this profession because it was so dangerous.

Al explained: “You didn’t walk around the camp, you ran.”

He began to think that perhaps a change in profession was due. When a fellow logger asked if there was anyone who could cut hair, Al thought, “Sure, I can do that.”

Al’s friendly and easygoing demeanour were perfect for his new profession; he called everyone ‘son’ no matter the age of the patron, and was known to leave the shop now and again to enjoy a coffee with clients.

“I never didn’t want to go to work,” Al recalled. “Every day was different.”

Even after he retired, Al continued to be a fixture at the Stag, covering people’s holiday shifts for the next 10 years before truly retiring to Ladysmith.

Born and raised in Hammond, Bob Kilsby worked alongside Al for 35 years. An accomplished boxer in his teenage years, Bob continued to be involved in sports throughout his life, playing baseball, hunting, fishing and participating in the local bowling scene.

Bob ‘the Barber’ Kilsby came through with flying colors in the Maple Ridge Classic 10-pin league Friday night,” declared a March 1964 Gazette article. “He rolled a 595 triple for the top individual performance of the week.”

Reading through entries on the “We Call it Haney” Facebook page, it becomes clear that Bob was well known and loved in Maple Ridge.

Derrien Kilsby, Bob’s daughter-in-law, remembered how Bob “had a way of making everyone he spoke to feel important, and doubly so if you were sitting in his barber chair. He would remember your name, where you worked, your family, and every other detail you shared with him.”

His daughter Patricia added that Bob and the other barbers “were like therapists – they were told things by their customers, and understood about secrecy and didn’t betray it.”

One of the shop’s most intriguing characters was Arthur Wells. Arthur joined the team in 1963 and worked as the shoe-shiner for the next 28 years. However, most people remember him for his skill with a camera rather than a cleaning cloth. A fixture at almost any event around town, Arthur visually recorded the people and places that made Maple Ridge special.

No one knows what happened to these photographs, but one can imagine that they would shine a bright light into the attic of unrecorded Maple Ridge history. If you know what happened to Arthur’s photographs, please contact Val Patenaude at the Maple Ridge Museum at 604-463-5311.

Sandra Borger is a researcher with the Maple Ridge Museum.