A tribute to Don Murphy
I just heard that my old friend and barber Don Murphy died. Apparently he was driving to work when he noticed a car behind him approaching way too fast. Don tried to pull over to let the person pass, but he lost control of his vehicle and hit a tree. An ignominious end for a man who had been through so much in life, but perhaps emblematic of the kind of guy he was.
I remember, as a 6-year-old in the 1950s, getting my hair cut by Don while sitting on the carousel horse at McFarland’s barber shop. That shop opened over 100 years ago. It eventually became Don’s shop and will now probably disappear like all the other vestiges of that time. Back then, that strip of Germantown Avenue between Allens Lane and Mount Pleasant really was a village. There was a pharmacy, a movie house, an A & P, a tavern, a 5 & 10, a gas station, and the barber shop right in the middle of it all.
Don knew the names of all his customers, their families, and the faces of the people who passed by his large window on a daily basis. He even knew the names of the trolley drivers, who would occasionally stop outside the shop for a quick word before heading up the hill.
Don gave great haircuts effortlessly, but he never rushed. The haircut always included conversation, and everyone knew that. I always allowed myself an hour per visit, and often stayed longer because he was just so much fun to be around. In spite of suffering more than his share of personal loss and failing health in later years, he never complained and always loved to tell funny stories.
Don Murphy was every good cliche you could think of: a true gentleman, a devoted family man with a heart of gold, a hard worker, and much, much more. I will miss him greatly. I can’t even imagine ever getting a haircut from anyone else, and I’m seriously considering just letting my hair grow, as a personal protest against a world in which everything moves way too fast.