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.

Jim Harris


  • Barry Dougherty

    Don should be remembered with a sculpture in front of his shop as I will always recall him: Bifocals at the end of his nose and scissors in hand. I miss him and always will.

  • Mike

    I’m at a loss as to where I’m going to get my haircut now. I moved here 5 years ago from NY and by chance stumbled into Don’s shop…and from then on never went elsewhere. His stories and his banter were so fantastic and genuine, as was his love for his wife, who had passed away a few days prior to one of my haircuts a couple years ago after a long and hard aftermath from a stroke. Such an awesome guy – I found myself sometimes heading to Don’s a day or two earlier than I really needed to for a cut because I enjoyed talking to him so much. They don’t make ’em like him anymore and we’ll all miss you, Don. Rest in peace and God bless – the gents of CH and Mt Airy miss you.