November 18th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 45
‘John the Barber’ providing cutting service since 1959
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
John Vigna, sharpening his razor for a new client at his barber shop.
Pass Herald Reporter
I needed a haircut. I had been getting pretty shaggy, with hairs sticking out every which way so I went to John’s Barber Shop.

Walking into John Vigna’s barbershop is like walking into another era: the smell of pomade, Vigna casually stropping a single edged razor, the sign just behind the second barber's chair, declaring $8 adults, $6 pensioners, $6 infants.

Owner and sole employee, Vigna is old school and I was hoping I wouldn’t walk out of the place with my grandfather’s haircut; he was bald.

I would not be disappointed.

“You need a nice gentlemanly haircut, you know what I mean?” said Vigna, as he sat me down in an ancient barber’s chair.

Vigna has been cutting hair at his location on main street in Blairmore since 1959, he said. He’s seen mines open and close, boom and bust cycles, businesses and mayor come and go, hairstyles go from short to long and back again. And in that time he’s learned that hair is as steady a commodity as they come.

He works with his customers facing away from the mirror, I did not ask whether this was a special part of his act or if the chair no longer swiveled, and listened to the story of his decades in the hair care business.
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Born in Venice, Italy, the spry something year old began cutting hair at the age of 13 while working at a barbershop in Lucerne, a compact city in central Switzerland, in near Dickensian conditions.

“I used to make three Swiss Franks a day,” he said. “We worked from eight o’ clock in the morning until 11 p.m. at night.”
But they did feed him.

“We used to eat lunches every three hours over there,” as he remembers it. “Tea and potatoes,” which sounds like a strange lunch combination but could well be par for the course in Switzerland.

In the 1950s he left for Canada with $20 in his pocket. Vigna then spent four nights and five days on a train to the Pass.

“I came here because I had a cousin here,” he said. “My father worked here as well.”

Vigna Sr. operated a farm in the community.

“I said to myself, I don’t want to work on the farm,” he said. “I was a pretty young guy, I was 19 or 20 years old and I decided to do this.”

Vigna rented the shop for $25 a month and worked a few lean years before buying the building, a home and starting a family.

As he snipped away, Vigna assured me that I’ve got lots of hair. Unfortunately, I have the forehead and a narrow face of a malnourished Klingon, he said. Also my ears stick out like a Ferengi. Luckily Vigna is an old pro.

He carefully snipped, clipped, and smoothed. No strand of hair was left untended. And just when I thought he was done, he would grab a new implement and continue his meticulous work. Reaching for straight razor, he daubed the back of my neck in shaving cream and made a few finishing touches.

“You’re going to look like a million dollars,” he assured me.

Finally came the big reveal. I took a look at myself and to my delight I still looked like a Star Trek character but this time I could’ve passed for a Leonard Nimoy or even a William Shatner. Best of all I didn’t not look like a Jean-Luc Picard.
November 18th ~ Vol. 85 No. 45
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