Andy the Barber

Thursday, April 12, 2018
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Andy Andersen stands in front of his barbershop, which opened at the new location in 1970. Andy has been barbering for over 60 years in Central Montana. It is the longest-running business under the same ownership in the town of Stanford. Photos by Melody Montgomery

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Andy Andersen in action, carefully cutting the tresses of a loyal patron.

The sign for parking spot reserved for Don (Andy) Andersen says “B.S. His Self,” an abbreviation for the Barber Shop owner, but perhaps also a bit of a light-hearted inside joke. Andy can certainly weave many humorous tales.

Andy has been been doing hair for over 60 years, starting barbering in 1957. If walls could speak, one wonders what stories the walls of his barbershop would tell.

The start of Andy’s life was in Two Dot. He lived here for his first two years while his father worked on a ranch and his mother cooked. The family then moved to Harlowton after his father got a job with the railroad.

Andy’s mother raised five kids on her own after Andy’s father was killed in 1944 in World War II. Andy was five years old. Andy recalls that back then there were no government programs to help single parents, and his mother worked hard. She took in laundry as one of her jobs to support the family.

A little boy named Buddy Duncan once threw mud on his mother’s freshly laundered sheets drying in the sunshine, simply being naughty. His mother chased him down and put Cheyenne pepper in his mouth.

“Can you imagine trying to do such a thing now?” asks Andy.

In Harlowton, Andy met his wife of now 58 years. Although he knew Alverta all his life, and they had many opportunities to become friends growing up, it was not until the night of their High School graduation that Andy asked Alverta to a party.

“It was almost as though I didn’t see her until that night,” said Andy.

It is obvious when you see these two together that their love for one another and respect runs deep. They truly enjoy one another’s company and humor.

When Andy asked Alverta to the party that would change the course of their lives, he says, “I didn’t know how much of a party girl she was. She really was a party girl.” He pauses to add, with a wink, “She really lucked out getting me.”

When asked to help verify this fateful first date, Alverta laughs, and says, “Well the first part is true; he did ask me,” but he was kidding about her partying ways. Sometimes it is hard to tell because he jokes so well.

Andy recalls a running joke with a customer who would come in for a haircut and to regularly have his mustache shaved off. If anyone else was present, they would play out a little role where the man would tell Andy that he could trim his mustache but not like the last time, when he thought he did a bad job. Andy would act offended and say “You didn’t like how I trimmed it?!” and then he would shave the gentleman’s mustache plum off in response. The gentleman would pretend to be furious.

During one of these exchanges, a customer present ran out, said Andy. She feared it was about to come to blows between the two jokesters. Later the troubled customer told someone of the upset and was reassured, “Oh yeah, they do that every time there’s someone in there.”

Andy and Alverta moved to Stanford in May 1961. Andy worked at a barber shop across the street from his present location on Main Street. Then, in October of 1969, the couple had the present barber shop built. Andy opened the shop on Alverta’s birthday in January of 1970.

“Back then Stanford was a boom town,” says Alverta.

Andy has another barbershop in Denton. He travels over to work there on Wednesdays, and his son Scott works there on Thursdays. Andy has been operating his Denton shop for 46 years and Stanford shop for 48.

Before moving to the booming town of Stanford, Andy ran a barbershop in Lewistown. He opened The City Barber Shop in 1958 across from the First National Bank and ran it until they moved to Stanford. He was also on the State Barber Board in the 1970s.

Many children in the area have received their first haircut from Andy. He does this for free.

“I love it,” he says.

Children can be very wiggly, and keeping them still for a haircut would be a challenge. Andy says that they are also sometimes afraid that it will hurt. So what is Andy’s trick to coax them into the barber seat? He says he always takes off his barber jacket, because with it, he looks more like a doctor or dentist. He then takes their minds off getting a haircut and to plays to their imagination. You see, Andy even has an imaginary horse that children can ride, but only if they are very still. Andy laughs recalling one child who was shaking trying to stay still all the while so excited to ride the horse.

Some of these children have grown up to only have their hair cut by him. He even has a client, Don Carver, who had his hair cut by Andy only while growing up. Don moved to Colorado in 1964 to start college who got one haircut from someone other than Andy. From that point on, Don decided only Andy would cut his hair. Don even planned his trips home from Colorado to time with Andy’s haircuts. Gene Todd never had a haircut anywhere else, says Andy.

Andy and Alverta themselves have three children, now grown, Rene, Kim and Scott. The couple has eight grandchildren.

The phone rings several times during the interview with people making appointments. This is a gentleman who knows the members of the community so well. Do people tell him a lot of their secrets in the barber chair, one might wonder.

“You learn a lot of things when people are in the barber chair,” says Andy. “I’m usually pretty tight about it.”

The conversation then turns less serious and to Andy’s priceless sense of humor and tall tales.

There is a vacuum hose that runs out of the tool cabinet that is used to help get hair off shoulders and the floor. Andy says it is connected to a shopvac in the basement. He says one time he was cutting the hair of a little boy - the skinniest little boy he had ever seen - and the shopvac just swooshed him right up and down to the basement. Andy says he is still down there. His mother didn’t want him back so Andy gives him one hot dog a day.

Andy has also had some competition from his employees, especially Max the Handsome Barber. Max, “a kid from Denton,” was giving Andy a bit of a run for his money because all the ladies wanted Max to do their hair. Andy said Max was so handsome that someone at the shop asked once to take his picture. Max is now successfully cutting hair in Big Timber, taking in $600 a day for his craft.

As you might imagine from his obvious joy in life, which is equally radiates from his wife Alverta, Andy looks forward to going to work every day because it is always different.

“I am a people person. You never know what you are going to find each day,” says Andy. He might get to visit with somebody who came to town for her weekly hairdo. Andy reflects on the report he develops with people. They are more than customers, they are friends and like family and he knows them like family.

P.S. To make an appointment, call 406-566-2268, open Mon. – Sat.