For Over 60 Years, Utah Barber’s Been Cutting Hair In His Hometown

Aug 16, 2020, 10:35 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2022, 12:01 am

MORGAN, Utah — While the population may not be all that big, there’s one man in the city of Morgan who knows pretty much everyone — or he used to, anyway. He’s the local barber and first set up shop back in the Eisenhower administration.

The town’s changed since Paul Dickson first got his license to cut hair back in May of 1958, but his philosophy hasn’t. He has a little tray for the glasses or hearing aids of everyone who sits in his chair, and typically polishes off each haircut by running a motorized vibrator over his customers’ shoulders.

And although he’s seen more than his share of changes in Morgan, Dickson says he’s never really considered moving.

“Why would I want to move somewhere else?” he asked, using a comb to point out the window. “Look at that beautiful valley.”

Certainly, the town’s grown over the years.

Like most barbers, Dickson’s always up for a chat, and has plenty of opinions on how different his city’s been looking.

“One of my customers came in, and he said, ‘I don’t like it, Paul. I don’t like all these people moving in,'” Dickson said, recounting a story. “I said, ‘How many kids have you got?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve got so many grandkids and so many great-grandkids.’ I walked around the chair and looked him right in the eye and I said, ‘I want you to know, your grandkids and my grandkids have every right to have a home, the same as me and you.'”

If you ask Dickson when he started cutting hair, he takes a moment to glance at his license on the wall. But the truth is, he started long before that.

Back in the Korean War, it was part of his job.

“When I got out of the military, I went to barber school in Salt Lake,” Dickson said.

That’s when he met his wife. She lived in a nearby town, and worked at a bank in Salt Lake City.  Dickson would drive her back and forth in his ’55 Oldsmobile — but the rides weren’t free.

“50 cents to ride back and forth,” he said with a laugh. “I was going to barber school, I didn’t have any money.”

Paul and Romona Dickson recently celebrated their 60th anniversary.

He cut hair for a while at the Hotel Utah, but moved home to Morgan as soon as he could. Now, nearly 90, he’s still putting his diploma to use.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Why don’t you retire, Paul?'” he said. “And I say, ‘Why, does that bother you?'”

Dickson prides himself on having an old-school barber shop where he puts his customers first — but that’s probably not the most unique thing about him. You see, he doesn’t sweep up his customers’ hair and put it in the trash. Instead, he takes it home and grinds it up, using it as fertilizer for what he calls his “fabulous garden.”

“I got the most beautiful soil you’ve ever seen,” he said.

Dickson only lives about a block away from his shop, and will gladly flip his “open” sign to the other side and hop in his pickup to drive over and show off that soil.

“Look at the size of the leaves on the cabbage,” he said with pride.

Next to the wide spaces of the lawn he still cuts, you’ll see beds of flowers, rows of corn, and even a few raspberries.  His bounty is so great, much of it gets handed out to the customers who, in a way, helped grow it by contributing their hair.

“As quick as it’s in the soil, it completely dissolves,” he said, while using a trowel to turn over a batch of hair in a bucket.

And Dickson’s had a lot of time to cultivate his green thumb. The coronavirus forced him to shut the doors of his shop for six weeks — and in a way, it was a blessing.

Paul’s wife Romona passed away back in April. He says it happened suddenly, at a time when he normally would have been at work.

“If I had been cutting hair, she would have passed away, probably be on the kitchen floor because I caught her, got her down to the hospital in good shape,” he said. “When they did an MRI the next day, the stroke was so severe that there was no chance of her recovering.”

Dickson’s spent the past few months working. He typically wears a mask, and keeps supplies handy to sanitize everything.

He hasn’t even considered retiring.

A copy of the program from his wife’s funeral, filled with pictures, sits in the corner on a little table covered with copies of magazines. He still has a newspaper printout announcing their 60th anniversary stuck to the wall, and isn’t afraid to say her death has “left a void” for him.

Paul Dickson uses a straight razor to shave a customer at his shop in Morgan. Paul Dickson's been cutting hair in Morgan for over 60 years. Yellowed with age, Dickson's license from the State of Utah still hangs in his shop. A family photo of Paul Dickson's wife, Romona. Paul and Romona Dickson share a moment together in their younger days. Paul Dickson still has a newspaper clipping from his 60th anniversary hanging in his shop. A bucket of hair sits near Paul Dickson's garden. Dickson says he's loved gardening since he was a child. Paul Dickson points out the size of the cabbage in his garden, which he partly attributes to using hair as fertilizer. A copy of the program from Romona Dickson's funeral sits on a small table in the corner of his shop.

But when you’ve cut the hair of five generations of the people of Morgan, you’re never really alone. Customers, both ones he’s known for decades and some he’s just recently met, have rushed to his aid.

“You can’t imagine the love and concern that everybody’s had with me,” Dickson said. “‘Paul, what can I do to help you?’ ‘Paul, what can I do? Is there something I can do? Give me a call.’ They’ve brought groceries, they’ve brought bread, they’ve brought rolls, they’ve brought gift certificates.”

While life may be a challenge — “It’s terribly lonesome,” he says — Dickson says living here, surrounded by customers who’ve become friends, has made all the difference.

“I’m really grateful for the people in Morgan and for what they mean to me,” he said.

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For Over 60 Years, Utah Barber’s Been Cutting Hair In His Hometown