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The Holy Roller

Got A Haircut Today

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I get my haircuts at a small barbershop run by the barber's wife (Charlie the barber passed several years ago). Clair is an excellent barber and knows everyone. She is a master at getting a conversation started and despite being in her late 70s is as lucid and charming as any woman I've ever known. Her barbershop is the one most favored by that generation (I'm 57 and am usually the youngest one in the place) and I go mostly to sit and listen. The men who come to Clair's are about what you'd expect in a small town. The salt of the earth types, small business owners, farmers, mechanics, the occassional college educated. Humble beyond measure. Men who have worked hard all their life, don't believe they'll ever need help but are the first ones to offer it.

 

So as I get in the chair today in walks a gentlemen I didn't know but he seemed to know everyone and they him. He immediately begins a litany of his health concerns, "Getting some cataracts removed next Tuesday", and this starts a chorus of health stories from the others in the shop. From the barber's chair I introduce myself and stick out my hand and he shakes it and says his name is Carl Yelton. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a business card that says, "Carl Yelton...Inventor-Entrepreneur". No phone number or address. Just his name and what he does. I remark on the lack of a number on his card and he says he doesn't want people bothering him. Everyone in the place starts smiling real big because it turns out the number one botherer of persons in the entire county is...Carl Yelton.

 

Somehow or other it gets out that I am a Marine veteran (Clair let's this out everytime I get a haircut because her husband Charlie was a WWII Marine who saw lots of action in the Pacific and she has an affinity for all Marines I guess) and this gets Mr. Yelton just a-going. "I was shot down by the Marines", he declares. "Why would the Marines shoot you down?" I ask, actually believing he meant he wasn't allowed to enlist in the Marines for some reason. With little embellishment he goes on to tell his most remarkable life story. He was a pilot during the Korean War flying F-86 Sabres over North Korea when he flew over a Marine position and he took fire and had to eject. Even though he is confident it was actually the Chinese who shot him down he likes to blame the Marines (I think just to get a dig in at Clair). He spent over 280 days as a POW before being swapped back to the Americans in a prisoner exchange. He spoke very plainly about his time as a POW and how a Korean woman working at the camp where he was held smuggled him food ("We didn't know what it was but we ate it."). He hoped she was still alive because she risked her life doing what she did. He goes on to share about some of his other adventures and I was just enthralled (as were the others in the shop).

 

After the war he got out of the service, ended up getting a masters then a PhD in engineering at M.I.T., got married, became a professor at the University of Missouri in Rolla, Missouri, and now is an 80 year old "inventor-enterpreneur". All this was shared without a trace of superiority or brag. Just as matter of fact as a weather report! The others listened to this story (that most had obviously heard before) but sat silently through it again because it was true and it was a good story. I was mesmorized.

 

When my haircut was finished I paid Clair (she charges $8 but everyone gives her $10), wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and left. But I cannot stop thinking about the amazing Mr. Yelton. I pray when I grow up I can be as interesting and as humble.

 

Thanks for your service Mr. Yelton. You make me a little prouder to be an American.

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Cool story!!

 

For my senior thesis in college I interviewed two WWII vets. One was my grandfather who served in the navy. The second was a man who flew bombers over Europe and was shot down on his 19th mission

 

Absolutely amazing stories.

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Really cool story. Thanks for taking the time to type it all out.

 

Here's to you Mr Yelton. :wacko:

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Bump so a few more can read about Mr Yelton, who seems like a heck of a character.

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I used to go to a barbershop downtown on the square because it was EXACTLY like I remembered them in the 1960's when I was a boy. There was only one man there and the other two chairs had two foot stacks of magazines. All Sports Afield, Hunting, Riflemen, various other gun and outdoor mags that were mostly 5 to 10 years old. The barber had to be 80 or more. All he would ever ask when you sat down was "Haircut or Flatop?" ($5 vs $7). When I left I would give him a ten and let him keep the $5. Did that for a few years. Finally, one day I happened to ask him something and all of a sudden he was telling me all about him being a marine in WWII in Africa and then Italy. He complained that he did not have good digestion from those times and I resisted saying "but you lived another 60 years though". He was a small guy, maybe 5'2" but would tell me about getting into fights and even boxing in the marines. He was farming when he was not at the barbershop. He said he bathed in a big tub because his hot water broke and yet he owned land that had to be worth a fortune.

 

In the 5 or 7 years I went to him, I never say any other person waiting to get a haircut who wasn't at least 75. Normally no one.

 

He was fascinating to listen to - worth the $10 even without the haircut.

 

One day I go in there and we're chatting because I am a "regular". He says "we had a big deal here last week". I ask him what and he says that a young man (20 years old) came up on a bicycle and walked in. Sort of looking around and ask him if he has any thing to drink. He went in back and got a can of soda and gave to the guy. Then the guy wanted something to eat and so he had some candy he gave him. Then the guy said he wanted some money and he said he gave the guy $3 and told him to get the hell out of his barbershop and no not come back (notable too there is no phone in there). The guys then flips the sign to say closed, then gets a chair and leans it against the front door and sits down.

 

I'm freaking out because this little frail man is about to get rolled. I asked him "what did you do". He said "What could I do? I had to put him down." He walks in front of me and holds his forefinger and thumb an inch apart and says "I came this close to breaking his arm. I could have broken his arm." My jaw is on the floor since this guy mostly reminds you of the doddering old dentist character played by Tim Conway. He said when he let the guy up that he bolted out the front door and forgot his bike. He went next door and they called the cops who came over and recognized the bike and knew the drugged out punk who did it and picked him up within minutes.

 

I gotta tell you - I just would not mess with a WWII marine even now!

 

Sadly I went there one day and the place was shuttered with a note than "Tom Retired" on the front door. The barber chairs were gone and I wanted to buy one. Cool dude.

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Great stories! What a fortunate day!

 

Thank you for sharing! :wacko:

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My friends Dad was a WWII vet, all the boys in the family did not want to mess with him, the guy was still digging footings at 75....they all said "He doesn't know pain"

 

That era has seen so much

7th grade education in a school with a dirt floor to taday, He's late eighties now and takin care of his wife with her health problems.

 

Dude has some wild stories and humble as the day is long

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I miss sitting around and listening to my father (WWII and Korea) talking with all of his buddies about their stories.

 

Stories like these are priceless :wacko:

Edited by T_bone65

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Great stories. Reminds me of my grandfather. He was a pilot who flew in WWII and Korea. Years ago, when he first started training, they flew training missions on Lake Michigan. They converted old passenger steamers and built flight decks on the top so the men could practice their takeoffs and landings. So my grandfather was sent there to practice.

 

So one day, he was in the air above the lake and his plane started developing problems. He knew that he was in trouble, and consequently had to dump his plane in the lake. Of course, this was at a time of year when it was cold, and the water in the lake was icy and frigid. Lucky for him (and my grandmother, as they were to be married a few weeks later), the rescue boat caught him and dragged him aboard. They gave him a shot of whiskey to warm him up. His plane sank and ended up on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

 

Fast forward many, many years. My grandfather retired as a Captain in the Navy, and was very decorated. He was a native of Illinois, and about 10 years ago was nominated for the Illinois Aviators Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, he happened upon a man who started talking about a project he was working on. His group was locating old fighter planes on the bottom of the lake, with the hope of resurrecting one to hang in Midway airport. They were using underwater cameras to locate and film these aircraft. They were also creating a documentary on the whole process.

 

So my grandfather starts telling him the story of his plane, and all of the events of that day. The researcher asks my grandfather: "Do you remember your aircraft numbers?" My grandfather, of course, remembers everything. So he rattles off his planes identification numbers. The man looks at him in amazement and says: "I think we've found your plane."

 

After several moments (and a realization that the researcher found a subject for his film), he asks my grandfather if he would like to go see his plane. Of course he says, "Hell yeah"!

 

So they board the research boat and head out to the spot. They are filming this whole process, and lower the cameras so my grandfather can see the plane on the video monitor. He proceeds to tell them everything about that plane, the events of that day, and various other stories. His plane was in too bad of shape to bring up, but they interviewed my grandfather and grandmother for their documentary, and they ended up being part of the documentary.

 

They ended up having the premiere of his documentary at the Shedd's Aquarium in Chicago. All of our family went up, and the theater was packed with people. At the end of the show, they brought my grandfather up to the stage (to a standing ovation), where he proceeded to have a question and answer period with the audience. :wacko: (He's probably 75 at this point).

 

He and my grandmother are still alive, and have been married almost 70 years, still living on their farm in Illinois.

Edited by Chief Dick
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Great stories. Reminds me of my grandfather. He was a pilot who flew in WWII and Korea. Years ago, when he first started training, they flew training missions on Lake Michigan. They converted old passenger steamers and built flight decks on the top so the men could practice their takeoffs and landings. So my grandfather was sent there to practice.

 

So one day, he was in the air above the lake and his plane started developing problems. He knew that he was in trouble, and consequently had to dump his plane in the lake. Of course, this was at a time of year when it was cold, and the water in the lake was icy and frigid. Lucky for him (and my grandmother, as they were to be married a few weeks later), the rescue boat caught him and dragged him aboard. They gave him a shot of whiskey to warm him up. His plane sank and ended up on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

 

Fast forward many, many years. My grandfather retired as a Captain in the Navy, and was very decorated. He was a native of Illinois, and about 10 years ago was nominated for the Illinois Aviators Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, he happened upon a man who started talking about a project he was working on. His group was locating old fighter planes on the bottom of the lake, with the hope of resurrecting one to hang in Midway airport. They were using underwater cameras to locate and film these aircraft. They were also creating a documentary on the whole process.

 

So my grandfather starts telling him the story of his plane, and all of the events of that day. The researcher asks my grandfather: "Do you remember your aircraft numbers?" My grandfather, of course, remembers everything. So he rattles off his planes identification numbers. The man looks at him in amazement and says: "I think we've found your plane."

 

After several moments (and a realization that the researcher found a subject for his film), he asks my grandfather if he would like to go see his plane. Of course he says, "Hell yeah"!

 

So they board the research boat and head out to the spot. They are filming this whole process, and lower the cameras so my grandfather can see the plane on the video monitor. He proceeds to tell them everything about that plane, the events of that day, and various other stories. His plane was in too bad of shape to bring up, but they interviewed my grandfather and grandmother for their documentary, and they ended up being part of the documentary.

 

They ended up having the premiere of his documentary at the Shedd's Aquarium in Chicago. All of our family went up, and the theater was packed with people. At the end of the show, they brought my grandfather up to the stage (to a standing ovation), where he proceeded to have a question and answer period with the audience. :tup: (He's probably 75 at this point).

 

He and my grandmother are still alive, and have been married almost 70 years, still living on their farm in Illinois.

This is great. :wacko:

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Thanks for sharing all the cool stories guys.

 

:wacko:

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Great stories. Reminds me of my grandfather. He was a pilot who flew in WWII and Korea. Years ago, when he first started training, they flew training missions on Lake Michigan. They converted old passenger steamers and built flight decks on the top so the men could practice their takeoffs and landings. So my grandfather was sent there to practice.

 

So one day, he was in the air above the lake and his plane started developing problems. He knew that he was in trouble, and consequently had to dump his plane in the lake. Of course, this was at a time of year when it was cold, and the water in the lake was icy and frigid. Lucky for him (and my grandmother, as they were to be married a few weeks later), the rescue boat caught him and dragged him aboard. They gave him a shot of whiskey to warm him up. His plane sank and ended up on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

 

Fast forward many, many years. My grandfather retired as a Captain in the Navy, and was very decorated. He was a native of Illinois, and about 10 years ago was nominated for the Illinois Aviators Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, he happened upon a man who started talking about a project he was working on. His group was locating old fighter planes on the bottom of the lake, with the hope of resurrecting one to hang in Midway airport. They were using underwater cameras to locate and film these aircraft. They were also creating a documentary on the whole process.

 

So my grandfather starts telling him the story of his plane, and all of the events of that day. The researcher asks my grandfather: "Do you remember your aircraft numbers?" My grandfather, of course, remembers everything. So he rattles off his planes identification numbers. The man looks at him in amazement and says: "I think we've found your plane."

 

After several moments (and a realization that the researcher found a subject for his film), he asks my grandfather if he would like to go see his plane. Of course he says, "Hell yeah"!

 

So they board the research boat and head out to the spot. They are filming this whole process, and lower the cameras so my grandfather can see the plane on the video monitor. He proceeds to tell them everything about that plane, the events of that day, and various other stories. His plane was in too bad of shape to bring up, but they interviewed my grandfather and grandmother for their documentary, and they ended up being part of the documentary.

 

They ended up having the premiere of his documentary at the Shedd's Aquarium in Chicago. All of our family went up, and the theater was packed with people. At the end of the show, they brought my grandfather up to the stage (to a standing ovation), where he proceeded to have a question and answer period with the audience. :wacko: (He's probably 75 at this point).

 

He and my grandmother are still alive, and have been married almost 70 years, still living on their farm in Illinois.

 

What a great story. Is the documentary available anywhere?

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What a great story. Is the documentary available anywhere?

 

I have it on DVD, and I'm planning on uploading it to YouTube. I'll let you guys know when I do that.

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I have it on DVD, and I'm planning on uploading it to YouTube. I'll let you guys know when I do that.

 

 

I was thinking about your grandfather's story the other day. Did you YouTube it yet?

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I was thinking about your grandfather's story the other day. Did you YouTube it yet?

 

 

No I haven't, and thanks for the reminder. I will try to get this up in the next week or two.

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Fantastic stuff. Not sure how I missed this post.

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Fantastic stuff. Not sure how I missed this post.

 

+1

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Stories like these only reinforce what I try to teach my kids. Whenever my grandparents are around, I have my kids just sit and listen to stories of their life experiences. The kids think that it is just story-time but after a little while, they realize that these things really happened.

 

My grandparents (as it seems with most elderly people) are not braggarts and don't really talk much about their accomplishments and experiences. They have to be prodded to open up a bit but the stories you will hear are incredible.

 

I can only hope that I have as many interesting stories to tell my great-grandchildren when I am of that age.

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Best school project I ever had was my high school freshman year history teacher, Mr Kinney, assigned us to interview a person who lived through the Great Depression. That explained a lot about Grandma (God rest her soul).

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