UAF barbershop, barber have long campus history

Lilly Necker / Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 13, 2011

Owner and manager of the UAF campus Barbershop, Charlotte Lushin, discusses how she got started at the shop back in 1982, as she trims the hair of long time customer, Glenn Simpson, on Sep. 7, 2011. Erin McGroarty/Sun Star

Owner and manager of the UAF campus Barbershop, Charlotte Lushin, discusses how she got started at the shop back in 1982, as she trims the hair of long time customer, Glenn Simpson, on Sep. 7, 2011. Erin McGroarty/Sun Star

In 1932, there was a small ad in the “Farthest-North Collegian,” which was the campus paper of the time. It read, “The North Pole Barber Shop – The North Pole is our Barber Pole.”

The ad touted offers with names like “Walruses De-Whiskered,” “Hair Seals De-haired,” “Sea Lion Scalp Treatments” and “First-Class Blubbering Done.”

Proprietor Percy Lunch charged 50 cents for a “Muskox Wind Blown Bob” and 25 cents for men to have their beard trimmed.

Today, 79 years later, this place is better known as the UAF Campus Barbershop. It’s at 102 Constitution Hall, a cozy room next to the UAF Bookstore and the Campus Post Office.

Charlette Lushin runs the barbershop nowadays. Born and raised on a farm in Idaho, she came to Alaska in 1976. When she started working in 1982, Lushin held two other jobs at both a bank and another barbershop downtown, Lushin said.

“I wasn’t busy enough at that time and things didn’t seem to change,” Lushin said, “so the offer working on campus was tempting.” After she took over the shop, she convinced her former colleague Steve Ludwig to follow her. The two barbers worked together for 15 years until Ludwig retired. As much as Lushin enjoyed working with her friend, she appreciates working alone now.

“This way I am always busy and just responsible for my work,” Lushin said.

Each haircut takes about an average of 15 minutes — long hair can extend to 30 minutes. With that small of a time window, Lushin normally doesn’t dye hair. She wants to make as many customers happy as she can, which would be impossible if she took on many dye jobs. There’s one exception – she’ll listen to people if they talk with her and ask her to dye their hair.

“Everything is about conversation,” Lushin said. “People shouldn’t be shy to just talk to me, whether it’s about an extraordinary hairstyle or even the time they want to have an appointment.”

And Lushin has seen a lot – everything from a green and red mohawk to a customer who wanted her to make him look like Spock from Star Trek for a costume party. “This boy hadn’t had enough hair in the front so I just saved some from his last haircut and stuck them with vegetable glue on his forehead.”

With someone coming in every 15 minutes, there is always someone new to talk to. Lushin loves to interact with all the young students.

“Most of these kids are so shy and quiet when they come to UAF after high school. I care about them,” Lushin said. Lushin tries to start casual conversations to help them open up and talk.

“It is so amazing to see them growing and becoming mature with every year passing by,” she said.

This mother of two mature children has seen a lot of that after 29 years at the barbershop. She has seen the third or fourth generation of some families in her shop. Many of them stay touch with her after they’ve moved away

“It is so nice when a former customer suddenly steps in with her six kids, 15 years later, just to talk about what has happened in her and my life since then,” Lushin said.

UAF freshman Tell Spragg visited the barbershop for the first time on Sept. 7.  “I was on my way to the bookstore when I saw the barbershop. I think having that on campus is a great idea. Especially for all the students who don’t have a car,” Spragg said , an 18-year-old fire science student.

Harry Hormen is 21 years old and in his third year of general studies at UAF. He has visited Lushin’s barbershop several times. “She does a great job and a haircut here is a lot cheaper than at the place I used to go downtown,” Hormen said.

Every haircut costs between 14 and 20 dollars — five dollars for a beard trim. The shop lacks a computer cash register, so you can only pay with cash or check.

The biggest change Lushin has noticed at UAF during three decades on campus is the sort of students coming in. She noticed that more of the students are locals.

“I feel like there are a lot more people from Alaska coming to study in Fairbanks, which is great. There aren’t many opportunities for people living in outlying areas. But when they are committed to their home they can go to UAF and the whole world is open for them.”

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