When we moved from Rock Hill to North Myrtle Beach in 2012, we had lots of issues to consider, such as who would be our new doctor, dentist, insurance agent, auto mechanic. Tough, everyday choices.
Near the top of my list was who's going to be my barber? I’m not talking “stylist” here. I’m talking barber, guys who cut hair but don’t pretend to work miracles. When we moved to Rock Hill in 1998, I asked co-workers if they knew a good one. They told me to call Dennis Brewer.
I took their advice, and every few weeks over the next 12 years I flopped down in Dennis’ chair at Stylemasters on Ebeneezer Road. He did his best to make me beautiful, but he didn’t have a lot to work with. The best he could do was make me look neat, which he did time after time. I always felt I should apologize because he had lots of better looking customers to deal with.
He also cut our son’s hair and never failed to ask how Dylan was doing when I came to his shop.
So, I was saddened when I read that he had died. We are always sad when good people, friends leave us. I knew it was coming, but it’s never easy no matter what you know.
Going to sit in Dennis’ chair was, for me and I’m sure hundreds of others in Rock Hill, a step back in time. Except for a few years in the ’70s when I went to one of those “stylists” to get my perm, I always sat in the chairs of men like Dennis.
Call it old school or whatever. You went to the barber shop, had a haircut. If you were lucky, the shop had a red-and-white barber pole. When I walked into Dennis’ shop for the first time, there was a barber pole on the wall next to the door. I knew I'd found the right place. No gels, no mousse, just a dang haircut.
But you always got more than that for your money.
When I sat down in his chair I knew I was going to get four or five good jokes, the latest take on local, state and national politics (he cut my hair even though I was a Democrat), a few pretty good shots at the Gamecocks (he loved the Tigers) and usually a good conversation about family. You want to know what’s going on in town, you go get a haircut.
Dennis was Rock Hill through and through. He loved where he grew up, where he lived. He loved his family, and we spent countless hours over 12 years talking about our kids. When his youngest, Jordan, started playing sports, Dennis would tell me about the latest great play or plays. He was a proud father. As the clippers hummed and the scissors clicked against the comb, he’d talk about his kids, his wife, and the pride he had in all of them came through like a perfectly executed flat-top, no Butch Wax needed.
When I walked out, I felt like I’d spent a session with my shrink. I felt good, although 20 bucks or so poorer.
I had heard a few months ago that he was ill, that cancer had taken control. A couple of weeks later my cell phone rang. It was Dennis.
He called me to tell me how much he appreciated my business and our friendship. He told me he was resigned to his fate, that he was prepared. But he also sounded upbeat, even told a couple of jokes and, of course, he talked about family. He called me to let me know he was OK. He called me to let me know how much he appreciated those times I sat in his chair and how much he enjoyed our conversations. He said he appreciated my friendship.
When our conversation was over, I cried. The guy who was dying called me to say thanks. It should have been the other way around.
Well, my friend, we moved to North Myrtle Beach. I still haven’t found a barber to take your place, although the one I have found is cheaper. I’m thinking Dennis would love hearing that and would tell me you get what you pay for. I probably never will find another Dennis Brewer, with a barber pole outside his door and an opinion on everything.
But, Dennis, rest in peace. Every time I sit down in a barber chair, I will think of you.
Garry McCann is the former sports editor for The Herald.