“I started cutting hair around the house when I was 12 and started working in a barber shop when I was 16. I was going to get a barber’s license and go to college, but I was drafted and served in the Vietnam War and stayed in the Air Force working on planes for 21 years. I didn’t want to go, but when I got in I liked it because I had never been anywhere but Shaw, Mississippi. I was stationed in Thailand working on the jets during Vietnam so I stayed on the base. It was a thrilling experience to get out of here and I had a lot of fun. I retired from service and came back home and opened this barber shop.
Shaw is the center of the Delta and it used to be a trading post with more stores than Cleveland. Everyone came here for groceries and I used to work 12 hours a day, every day. I mean busy every day. I averaged $1500 a week here. Now I work four hours on Thursday, four hours on Friday and four hours on Saturday. That is all I need. On the other days, I ride around. You can see for miles around in this flat land
BB King and all of them used to come here and play. We had fun. Today the kids don’t know anything about it, we don’t pass down the stories. There was the white side of town and black town with the white clubs and black clubs. We couldn’t walk on their side of the street and stayed on our side of town. There was a light switch to the main circuit in Shaw and about midnight or one a.m., Mr. Griffin, the policeman, flipped that switch and cut all of the lights off and on twice. That meant it was time to go home. There was a jail with two little cells for the black folks and there was no air conditioning. If you got to fighting, they would lock you up. But it was hot in there and they left the door open for air. Folks would go in and mess with the ones in jail. When the white folks got locked up, they went to Cleveland.
We all got along here and went to school together after integration. I lived on a white guy’s plantation. The white folks made their kids chop cotton with us so they could have a work ethic and we worked side by side. My grandmama raised them just like she raised us. They ate the same food we ate. We still get along today. That is the way things were here. We were taught the Christian way. All of the barriers between us just give you stress and fear. That will kill you. You aren’t supposed to carry that mess around, let it go.”