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Al's Barber Shop

In 1920, Grant Ulysses Johnston played a lucky hand of cards at the Encinitas Pool Hall and won Al's Barber Shop – and a whole new career. Johnston walked next door to his new business at 569 First Street (now Hwy 101) and promptly changed his name to Al to match the sign. Undeterred by the fact that he had no formal training, Al optimistically began his career as the local barber. He was pleased that his customers seemed to appreciate his natural hair-cutting talents.

Al's Barber Shop quickly became a local hangout, which was especially busy on Saturdays when customers came as much to gossip as to get a haircut. Al was especially fond of children who were given a peppermint stick while sitting in his barber chair.

Always looking for another lucky hand, Al remained a gambling man the rest of his days. Rumor has it that friendly card games were known to take place in the back room of the popular shop.

The Depression Era

In 1932 with the nation in the midst of the Great Depression, Al convinced his son Harvey Johnston, a trained barber, to leave Long Beach and join him at his two- chair shop.  The father-son duo became known as Big Al and Little Al to match their respective sizes.

The going rate for a haircut, either for a man or woman, was 35 cents and a shave was 15 cents. With money in short supply during the Depression the barbers often traded services for whatever the customer could offer beans, corn, eggs or a five gallon can of honey for service to an entire family. During these trying times the pair was known to provide free haircuts to jobless men they saw on the street.

Barber Pole

The barber pole is the oldest distinguished mark of any profession or craft, dating back well before the birth of Christ. Barber/Surgeons combined the art of hair and beard trimming with medicine, dentistry, and surgery to become the most respected and protected men in early history. They held this respect for thousands of years. The red and white spiral stripes on the modern barber pole represent the long bandages used in bloodletting, which was the first form of surgery. Olden day barbers hung the bandages outside their shops to dry. As the years passed, this original badge evolved into the present glass red and white pole, which signifies the barber profession. The blue stripe was added in the U.S.A. to represent our national colors. 

Researched and written by Mary Fran Riggs

How Surfing started in Encinitas

If you are a surfer, ever wondered how surfing got started and how it developed in Encinitas? Well, here is your chance to learn. Click the link below to see a 16 minute video produced by MGE Productions, Inc., co-sponsored by the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, and funded by the city of Encinitas Community Grant Program and the Mizel Family Foundation. A high-quality full size version of the video can be seen at San Dieguito Heritage Museum.