Yankee Clipper Lionel Gobeil

Lionel Gobeil is 78 years old. He has been cutting hair for nearly 54 of those years and won’t be putting his scissors down anytime soon. His two-chair, classic barber shop, The Larry L, is located on South Main Street in Concord. His dad was a barber and now so are his kids. Three generations. Gobeil says, “It’s all in how you hold the comb.” He makes it look easy. It’s not.

Photo by David Mendelsohn

In his own words:

  • Shaving is a lost art and only a few still do it. We haven’t offered shaves in years, but when we did, it was hot towels and all. The works.
  • When the AIDS scare came about in the late ’80s, we all kind of moved away from the straight razor. What if you nicked somebody and blood spilled?
  • I didn’t do too many shaves anyhow. I was never really good at it.
  • My first job was at Joe’s Barber Shop on South Street in Concord. That was in February of 1964. I worked there for over two and a half years. Joe was a good guy and I learned a lot from him. I was pretty raw when I started, but he stuck with me. I will always remember that.
  • I opened my own shop in May of 1966 on South State Street. I used my nickname Gob — Gob’s Barbershop.  G-o-b are the first three letters of my last name. With a name like Lionel, anything would have been better.
  • Things have changed over time. The long hair fad of the ’70s and ’80s really reduced our ranks. There were no schools around for a while.
  • The cuts and styles of years ago are still here, just the names have changed. Crew cuts and butch cuts are now flat tops and buzz cuts.
  • Haircut banter has changed very little. Sports are always a good subject. A joke here and there works. Definitely avoid any talk of politics like the plague. You are asking for nothing but trouble.
  • We will occasionally cut a woman’s hair, but it’s a little tough sometimes. They are a bit too fussy. This is a barbershop and not a salon.
  • That pretty blue liquid in a tall jar? That’s a disinfectant called Barbicide. It’s been around since the late ’40s. It kills pretty much everything, so don’t wash down your lunch with it.

In case you wondered (like the two chaps in this old Kentucky whiskey ad) why a barber pole is striped red and white, the answer (according to the same ad) is: “In 1461, when London barbers were incorporated, they were the only practicing surgeons and dentists in the city and their symbol was a spirally striped pole with white signifying bandages and red indicating blood.”

CREDIT: Big thanks to our 7-year-old redheaded cherub, Gabriel Burden, who worked for balloons and lollipops, and to his dad Ernesto and mom Kristen for allowing this whole thing to happen. Thanks also to Jill Gobeil, Lionel’s daughter, for the introduction.

Categories: Q&A