The Way We Were With John Taylor: Cutting edge

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The gents’ barber’s shop. That yesteryear pre unisex preserve of male chauvinism. And not a wittering about the price of shopping, or the latest goings on in Emmerdale to be heard.

O’, what halcyon days. And in Wolverton for many years a custodian of such an enclave was Frederick Joshua Sykes, who was still pursuing his trade in the 80s. Born at Deddington, Oxfordshire, he was the son of Mason Sykes, an innkeeper, and by 1891 he came to Stony Stratford as a hairdresser’s assistant. Then, on July 20, 1891, at Long Itchington, Warwickshire, he married Annie Johnson, and by 1901 the couple were living with their young daughter at 78, High Street, Stony Stratford. Here Fred purchased a business for £200 and began hairdressing on his own account.

Ten years later the family was resident at 34 High Street, and additions to the family now included a son and a second daughter.

Then in 1911 Fred emigrated to Canada, and soon became manager and cashier of a barber’s shop. In fact he became so succcessful that he returned to England to fetch his wife and family. However, the Titanic had just sunk and his wife refused to make the crossing . So instead he took up hairdressing in the Wolverton district. After the death of his wife, in December 1926, Fred married the widow of Mr E Weston, licensee of the Magpie Hotel, Woburn Sands. She died at her home on Friday, March 9, 1951. As for Fred, he continued his business in Radcliffe Street, Wolverton, until his 80s. Having been resident at 21a Stratford Road, Wolverton, he died at the age of 90, and so ended a chapter in the long tradition of gents’ hair cutting. As for another long tradition, alas, for some of advancing years there now comes a different response to ‘something for the weekend,sir?’; ‘Yes, a tub of Regaine, and a nasal hair trimmer, please’.