jenn reidel
The Barbers (Cincinnati Magazine)

"I got lots of stories to tell," says Johnny Fisch, 72 years old. "Been here on Eastern Avenue for fifty-four years and I've seen a lot going on from inside this shop."

Fisch tries his best now to remember to hang his American flag out in front of his barbershop. The red, white and blue symbol of America proudly flies next to his barber pole striped in the same patriotic colors.

Fisch stops cutting the hair of a middle-aged man wearing white pants decorated with blue sailboats and walks over to the dark oak cabinetry lining the mirrored wall. He opens a small drawer, with brass handle reading "Koken's Barber Supply Co.," and pulls out an old newspaper clipping about a 100-year old cash register. "I had one just like this, but someone broke in here and stole it. It sat right here," Fisch pats the empty shelf. "Another time they broke in here and took all my old barber tools. Took the drawers and all. See here I did my best to match 'em."

Picking up an old tonic bottle, he turns back to his customer. Two small boys look on from a wooden bench in front of the window. One holds a brown cardboard box filled with candy bars. He has the idea to sell them to Fisch's Saturday customers. Fisch looks at the younger and says, "Aren't you a cute little girl."

"I'm not no girl, Johnny!" he protests.

"You're not?"

"What are you puttin' on his head?" the boy asks.

"This? This is spigot oil. Some people take baths in it. Some wash their feet in it. Some people even drink it."

"No, they don't, Johnny!"

"Yes, they do. Even you have. It comes from a faucet like that one," Fisch says, pointing to a late-1800 white ceramic sink.

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