December 6, 2022
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Cole Foster, grandson of barber Curtis Smith, gets his hair trimmed. Smith has been cutting hair at Sanitary Barber Shop for generations.
Dana Rasco/Courtesy photo

Since 1967, Curtis Smith has been providing Muleshoe men with up-to-date hairstyles and old-fashioned service.

Smith grew up in Dumont, King County, Texas, and his wife Lela Ann was raised on the Four Sixes Ranch in King County. As of 2010, King County had 286 citizens and was the third least populous county in the United States.

Smith attended Lubbock Barber College, but life in the big town didn’t appeal to him.

“I actually had a friend I went to barber school with who came in 1967. He convinced me to move to Muleshoe to be his partner.”

Smith remembers that when he stepped behind the barber chair, men’s hair was still worn short. Since then, he has seen many styles come and go.

“All through the 70s to the mid-80s, the long hair trend was pretty strong,” he said. “It was the hippie generation.”

While Smith did a lot of hairstyling, he resisted giving permanents.

“I actually straightened men that had curly hair, basically a permanent in reverse. I never really had a call to color men’s hair.”

Smith trims plenty of beards and moustaches and offers a full treatment shave with hot towel, lather and an old-fashioned straight razor.

After the shave and/or haircut, Smith uses a vacuum on his clippers and an air hose to eliminate excess hair and finishes by brushing off the customer’s coat.

“There’s not very much hair left on the customer,” Smith said. “When they leave here, they’re not itching.”

One of the benefits of being a small town barber is knowing almost everyone who walks through the door. In addition, a barber has a window onto the entire world with the people that travel through Muleshoe.

“One time, Frank Parker, the man I barbered with for so long, was cutting someone’s head from California, while across the shop, I was cutting someone from New York,” he said. “I’ve cut men’s hair from pretty much every continent. It’s a pretty interesting profession with a lot of good conversation.”

When it comes to choosing a barber for his own hair, Smith stays close to home.

“I go to my competitor down the street, Louie Pacheco,” he said.

Smith has been barbering at Sanitary Barber Shop for 54½ years and has been full owner since 2010. That’s a long history, but the history of the shop itself is even longer.

“Fifteen years ago, the Heritage Foundation was researching a little hamburger stand by the junior high in Muleshoe that had been out of business for several years. They wanted to move and restore it,” Smith said. “The chairman of the committee went around the town asking for donations. A man gave him a jersey from the first football game ever played in Muleshoe and a program from the game to hang in the restored building.

“Sanitary had an ad in that 1925 program. It’s been around for almost 100 years. It moved to a location about four doors north of where it’s at in the 30s, during the Depression, and to its current location in the 40s. It’s been at this location at least 75 years, maybe longer.”

Smith and Lela Ann have been married 57 years. They have two daughters, three granddaughters, one grandson, one great-grandson and two great-granddaughters.

“I’d like to thank the people of Muleshoe for allowing me to work on them, for having the trust and confidence that they will trade with me. It’s a great place to live,” Smith said.

At age 75, Smith has no plans to retire any time soon.

“As long as I feel good, I’ll stay with what I’m doing,” he said.

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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