MONTICELLO — By the time 5 p.m. rolled around July 30, a longtime local barber had given his final haircut and shave.
That’s the day Gordon “Gordy” Cochran put away his shears, hair clippers, trimmers, edgers and straight-razors one final time after more than 50 years providing haircuts to White County clients.
“It’s just time,” he said.
Cochran earned his barber license shortly after graduating from Twin Lakes High School in 1968 and he’s been cutting hair ever since.
“I always wanted to be a barber,” he said.
Cochran barbered in Lafayette until 1976 before permanently returning to Monticello.
But cutting hair wasn’t his full-time profession. He worked as a Monticello firefighter for many years until a heart attack in the late 1990s sidelined him from the job. He also worked as White County’s emergency management director for 11 years (1999-2009) while cutting hair on weekends.
But changing hair care needs, coupled with the COVID-19 health emergency, helped Cochran with his retirement decision.
“We used to have seven or eight barber shops in Monticello and around the area,” he said. “There were always a lot of barbers, but not anymore. They’re few and far between. Walmart, Great Clips and places like that have taken over, so we don’t get much of anything anymore. This last year with COVID, it’s just been hard to keep up.”
Cochran operated his barber shop in downtown Monticello for many years — in a basement area next to Alex’s Apparel — until 13 years ago when he moved to his current location along US 24 just west of town, next to Dr. Charles Anderson’s veterinary hospital.
Cochran isn’t fully calling it quits, though. He still plans to visit the White County Jail and provide haircuts to inmates — something he’s done once a week for the last 11 years.
“They’re not all bad,” Cochran said of the inmates. “There are a few bad apples but for the most part they just made a mistake. Everyone deserves a second chance. I’ve had many (inmates) become regular customers once they got out of jail.”
Cochran said he will miss the camaraderie and friendships, discussions and think-tank sessions with his clients.
“Every problem in the world we could solve right here in the morning,” he said. “It was nothing to have seven or eight people waiting for a haircut every morning. By 10 a.m., the shop was full. We’d get into some really good discussions. I’ll miss that. ... We’ve had a few arguments over politics. It happened every once in a while.”
Cochran said his biggest challenge will be the change in his daily routine.
“I really think I’m ready but I’ve worked my whole life, so I’m not sure what it will be like not having to get up every morning,” he said. “It’s going to be an adjustment.
“I don’t work because I have to, I work because I enjoy doing it and I like it. I’ve had a great bunch of people who have come in here over the years. I am going to miss all of them.”
Cochran said he and his wife plan to travel and do more fishing and boating on Lake Freeman.
“We haven’t been able to do that for quite a while,” he said.
Cochran said he always remembered a piece of advice he received many years ago that guided him in his retirement decision.
“My dad always said you’re the only one to know when it’s time to give it up,” he said. “It’s been a good business for me. It’s been a good time and I’ve enjoyed it.
“It all worked out pretty good,” he added. “It’s been a good life.”