~ The Barber on Front Street ~
By Gerard van Veen
In the late 1980s, I used to go around and interview senior citizens. One day I visited a gentleman on Front Street and he told me the following:
“My name is Walter Williams, born in St. Maarten in 1916, right here in this house where I have my barbershop now, and everybody calls me PLANTZ. How I got the name PLANTZ? I got it from John Vlaun. We called him John Connor, but his name was John Vlaun. I used to work with them and I was very skinny, and that’s why he gave me the name PLANTZ. Plantz was a guy from Statia at that time, who came over here to play cricket, and he was very thin. Later he became a big man in Curaçao, but in his younger years, he was very skinny. I don’t know because I was very small and they told me that. So I got the name PLANTZ and everybody calls me so. In 1937, I went to Aruba and worked with LAGO. In 1954, I came on vacation and I wouldn’t go back. Cigarettes were for nothing; Heineken beer for 50 odd cents.
“Then I started my barbershop on Front Street, across from the Methodist Church. The place belonged to Cyrus Wathey and I was looking for a place, and saw that place empty, and Cyrus said, ‘Go ahead.’ There was a theatre above. I took the money from the Lago thrift plan and I started. I was there for years in that place… God knows how many years – and Cyrus never charged me a cent. Not a cent. When my mother died – that is a long time ago – I moved over to this place and I keep my barbershop here. I have no diplomas and so on, but I learned my profession by experience.
“I HAVE nothing to do with modern haircuts you see nowadays on the young people. My clients are my old friends. And now I work only in the morning, and not even the whole morning, and not even every day. I am entitled to my rest. I shouldn’t be barbering any more. I am 72 years old and at that age, it is against your eyes and your feet. I can’t take it no more. Only my old friends come here and I give them a haircut only. No shaving. A long time I do not shave no more.
“One day, when I was barbering in my first barbershop, there was a Yankee or an Englishman, in any case a white fellow, and I was keeping the brush and the things for shaving. Then two guys were coming in. In those days, they were making only a guilder a day or maybe less and they wanted a shave too. But they were drunk. They had got in the rum and they told me I must shave them. I said, “No, when you are drunk, I do not shave you.” They wanted to make trouble with me. One was Jogorro, a young boy who used to be around here, and the other fellow was named Saggerboy, and they wanted to fight. The only protection I had were my razors. At that time, they were long razors. They went outside and wanted to fight outside, because I did not shave them and did shave the other guy. But he was sober. I didn’t want to get in trouble with them, because they might turn their neck and I would cut their face. Then I decided not to shave anymore. If you want a shaving, you get it somewhere else.
“NOW HERE against the wall, you see a plaque which reads the following, ‘Special notice: Credit given only to those over 80 years, accompanied by their grandparents.’ I got this from a friend from Statia, his name is on it: L.E. Sadly. He used to be a councilman or something, a very good friend of mine. That was in September 1956. Since then, I have it stuck on the wall of my barbershop.”