barber pole
Ray's ASU Barber Shop

By Rowe Edgell - State Press
April 23, 1997

Photo by Pat Shannahan - State Press
     Stepping into Ray's ASU Barber Shop is like a step back in time. Hundreds of Coke cans and bottles adorn the walls, six 1950s-style vinyl chairs line the mirrored walls and a collection of bumper stickers grace a mirror in the corner. A collection of 15 men are seated along the wall, numbers in hands, waiting for their haircuts.
     On Thursday, the shop's owner Ray Boles, 72, will celebrate 50 years of cutting hair in Tempe.
     The anniversary celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the shop on 23 E. Ninth St. in Tempe Center. Refreshments and cake will be served, and Boles' clients, family and friends will be on hand to honor the barber-shop milestone.
     His shop has become a Tempe icon since taking root in 1956. In that time, Boles has cut the hair of almost every ASU president - Grady Gammage being the first - and all of Tempe's mayors, except Neil Giuliano.
     At first, he charged $1.50 for a man's haircut. Today it's $8.
     Boles started cutting hair in 1943 after attending a barber college at the age of 21. He knows most of his frequent customers by name and said he will give them any cut they want.
     "Not really anyone wants to cut this guy's hair this short," Boles said as he buzzed an inch of hair from customer Barry Rover with an electric razor.
     "If they want it short, I cut it short. If they want it long, I cut it long. It don't make any difference to me," he said.
     Boles' first shop was located where Cookies from Home used to be near Fifth Street and Mill Avenue. He then bought the building where the downtown Jack in the Box restaurant is now located.
     Over the past five decades, Boles has seen a lot of changes in Tempe and ASU.
     "When I started here, Tempe High was still sitting in this shopping center," he said, referring to Tempe Center.
     He also said that ASU only had 2,509 students at the time, most of them going to school on the GI bill.
     Boles has also noticed changes in hair styles.
     "This type of hair style was what we used to do in the late 40s," he said, pointing at Rover's buzz cut. "Then, in the '60s, that's when there was the long hair with the hippies."
     After he stopped working full time 10 years ago, Boles began spending his summers in Carlsbad, Calif., and his winters in Tempe. He still works Tuesdays when in town.
     Boles' son, Charles, is carrying on the family tradition as a barber. He has been cutting hair in his father's shop for 17 years, and now runs the shop.
     "We have a pretty steady stream of customers. After 50 years, you build a clientele," he said.
     Many of Boles' customers like to boast of his skills.
     Rover has been a frequent customer of Boles over the past few decades, he said.
     "I come back because I like the way Ray cuts my hair," he said.
     Rover's 5-month-old grandson Joshua will receive his first haircut at the shop Saturday, becoming the third generation of the family to have his hair cut by Boles.
     Dennis Rice, another frequent customer, said he appreciates the option of getting a trim in a shop like Boles'.
     "I tried really hard to find a barber shop, but they are disappearing," he said. "It's real rare to find a real one anymore."
     "It is a central community here. We are real," Charles said. "There are no pretenses here. I put my foot in my mouth many times and the jokes are always flying. It's a hometown barber shop. You can imagine Floyd's barber shop on The Andy Griffith Show - this is Floyd's in Tempe."
     Jack Rausch, a retired ASU professor, said the "atmosphere, the convenience, and the haircuts," are what has kept him coming to Boles off-and-on for the last 30 years.
     Boles cannot even begin to estimate how many haircuts he has given over the years.
     "Don't ask me that," he said laughing. "I don't know. A lot, I can assure you."
Reproduced with permission from State Press,
Arizona State University c. April 23, 1997.
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