Life on the Corner: A Shave and a Shine

Nov 30, 2018 331

When the Southern Italian immigrants first arrived in Boston at the end of the nineteenth century, one of the few professions open to them was being a barber, and the North End had scores of barber shops. My maternal grandfather had a barber shop on Haverhill Street near North Station, and my cousin’s son has a barber shop today on Salem Street.

Italians were known for their skill in hair cutting, and on Saturdays all the local shops would be full to capacity. Most of the larger shops would let a local boy offer to shine shoes for the customers while they waited for a cut and a shave. I shined shoes in Grande’s barber shop in North Square, which lasted for one day because I hated getting my hands dirty.

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