Charley the Barber

JerryHoganKasperek_Wby Jerry Kasperek

Thanks for your phone calls and e-mails. I now know that the GLF stands for the Grange League Federation — a farmer-owned cooperative where you could buy feed and seed and other kinds of farming supplies.

But, I’m going to put the story of the GLF aside for another time and write about what I promised you: 1) take a trip on the DL&W Railroad; and 2) learn a little bit about the life and times of Charley the Barber.

His name was Charles Santoro; his barbershop was downtown on South Second Street in the block between Montgomery Ward on Cayuga Street and Perkins’ Corner on Oneida Street.

There were three or four small businesses squeezed into that short block and Charley’s was the one between Fanny Farmer’s and the Elizabeth shop. (To jog our collective memory: Farmer Farmer’s sold yummy chocolate candy while the Elizabeth Shop sold upscale clothes for kids.)

I knew Charley’s wife, Carm, because she worked at the Sealright with my mother many years ago. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Dennis Santoro, their son, who called me about one of my columns when I mentioned X-ee (or Ex-ee) Libera’s barbershop on West First Street.

His dad had started there and also had worked at Galizia’s on North Second.

He had moved here from Oswego, Dennis said about his father. “He chose Fulton, because there was more industry and it was more prosperous.”

And when his dad got a place of his own on South Second Street he happily barbered there from 1952 to 1972 until Urban Renewal and Route 481 changed the downtown landscape. He then moved his shop to Oneida Street, Dennis said, until 1978, when his father passed away on his way to work.

“His passion was to be with his customers,” Dennis spoke lovingly of his dad, whose footsteps he tried to follow and become a barber. He went to barbering school for three summers and became an apprentice. But it just wasn’t for him.

Today, he is a retired teacher from the Cicero, North Syracuse School District. He said he has lived here — in Fulton — all his life and wish people could know what it was like back then in his father’s day.

I thank Dennis Santoro for sharing his father’s story with us. Charley’s barbershop was part of the Dizzy Block that we so fondly recall.

To read the rest of the column, pick up a copy of The Valley News or subscribe today by calling 598-6397

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