Mel Fritz opens shop at his home in Uniontown

Neighbors

July 05, 1996|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TWO OF MY FAVORITE folks are Dottie and Mel Fritz of Uniontown. They've both lived in the village their entire lives and remember with fondness their growing-up years. Mel grew up on a farm, and Dottie's father was the minister at Uniontown Bible Church.

Mel Fritz, who has been a Westminster barber since 1948, has come home to Uniontown, where he operates a shop from his house two days a week. The shop features old-fashioned barbering, complete with a hand-held vacuum cleaner to whisk loose hairs off a customer's neck (young customers like this service), Mel's good nature and nearly 50 years of barbering experience.

The first thing you'll notice when you enter Mel's shop is the antique barber chair. Crafted in 1881, it's made of oak with a leather seat. Customers have been known to fall asleep in it. A long deacon's bench, where you'll wait your turn, has been around since the 1930s and, according to Mel, has been in just about every barber's shop in Westminster.

Mel chose barbering as a career when, as a teen-ager, major surgery prevented him from doing heavy lifting. "At that point," he said, "I knew I wanted to find a trade."

Bill Heagy, a Westminster barber, gave Mel an opportunity to learn the business, and he attended a barbering school in East Baltimore on weekends.

"What I have enjoyed most is the people," said Mel. "There's never a dull moment -- there's always somebody kidding somebody."

Sometimes the biggest jokesters were the barbers. "We all wore white shirts and ties to work," said Mel. "One time one of my friends asked me what I got him for his birthday. I went over, cut off his tie, gave it back to him, and said, 'That's your birthday present.' A woman in the shop thought it was a common joke, but we all thought it was funny."

Mel remembers when the Baltimore Colts trained in Westminster, and some of the players were customers. "Billy Ray Smith and Jimmy Orr smoked cigars and read comic books," he recalls. "They didn't want to read the exaggerated stuff about themselves in the magazines." Some of the players didn't have money to pay for their haircuts -- they borrowed it from a manager and paid it back later.

And Johnny Unitas? "He looked like a little high school kid," remembers Mel, "not like a major football player. And everybody in Westminster liked the Colts, and threw parties for them when they were in town."

Mel also remembers state politicians, governors and other officials who would come in during an election campaign. Local television personalities such as weatherman Norm Lewis have been steady customers.

And Mel takes his work on the road -- going to nursing homes and hospitals for customers who no longer can come to him. He routinely checks on retired barbers, such as 90-something Jeff Hooper, who may need a trim.

How long will he stay in the business? As long as he can. "Barbers never retire," he said, "They just fade away."

Mel's Barber Shop is open Mondays and Tuesdays at 3359 Uniontown Road in the historic district. Information: 848-0232.

Imperial anniversary

It's summer, a time to celebrate everything from a graduation to a wedding. Vickie Mastalerz of Union Bridge recently orchestrated a surprise celebration in honor of her parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Vickie invited extended family from across the country to gather at Deep Creek Lake, and more than 40 relatives reunited for a party they won't forget for a long time.

From the renewal of wedding vows to a sit-down dinner and then a game of in-line skate hockey for anyone who was brave enough, the weekend, said Vickie, turned out great.

A surprise, and a demonstration that the generation gap isn't as wide as one might think, came when the children opened their party bags to find Duncan Imperial yo-yos. The grandparents at the party held an impromptu yo-yo demonstration, from basic maneuvers to such tricks as "walk the dog."

"It was wonderful," said Vickie. "And to think I got the yo-yos just because they were a quiet toy."

After the storm

It's nice to celebrate some of nature's miracles, too. The weather and storms we've been getting around dinner time have prompted much complaining.

They haven't been much fun, almost every night. But after Tuesday evening's storm, a full arc of the rainbow appeared over the fields of Uniontown. We stood on the sidewalk and watched until it disappeared.

When to fly the flag

So you found your American flag to fly on the Fourth? If you're wondering when the next official holiday is to display Old Glory, it will be Labor Day, Sept. 2, followed by Constitution Day on Sept. 17, Columbus Day, Oct. 14, and Veterans Day, Nov. 11, according to the American Legion.

Judy Reilly's Northwest Carroll neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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