James Camp, 84, barber whose shop was Turners Station gathering place

April 15, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

James Camp, a barber whose four-chair shop in Turners Station attracted an array of people daily to discuss politics, lack of money, wayward fashions, sports and other topics, died Wednesday of cancer at Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore. He was 84.

Some of the people who went to Jimmy's Barber Shop on Oak Street even got a haircut, but they often seemed the minority.

"People would sometimes go there all day just to sit and talk," said Jim Barnes, for many years a customer of Mr. Camp and a longtime friend. "If you wanted a haircut, he of course could take care of you. But a lot of times, people just wanted to come and see their friends."

At times, the Baltimore County shop was packed -- including the four barber chairs -- but no one was actually getting a haircut.

"It was like Floyd's barbershop in Mayberry [on the old 'Andy Griffith' show], because it was casual and calm and everyone always seemed to know each other and just liked to sit around and chew [talk]," said Eddie McMillan, who lives in Turners Station.

"It was a hangout, of course. But it was also a major and important part of a lot of people's lives," he said.

Mr. Camp lived near the shop when he opened it in the mid-1940s. He later moved to Cherry Hill in South Baltimore.

Jimmy's Barber Shop was open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Mr. Camp -- known in the community as a "master barber" -- never missed a day of work for sickness and seldom took a vacation.

"I told him to go on and take a vacation sometimes," said his daughter, Estelle McGoines of Baltimore. "I said, 'Daddy, the people's hair ain't going to grow to their toes because you're gone. Go on.' " He didn't.

In addition to providing a gathering place, Mr. Camp hired youngsters to sweep the floor and keep the shop clean. He also sponsored local sports teams.

A native of Athens, Ga., Mr. Camp moved to Washington in the late 1930s and worked as a baggage handler at Union Station before moving to Baltimore in the early 1940s and working at another barbershop.

Friends and relatives said Mr. Camp cut the hair for generations of customers and enjoyed seeing fathers bring their sons to the shop, who years later brought their sons.

"He was like a family doctor who has been part of the family forever, and you don't want to change from because you feel so comfortable with him," Mr. McMillan said. "You hate to go through the process of trying to find someone new. Especially when you're happy with someone. That's how everyone felt about Jim."

Mr. Camp retired and closed his shop in 1988. During his retirement, he continued to cut hair at the homes of friends and in nursing homes until last year when his health failed.

"That gave him something to do. He was always independent and needed something," his daughter said. "He was always Jimmy the Barber, and he liked doing it."

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 65 years, the former Dolly Clemons; a son, James E. Camp of Beltsville; a daughter, Doris Gamble of Largo; a brother, Gyden Camp of Baltimore; 11 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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