Larry Childress' barber shop doesn't offer a lot of frills — just good haircuts and good conversation.

"We're a good traditional barber shop," he said.

The shop opened in 1955 by Ernest Pickle. It was the first business in the shopping center at the corner of Front Street and Beckham Avenue, and it's the only original shop that remains. In 1969, Steve Jones bought the shop and owned Steve's Barber Shop until he died three and a half years ago. His wife, Dorenda Jones, sold the shop to Childress this year, he said.

Childress, 48, of Tyler, worked for Jones for six years in the 1990s and has worked at the shop for a total of about 15 years. Between Childress and the other three barbers, they have 188 years of haircutting experience, he said.

Lillian Waters has been a barber for 47 years and has worked at the shop for three years. Bob Wheeler has been cutting hair 61 years and has worked at the shop for 40 years. Bob Vermillion has been a barber for 57 years and joined Childress in March, he said.

Childress said they offer men's haircuts of all kinds, as well as straight razor face shaves, facials and mud packs and shoe shines.

Robert Williams, 74, started shining shoes when he was 7 and started working at the barber shop in 1956. He left to work at Carrier Corp. for more than 35 years before retiring and returning to shining shoes at the shop 10 years ago.

When Williams began shining shoes, he said they cost 15 cents.

"I got married on 15-cent shoe shines and started raising a family," he said. Now, shoe shines are $6.

"We're just a good old regular barber shop; nothing fancy," Childress said.

After buying the business, he renovated the shop and renamed it to Front & Beckham Barber Shop to make it easier to find. Childress said most of their customers have been coming for years, but he also has been getting two or three new customers each week.

The shop's claim to fame is that fiddle legend Johnny Gimble cut hair there. Williams said he worked there for about nine months to a year.

Williams said Billie Sol Estes got his hair cut and shoes shined at the store while throngs of media waited outside. In 1962, the first live televised trial in the U.S. was held in Tyler, when Estes was tried for fraud. Estes was found guilty, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices overturned his conviction.


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