The year was 1975 when Enrique ‘AKA’ Henry started his career as El Barbero de West Dallas, something he swore he’d never do. You see, Henry’s dad had been a barber since 1953 and as a child he spent many Saturdays helping at his shop. The long hours and constant chatter of old people was not for him, plus Henry had bigger plans.
In 1975 Dallas was still trying to shed the title of the city that killed JFK, the Dallas Cowboys were at the start of dominating the sports scene in Dallas. In fact, 1975 was the year that the now iconic Roger Staubach threw a pass to Drew Pearson for the win - labeled as the ‘Hail Mary Pass’. Led Zeppelin came to town that year, in Tejano music - Little Joe y la Familia were still filling dance floors all over Texas. Just for perspective - gas was 57 cents a gallon, a loaf of bread was 28 cents and a haircut were $5.00. This was the backdrop that would start a career that is 44 years and counting and one that never should have started.
Henry, like most young men decided early on that what their dads do is not for them, not that they don’t respect what they do. It’s just that they want MORE, Henry’s more was either baseball or a fireman, becoming a barber like his old man was not on his to - do list. Pero, (but) fate intervened or as some say S*** happens. Henry suffered a serious leg injury playing the sport he loved and even if briefly-he considered it as a possible career. Well, that did it. He would then his sights on becoming a fireman, even attending Mountain View College to get necessary credits to qualify for position. And, qualify he did - but he could not pass the physical again due to that D** leg injury.
“…Henry questioned if he would make this career…”
A hora Ca, (What to do now) well he knew his dad really wanted him to take over the Barber Shop for him soon. And, he already had earned his Barber’s license while still attending High School at age 16, thanks to his Dad’s $600.00 investment in him. With this thought in mind, on a bright Monday morning in June- Henry reported to his dads’ shop. At first the money ($5.00 a head) just wasn’t enough for a young man with big plans. Pero, he soon found out that, “hey” it wasn’t that bad. And, the customers he had dismissed as just a bunch of old people were decent people, some with interesting lives.
Two years later his dad said, “It’s all yours son”, and he moved into another business that would keep him busy until his retirement years later. By now Henry had his own clients and for the most part he inherited his dad’s clients by default. Still, Henry questioned if he would make this career, the money got better and running your business was better than what some of his friends were doing. Soon weeks tuned into months, and then he found himself putting up yet another yearly calendar. He was witness to many live changing events in his customers lives- weddings, Quicineras, babies and unfortunately deaths in the circle of life. There are many memorable stories to tell, but due to space will only share two here.
It was pretty common practice for many of his customers to come in about once a month. However, one client seemed to visit every two weeks.
“So, Henry mentioned the doppelganger customer.”
But the gentleman seemed to look slightly different at times. Henry began to wonder if it was in fact, two different people. And, when the mysterious customer came in, he would rarely speak. The confusing customer came in again within a week of the last visit, so Henry assumed he was not happy with his haircut. Finally, it became obvious it was definitely two different customers when the man currently sitting in his chair shared that his daughter was getting married, so he needed to have a fresh haircut. Confused, Henry finally asked, “Do you have a brother that also comes here? Because another guy comes in and he looks just like you”. The man responded by saying, “I do but I have not seen him in over 37 years”. So, Henry mentioned the doppelganger customer. The man agreed to giving him his number. The following week the doppelganger walks in and Henry shares his story. This gentleman was a little more forth coming. He shared that he and his brother were given up for adoption after their parents were killed in an automobile accident. And they were adopted by two separate families. Since then he had not seen or heard anything about his brother. Henry gave him the other man’s number based on the outside chance that maybe, just maybe… Eventually, they both agreed to meet at the Barber Shop- Henry was not sure when though.
Finally, the day came when both customers arrive- finally at the same time. One is from Grand Prairie and the other is from Irving.
Once you saw them together there was no denying, they were brothers. They hugged, tears were shed and not only by the long-lost brothers. The entire Barber Shop was caught up in the emotion of the moment and thankful they were witness to what had do be a true blessing from God. To this day, forty-two years later Henry can not help but recall that day with pride and humility for having been a part of reuniting a family. There were many other memorable moments but as stated earlier too many to list. But one cannot be left unsaid.
Two years into what was at first a wait and see the start in his career as El Barbero de West Dallas, walks in a young lady with her younger brother in tow. Her name is Rosa and it turns out that she works with his sister. After another visit or two Henry works up the nerve to ask her out. A year later they marry, this year they are celebrating 39 years together. Yes, many things have changed in the last 44 years since Henry started his career but the appreciation for his community remains strong. Once a upon a time in West Dallas…