It was in the first week of June 1960 that Dan Tafoya started cutting hair in Tracy. Now, 60 years later, he’s still at it, holding forth five days a week at his Hairitage barbershop at West 12th Street.
Some of his original customers in 1960 are still regular customers today. And it’s obvious, most have been seeking more than a haircut or even a trimmed beard when they make their way to Dan’s shop. They want to know what’s going on in town, on the sports fields, and in fields and orchards around the area.
Gary Roberts is one of the regulars. He dropped into the shop one day last week after it was reopened from coronavirus closing.
“I live out of town out past Jefferson school, so I want to keep up what’s happening in Tracy. This is the only place I can meet up with Tracy old-timers.”
When Dan started out at Julian’s Barber Shop on B Street in 1960, many of the customers either worked on the railroad or were farmers.
“It was what this town was mostly about in those days,” Dan reported.
Now there are hardly any railroaders left in Tracy, but generations of farm families still make it to the Hairitage for cuts.
“In fact, I’m cutting the hair of the fifth generation of the Bogetti family,” Dan said.
And Leroy Rickman, one of Dan’s original clients in 1960, reported that with the arrival of a great-grandson, five generations of Rickmans have had their “ears lowered” regularly at Dan’s shop.
Leroy started getting his “flat-top” trimmed while he was still in high school, and classmates Larry Minner, a former Press sports editor, and Reno resident Chris Haxby are among the early regulars still making regular visits at Hairitage. Haxby takes a monthly trip from Reno to Tracy, and climbing into the barber chair at Dan’s shop is one of his stops.
Dan hails from New Mexico, but his family came to California in 1939 and to Los Angeles in 1949. From there, the Tafoyas went to Patterson, where Dan graduated from Patterson High before serving four years in the Navy. He was a yeoman aboard the carrier USS Hornet for most of those four years, but it was in 1958 at Brownfield Naval Air Station near San Diego that he first picked up the barber’s shears.
“I watched how the barbers gave haircuts and wanted to try cutting hair, and I liked it,” he said. “I went back to Patterson and then attended barber college in Stockton in 1959, and I landed a job at Julian’s Barber Shop on B Street in Tracy in 1960.”
The shop was owned by veteran barber Julian Esenarro, but he was no longer active. His son, Tony Esenarro, had taken over, and Dan and Maynard Goodman completed the three-barber staff. It was an active place with a lot of conversation, kidding and joking.
Dan worked for Tony for 10 years, first on B Street and then on 12th Street until 1970, when Tony was forced to quit barbering because of rheumatoid arthritis limiting the use of his hands. Dan bought the business in 1970, and Goodman stayed on with Dan for the first three years.
In the 1960s, haircuts, which cost $1.50, were for many clients “a must” every two weeks or so, and the hair was cut short on the sides. Most barbers finished the haircut by using a straight razor to trim around ears and the back of clients’ heads. Dan believes he is the only barber in Tracy who still does that. And he is unique in trimming clients’ beards without an additional charge for a haircut.
In the ’70s, in the days of “leisure suits,” hairstyles changed, and the hair was allowed to grow longer with long sideburns, Dan recalls. Nowadays, with haircuts costing $20 at Dan’s and in most shops, “fades” with close-trimmed sides and relatively short tops are not that much different from the cuts of the 1960s. Customers usually go for a haircut on average once a month.
Hairstyles change, but the chatter of the barbershop still remains pretty much an important part of getting a haircut, Dan reports.
“You get them started talking and then you just listen,” he said. “I have to know when it’s time for me to pull in my horns. When there’re two guys in the shop who know each other, I just sit back and let them talk.”
His wife of 61 years, Dorothy, died last year, and there are two grown children, a son, Kirk, and a daughter, Traci Heinrich, plus two granddaughters and a great-grandson.
Dan has no immediate plans to retire. He lives only two blocks away from the shop, so he still walks back and forth to work.
“I’m 86 now and still in good health, so I’ll keep going as long as I can,” he said. “Barbering has been good to me. I’ve made a good living and raised my family here — and if I quit, what would I do?”