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For 39 Years, Barber’s Known the Base’s Buzz

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Guillermo “Bill” Romero measures change in inches.

Romero, 66, has been giving haircuts at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station for 39 years. The requirements for a regulation haircut have remained the same: “Three inches on top and neatly tapered on the sides and back.”

But tastes have changed, he says. “They want it shorter and closer now.”

A haircut cost just 60 cents when Romero started. Today, it is $4.

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Seeing the gradual shrinking of the base has saddened Romero. “The Marines have been good to me,” he said.

And the Marines say Romero has been good to them. Enlisted men and officers alike refer to Romero with affection, adding that he will “talk your ear off if you get him started.”

When the base was at its busiest during the 1980s, Romero gave more than 60 haircuts a day and there were 33 barbers in four shops.

In recent weeks, Romero has been reduced to giving about a dozen haircuts a day, serving mainly retired veterans.

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Romero and his few remaining colleagues are gearing up for one final rush before closure--servicemen looking for fresh haircuts before the ceremonies.

Then, Romero will retire. But he plans to work a few days a week at a little barbershop in San Clemente that is bustling on weekends with Camp Pendleton Marines.

Said Romero: “I’ve been working with Marines so long, I want to stay with them.”


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