Monday, April 27, 2009

The Barbers of Hastings

by Judy (Wemer) Chamberlain

Joe Manzi and a customer in Krueger's barber shop on Main Street

You never know what you are going to find when you visit the Hastings Historical Society. The cottage is a treasure trove of photos and maps, documents and books, and objects from another time. I often go to research one topic and get distracted by another that is equally fascinating. And you never know, you may bump into an old friend or neighbor while you’re there.

On two recent visits, I caught up with some former classmates who were making use of this wonderful resource. One day Liz Kapuster Douglas came down from Danbury to take a look at the wonderful postcard collection HHS has. It seems she collects postcards of Hastings. Who knew that there were so many postcards of Hastings? And a couple of weeks ago, I met Peter Seixas who was in from Vancouver to do a little personal research. Peter and I began to discuss events that occurred in Hastings when we were back in the 7th grade. It was certainly a ‘dust off your memory’ kind of encounter. We covered a range of subjects that included bomb shelters, barbers, mysterious happenings, and mutual acquaintances.

Our conversation about barbers jarred my memory to recall my visits to Jake with my brother Ray. Jake Hoffman’s little one-man shop was on Warburton Avenue. My mother would drop us off in front, and Ray and I would go in to sit quietly on the window seat and wait our turn. I say, “our turn,” because even though Ray was there for a haircut, Jake would also trim my bangs. I was never pleased with this idea because girls were supposed to go to a beauty parlor, not have a barber cut their hair. My mother tried to persuade me that Jake wasn’t just any barber; he was once the barber for Billie Burke and Flo Ziegfeld. I wasn’t impressed. Can’t say I recall when we stopped frequenting Jake’s, stopped staring at the small white hexagon tiles that dotted the floor, stopped watching customers ease themselves into that old barber chair with the wide leather strap dangling down. Eventually, I would have my hair cut in a few doors down at Dore and then at Dee’s by Dolores Radomski, but I fondly remember Jake the barber.

There I go, rambling off again. Almost every visit I make to the cottage triggers a memory or sparks an interest. It might be an old journal or map, a newspaper clipping, sepia print, or a happenstance conversation. Why not visit the cottage and see what you discover?

Editor’s Note: We’re always glad to hear that people think we have a great collection! But we don’t have everything we would like to have. Take, for example, pictures of Jake Hoffman. The best we could do to illustrate Judy’s post this week was the photograph of Joe Manzi at the top. The photograph directly above, taken in 1958, shows the building that Jake Hoffman had been in as it was being remodeled for Astoria Federal. Jake occupied the corner space on the far right, 558 Warburton Avenue, and shared it with Larry’s Beauty Salon. If you look closely, you can see part of the lettering for Larry’s sign. If you have any pictures of Jake or his shop, we’d love to have copies! And by the way, does anyone recognize the child in the photograph with Joe Manzi?

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  1. If I am not mistaken Joe Manzi's shop was later called the Sportsman's Tonsorial Salon. I remember being in there one Saturday morning when Jonathan Winters dropped his son off for a cut. Before he left he demonstrated how to cut his hair accompanied by sound effects and facial expressions. He broke the place up. Jake Hoffman was my father's and my barber until he closed. He used to make house calls. We would see him several times a week trudging up Fraser place with his kit to shave old Louis Kay who lived at the top of the street. Bill Ewen

  2. I just got (4/28) the photo of Joe Manzi at work. Here is my recollection of the barber shops in town.

    Joe Manzi opened his Sportsmen's Tonsorial Salon next to the Green Tavern on Main Street, in I believe 1956. There were three chairs in the shop and the three barbers were Joe Manzi, Sal (last name escapes me for now but was also Italian) and Paul Ciardacci. When Joe closed the shop, Sal opened his own in Irvington on Main street there.

    Joe had a son Joseph Jr. who went to West Point (Congressional appointment). Joe was very proud of this. Joe Sr. was active in the lions club and other organizations. I believe that Manzi's only cut males.

    Joe had a brother who ran a widely known restaurant in Yonkers off South Broadway. I went there and the food was terrific. When the Hastings 5&10 went out of business, Manzi's restaurant opened across from Joe's barber shop.

    Jakes gave me a "so-so" cut and I didn't go there. The shop he shared with Larry Morrison "Larry's Beauty Parlor" was a great draw for Jake as Larry was popular with the ladies. He paid John Ostach to keep his car up the hill from the shop at 41 Whitman Street avoiding the village parking problem.

    Next there was a barber shop just down the hill from Dunn's bar (now Food For Thought). It was Called Herman's and was owned by Herman Eggering. I believe that he was the only barber in the shop. Herman was a nice man but his haircuts were cookie cutter. He tended to give every man or boy a cut that was short on top and shorter on the sides. My father said that Herman would give you a "screw cut", real short.

    The only other one that I can recall was the longest lasting one, Carl's Barber Shop located across the bridge and next to (or a couple of doors north of) Mandrick's Grocery on the corner of Washington and Warburton. Carl's last name was Dimonescue (spelling?). I had my hair cut occasionally by him. He was another nice man. His daughter Carol Ann was a classmate of mine. He lived in a house on the north side of Washington Ave east of the Aqueduct and the Washington Arms apartment building. After Carol Ann he and his wife had twin boys as well, and one died tragically at a very early age. The family was crushed. Carl was still cutting hair from the Fifties into the '80's. My son Matt always went to him.

    I don't recall any others. Please show this to Judy Wemer as she may have more to add to this

    Bob Russell

  3. I recently found this little bit about Carl Diminescu the Hastings barber and wish to correct an earlier blog comment by myself.

    Carl Roger DIMINESCU:
    In 1929 at the age of 9, his parents brought him to America where he attended schools and graduated from Hastings High School. Carl served as medic in the Army during World War II and was discharged in 1945. He followed in this father's footsteps as a barber in Hastings, cutting and triming hair for over 50 years. Carl was an active member of the Hastings Volunteer Fire Dept and the Southside Club and was an avid sports fan and golfer. He passed away in January of 2008. Carl's wife's name was Helen. Their sons were not twins. The eldest son was Kirk b.1951(who resides in Hastings),followed by Neil b. 1953. Both Neil and Carol Ann b. 1948 are deceased. Sorry that I didn't get the last name spelling correctly.

    Bob Russell

  4. Bob Russell, could you please contact me at

  5. Herman came into the shop, owned at the time (the '40s) by Joe Boulanger (b. Doroslav, Yugoslavia 19 Mar. 1894; d. Hastings, 6 Aug. 1954). Joe's daughters, Irene and Anne, ran the beauty salon and Anne was married in 1941 to Paul Freitag, who served in the US Seabees during WW 2.