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Barber and his shop remembered in celebration

For more than 40 years, Clemons Barbershop was a place of friendship, laughter and fine-looking haircuts.
When first opened in the early 1960s, it was the only black barbershop in Lincolnton. It was also the heart and soul of its owner, Carlee Clemons.
“He took his work extremely seriously, and when he was working on somebody’s head, he was concentrating on just that,” said Gertrude Clemons, Carlee’s widow. “He wanted them to go out of there looking good.”
Because of his personality and knack for cutting hair, Carlee had a legion of loyal customers, some spanning three generations.
His daughter, Veronica Clemons, remembers visiting the shop.
“It was noisy, but it was always a lot of conversation, a lot of gossip, a lot of sports talking, and it was always a fun atmosphere and kind of like a brotherhood,” she said.
That brotherhood suffered after Carlee closed the shop as he struggled with bone cancer. He died in July.
“I think the hardest thing for my husband was when he had to go pick his tools up from that shop, and he knew he could never come back,” said Gertrude.
In order to honor Carlee and the community his barbershop created, his family has organized a Clemons Barbershop Customer Appreciation Celebration, which will be held Saturday.
“We want to recreate the atmosphere that they always kept at the barbershop, that camaraderie, friendship and fun,” said Veronica.
The event will include fried fish, hamburgers, hot dogs, soft drinks and a lot of reminiscing. The family is hoping for a good turnout.
“Carlee enjoyed being around people and knowing people,” Gertrude said. “My husband knew absolutely everyone in Lincoln County.”
He had a reputation of being a funny, devout, mellow man, who could give a great haircut if you were willing to wait for it.
“My husband was slow about everything,” Gertrude said. “When he did it, he did it right. There was no pushing him.”
The results made some call him a “Lincoln County legend.”
“His haircuts were the best,” said Arthur Burch, a customer of Carlee’s for 38 years. “The way he cut hair – he was an artist as far as doing his work.”
Carlee never experimented with other careers. He became a barber right after high school at the same shop he would later buy.
Being a barber was in his blood — his grandfather was a barber, his father cut hair and five of his six brothers became barbers.
Working in the shop also gave him the opportunity to meet his wife, who visited with a friend related to Carlee.
“I was pretty quiet so I just stood back and paid attention,” Gertrude said. “I had no idea he was paying attention to me until afterwards.”
The romance blossomed from there, resulting in four children and a life devoted to three things: God, family and the barbershop.
“He was a very religious man. He was honest,” said Larry Clemons, Carlee’s brother. “He was a family man, he was dedicated to his family. He was loved by his brothers and sisters and all his friends. He was just a dynamite person.”
For those who loved Carlee, Saturday will be a time of celebration and remembrance.
“Even from his sick bed, he had people laughing because he loved to do that,” said Gertrude. “He was always a joy to be around. He loved people that much.”
Want to go? As a thank you to all clients and friends, the family of Carlee Clemons is holding a Clemons Barbershop Customer Appreciation Celebration. The event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the shop located at 117 Hollybrook Avenue. The family looks forward to celebrating Carlee and his business, while remembering his great work and all the good times shared at the shop from the day it opened to its closing this year.
by Sarah Grano

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