If you need a dose of inspiration to continue, and to follow your own path, here is the story of Alvin and Shirley Bell to inspire you. We have written about Alvin before, but here’s a recap to remind you: Mr. Bell moved to Beacon from Virginia in search of a job, and found one at Beacon Piece Dye, and then moved on to be a pressman at the Nabisco factory (now the Dia: Beacon art museum). According to his interview in the Highlands Current: “I don’t want to brag, but I worked my way up to become the top pressman. I made $15 an hour and later with overtime as much as $40,000 a year. When Nabisco closed, I opened my barber shop.”
When that Nabisco job was downsized, Mr. Bell was 54. His wife Shirley was doing hair, and he himself actually wanted to open a salon. As a youngster in Virginia, Alvin cut the hair of his friends and family, as he revealed in the Highlands Current article, when he wasn’t tending the tobacco fields with his family. “It was like a miracle; cutting hair just came back to me.” Mr. Bell opened Main Street Beauty Salon on Main Street, and has been operating his unisex barbershop for 30 years, with different barbers and stylists operating from it with him.
Love Your Work; Work Your Love
Loving your work makes a difference. As he stated in the article: “Tobacco was backbreaking but there’s nothing hard about being a barber. People are good. It’s one of the best trades in the whole world… I have as many white customers as I do black customers. Men and women. People know my work; I’m good. I even do traditional hot towel, straight razor shaves. My hands are still smooth.
“I’m also a very spiritual person; I’m a deacon at Springfield Baptist Church. A lot of brothers and sisters come here and we get right into Scriptures and the Bible. And we talk politics and baseball. I’m a Mets fan.”
Mr. Bell Honored By Beacon’s Mayor Randy Casale
Upon turning 85, Mr. Bell was honored by Beacon’s Mayor, Randy Casale, with a Certificate of Recognition as the Unofficial Mayor of The City of Beacon. Said the Mayor in a letter:
“I would like to wish you a very happy 85th birthday! For 85 years you have been the unofficial Mayor of the City of Beacon. Your barber shop has served Beacon residents in an exemplary fashion for nearly three decades. This community is grateful to have such a friendly and helpful role model. As a good friend of Pete Seeger, I know you have a good heart. Your children and those around you are blessed to learn from you every day. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the City of Beacon.”