Tulsa barber makes some very special house calls

Saturday, February 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's an ordinary chore for most of us. Something to squeeze-in between the grocery store and the dry cleaners. But Oklahoma Traveler Scott Thompson found a place where a haircut brings healing. And a kind-hearted barber snips away at self-doubt.

Patricia Dacanay makes house calls. I guess I should call them "school calls". Tulsa's Kendall-Whittier Elementary, to be exact. Every Monday morning. And inside that little satchel are the tools of Patricia's trade. Tools that transform. "Yeah, it takes a lot to do them kids. My poor old dilapidated mirror, but it works." Patricia is a barber. For 22 years she's had a shop in the neighborhood. But every Monday morning, she sets up a chair in the counselor’s office, and gives any child who asks a haircut.

Everado Vargas has been waiting for her. "OK, are you number one? Alright Bud, let's go for it." These are good, old fashioned, watch-the-hair-fall haircuts. And every last one of them is free. Times are hard and money's tight and if you've got one working and six brothers and sisters that's half your groceries there. "Hi guys! You all here for haircuts?"

And because times are always hard at Kendall-Whittier, where 85% of the children live in poverty, Patricia's never without little customers. Donna Custer, a school volunteer, checks them in. And one-by-one, they climb way up in Patricia's chair. And for just a little bit, they are the center of attention. Patricia makes sure of it. And just when it seems Patricia's about to run out of customers, Donna makes a call. "Would you please send Cody Scott down? OK, thank you, bye." And another little tassel-haired boy comes down the hall. Because times are hard. "They kind of get lost in the shuffle somewhere down the line, this just makes 'em really feel good, makes 'em look good, feel good. And that makes me feel good."

They'll have to change the sign on the counselor's door. Patricia will add twenty more to that total today. And if she misses someone, they take a slip to her shop and she'll cut their hair there. February 22, 1999. Patricia's first day of giving free haircuts is etched in Deborah Andrews' mind. It's rare when a professional person calls and volunteers their talents to children so many others have already written off. "We have kids that want to hide and want to be invisible because of their hair and she has made such a difference."

It may not seem like much, a haircut. But with each snip, there goes a bit of embarrassment. Snip, there falls ridicule. Snip, snip, teasing gets trimmed.” And I just hate to see a baby with a bad, bad, haircut 'cause it don't take nothin' but a little bit of my time, shame there aint' a whole lot of folks out there doin' the same thing." Her pay comes in smiles. And innocent utterings from the doorway. "Thank you."

Most don't even know her name. "If they don't know my name, they know I'm the haircutting lady (laugh)." And that for just a while on Monday morning, they are the center of someone's world.