NOTE: In January 2008, Rebecca Haines wrote a feature on Ron Tuller for the Horizons page. This well-known and well-liked member of the community passed away Thursday, Feb. 21. As a tribute to him, and as a compliment to his family, this same writer will recognize his contribution to the Carthage community.
FROM THE WRITER: I was still fresh out of college in 2008, working for my hometown newspaper, The Carthage Press, when I meandered into Ron's Mug & Brush Barber Shop. I was looking for a story on a neat person I could fill a page about – and Ron Tuller gave me a smile and said he would help me out. I plopped down in a chair in that barbershop just off the southeast corner of the Square and ended up spending most of my afternoon there.
My story ended up something like this, and to this day, it hangs in a frame in his shop.
Just off the southeast corner of the Carthage Square, Ron Tuller has set up shop.
Ron’s Mug & Brush Barber Shop is in its seventh year, providing the community with haircuts, shaved necks and trimmed sideburns. Though the people in the area have only known Tuller for seven years, his barbering career goes back much further. He earned his first barber’s license in Los Angeles, Calif., at the American Barber College. For six months, he learned not only how to give a shave and a haircut, but anatomy as well.
“They want you to be smart,” he said, back in 2008. “To be honest, it keeps the wrong people out.”
Growing up, Tuller bounced between Carthage and Kansas City, until he was 17 years old, and joined the Navy during the Vietnam War. He received an honorable discharge when he broke out into a rash from an allergic reaction to wool.
It was then when Tuller decided to barber, and attend school for the trade. He said he chose the American Barber College over the Moler Barber College for several reasons.
“To me, it was a better college,” he said. “It was cheaper, I liked the way it looked, I liked the instructors … It was full of students, so that was a good sign.”
In Tuller’s early years, he said he was a bit cocky.
“I got those feathers smoothed out over the years,” he said with a grin.
After barbering in California, Ron moved to Missouri to be closer to family. In the eight years he wasn’t barbering, he worked at Schreiber’s, Marble Plant, Fred’s Frozen Foods, and by that time, he wanted to get back to his barbering.
Page 2 of 3 - He obtained a Missouri barber’s license in Blue Springs, Mo., in 1981 to take a test. Then, he set up his first shop in Diamond, Mo.
“It was slow at first, but I built it up,” he said.
Life’s circles brought Tuller to set up shop again in Carthage in 2001, and he said in that time, he has developed several regulars. Customers’ ages do not matter as Tuller said they’re all across the board in ages. Another wave of customers came in when Les York closed shop. Now, there are two barbers in Carthage, with the other being Bud’s at Main and 5th streets.
“I’m doing the work of two shops,” Tuller said. “I keep busy all day long.”
The number of barbers went into a decline when long hair became the fad. However, Tuller said times are changing back.
“If someone wanted to get back into barbering, now’s the time,” he said.
Even though the art of a barber’s haircut has not been lost, Tuller said the straight razor shave is becoming less and less popular.
“There’s not much call for it,” he said. “You have to keep in practice for it, and men just shave themselves these days.”
Additionally, there are dangers in this traditional style of shaving.
“If you cut yourself with a straight razor, you’ve done something, and you’re going to have a scar,” Tuller said.
There are, however, other precautions barbers must take. Tuller said as he trims, small hairs can fly so fast they can get under his skin.
“I get them all the time … couple times a month at least,” he said. “I just remove them with tweezers. It’s so hard because they’re so small. People don’t think about how dangerous those infections can be.”
But that’s not all. For health precautions, Tuller keeps his tools in desensitizing solutions to rid diseases that can be spread through the trimmers and razors.
“It keeps my customers and me safe,” Tuller said.
Two of Tuller’s several visitors Friday afternoon were Tom Rogler and Leaford Green. Rogler has been visiting Tuller for four months.
“Ron does a nice job,” Rogler said. “I’m just glad he’s here. There aren’t many (barbers) anymore.”
“I like my hair short,” Green said looking in the mirror after his haircut, “still got my sideburns – what’s left of them, yup, that’s the way I like it. Couldn’t ask for a better haircut.”
Page 3 of 3 - Tuller is married to Rayma, who is known as “Cricket,” and they have one daughter, Christina Wells; and one son, Matthew, and five grandchildren. Tuller says he enjoys his occupation.
“As long as I can do it I will,” he said.
A Courageous Battle
Nine years ago, Ron Tuller was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and was treated in Little Rock, Ark.
Last summer, his family noticed some slurred speech and he suffered from uncommon headaches. In September, his wife, Cricket, took him to be treated in Fayetteville, Ark., and they found he had brain cancer. After two surgeries, one that month and the other in January 2013, the aggressive disease had not backed down. When pneumonia set in, that was what was declared the cause of Ron's death on Feb. 21, 2013.
“He was still cutting my kids' hair in December,” said Ron Tuller's daughter, Christina Wells. “He never gave up. Even when the doctor came in to tell him he had brain cancer, he said 'wow, that must be hard for you to tell people that.' There he was, thinking about the doctor and not himself.”
Remembering, Moving On
“He loved being a barber,” said Wells. “He had such an affect on everybody. He always treated everyone well, knew his customers by their name and was just, to me, a great person.”
For Cricket, who had loved Ron for 42 years, moving on will be difficult.
“He was my best friend,” she said. “We had been together since I was 17 and he was 22 … He had a good heart.”
Ron's Mug-n Brush Barbershop is open again after shutting its doors for four months, this time continuing Ron's love for the trade with Brock McManis. Originally from Lamar, McManis says some of Ron's loyal customers have returned to the shop.
“I've been trying,” McManis said. “I've had no complaints so far, everyone who has come back has left happy. The Tullers are a great family, and they've been great to me.”
The barbershop is located at 213 E. 4th St., on the east side of the Carthage Square. Hours are Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday 8 a.m.-noon. To reach the shop, call 358-4454.