, 2022-09-23 08:33:38,
A big change is in store for the corner of Petaluma Boulevard North and Corona Road. While it’s not on as grand a scale as the flooding that periodically paralyzes the area, or the 1982 reconfiguration aligning Corona with Skillman Lane to form a four-way intersection, it’s historically significant.
By mid-October, after 72 years at the same location, Al’s Barber Shop will no longer anchor the site where generations of Petalumans have enjoyed an atmosphere of lively conversation, fishing reports, tall tales and good grooming.
After 60 years of keeping up with the latest hairstyles, since the time of Brylcreem, Vitalis, pomade and other greasy kid stuff—from buzz cuts, crew-cuts, flattops and fades—84-year-old Al Kelp is putting away his clippers. The Al’s sign has already come down, but the location’s long tradition in barbering will continue under the renamed Authentic’s Barbershop.
“I’ve decided it’s time to retire and turn the business over to someone else,” said Kelp, who joined his father, also named Al, at the business in 1962. “During my recovery from a shoulder injury I realized I’m at the point I should retire while I’m still sharp and alert. I’ve got a thousand things I want to do.”
While manning a barber’s chair was Al’s day job, he’s stayed active with hobbies as varied as buying cars, boats and airplanes for his personal use and to fix up and resell, fishing for abalone, salmon and albacore in our coastal waters and flying his family to Disneyland for vacations.
He and his brother David, the sons of a Navy chief warrant officer, were born in Long Beach and raised in Santa Rosa where the athletic and physically fit Al took part in gymnastics and acrobatics, and was a member of the Santa Rosa High diving team. He graduated in 1957 and went on to work as a fry cook, before accepting more strenuous jobs, such as cleaning out chicken houses and baling hay. He later moved to Seattle, where he worked in sheet metal fabrication before joining the Navy.
“My dad opened Al’s Barber Shop in 1950 on a piece of land he paid $5,000 for,” said Kelp. “When I got out of the Navy, he encouraged me to try barbering. I joined him in March and he died in May. David and I then ran the shop together for seven years until he moved to Oregon.”
Kelp met his wife, Alice, while out dancing at Little Switzerland in Sonoma.
“We were married for nearly 60 years when she died last year,” he said.
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