Barbering is an ancient and noble profession that dates back thousands of years. In the earlier years of European civilization, aside from shaving and haircutting, barbers also performed surgery, herbal medicine and dentistry. The traditional red and white striped barber pole originated during this time, resulting from the clean white bandages and the blood-soaked, used bandages that often hung outside a barber’s door.
Eventually, their roles changed and evolved, creating numerous and different opportunities for them. Some still cut hair in a shop with the traditional barber pole while others are now working in high-end salons.
The other day, as we were headed downtown, my husband decided to get a hair cut, so we pulled into Gerry’s shop. When we entered, he had someone in the chair while another customer was reading the paper. So, we waited. We were met with a warm smile, a friendly greeting and soon, the banter began. If nothing else, it was a rather amusing way to kill time. Then, it was my husband’s turn and with my usual pen and paper in hand, I resolved to do another interview.
Gerry ten-Bohmer is of Dutch decent and his family had a true emigrant spirit. Just after the Second World War, his father left Holland and moved to Australia. His paternal grandparents soon followed. After a time, his father returned to Holland, where he met and married his mother. Shortly after their marriage, the young couple left Holland and settled in a suburb of Perth, Australia. Four years after that, they moved to Canada, where sons John and Gerry were born. “Dad had to drive mom in a snowstorm, just to get her to the hospital on time, when I was born,” he chuckled.
The boys enjoyed their outdoor adventures. Gerry was especially endeared to fishing and raising rabbits. “I had 12 rabbits and it was my hobby,” he reflected.
The family lived in New Westminster for a time and eventually moved to Richmond, Ladner and Chilliwack, before deciding to leave for Australia. “I don’t recall much about Australia except that there were a lot of scorpions where we lived. I also remember falling down quite a bit when I played soccer,” he laughed. After six months in the Land Down Under, they headed back to Canada and settled in Maple Ridge, eventually moving out to Chilliwack.
Gerry had aspirations of becoming a baker, admitting that upon reflection, he doesn’t know why he was leaning towards that career at the time. “I guess I just enjoyed the smell,” he chuckled. After graduation, his career path was unclear. “My brother had gone to BCIT to become a barber and he was having fun with it. I decided to follow suit so I guess that I credit my brother with helping me decide,” he said.
After graduating from BCIT, Gerry began cutting, trimming, shaving and shampooing heads. For the next three years, he worked for other barbers. It was during this time that he began to wonder if he might want to try something different. “I started helping with the music at the Chiefs games, I co-hosted a few local telethons and finally decided to pursue broadcasting through Columbia Academy of Radio, Television and Recording Arts,” he explained.
Shortly after he received his broadcasting diploma, he came to a fork in the road. “I was met with a major decision. I had to choose between a radio career and opening up my own shop.” His barbering career won out and Gerry bought A Cut Ahead in the Cascade Centre, across from the library. “I remember the exact day. I bought the business on November 28, 1992 and as I look back, it’s something that I haven’t regretted.”
“You must be a part-time psychologist too,” I quickly added. He laughed, recognizing a shade of truth in that statement. “We do discuss all kinds of things here at the shop from the weather to politics, family problems and relationship difficulties to money issues and even fishing. I do a lot of listening and sometimes I will offer what I perceive to be some solutions. But mainly, I just listen,” he ended.