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Column: Barber shops, salons are sources of many rich experiences

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and...

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared March 5, 2005.

WORTHINGTON - Mr. and Mrs. Chris H. Hanson lived on 10th Street in a house long ago replaced by Intown Apartments. Chris was a barber in the Hotel Thompson shop. Four times each day, six days a week, he walked that four-block path - to work in the morning, home for lunch, back to work, home for the evening.

Chris always wore a quite gleaming white dress shirt - his wife, the woman who did his shirts, was a fine lady. In the summer, Chris made his walk in shirt sleeves, the cuffs rolled back two turns. In the fall he wore a suede jacket. In the winter he had a sheepskin.

I delivered Daily Globes to the Hansons. About every third Saturday, or every fourth, Chris cut my hair. In effect, I delivered newspapers in exchange for haircuts, which is not a bad trade-off. Chris had an array of oils and tonics in tall bottles and in several colors. I always liked “Lucky Tiger.” Chris knew that.

I have wanted to tell Chris Hanson something lately.

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On the wall of the barbershop there was a picture, a reproduction of a painting: five big dogs playing poker, seated on chairs at a round table. I don’t know if that picture was on a calendar or whether it was a picture framed for permanent display. Actually, the picture may have been on a wall just outside the barber shop in the hotel lobby. … All the guys laughed at that picture.

At the time, I think I did not even know what poker was. I did not appreciate the St. Bernard in the foreground held four aces. I didn’t know what that meant. Still, I thought the picture was pretty funny.

By that date, I suppose we young school boys had been shown reproductions of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. We knew that five dogs seated in a circle at a round table was not great art equal to 12 apostles seated on one side of a long table. On the other hand, Mona Lisa could only tickle a smile from you, at best. Five dogs playing poker could make you laugh.

The thing I want to tell Chris is that the original of that dog painting, plus a similar companion painting, sold at auction at Sotheby’s in New York last month for $590,400. Who can say what is fine art?

The dog painter was a man with a name that might be a line from a poem: Cassius Marcellus Coolidge.

I was reading an account - Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, known as Cash to his four brothers and sisters, was born in a little town, Antwerp, N.Y. In the year they were laying the railroad tracks to the sites where Brewster, Bigelow and Worthington would emerge - 1871 - Cash Coolidge opened his town’s first bank and launched his town’s first newspaper.

Cassius Coolidge could never shake off a yearning to draw and paint. He did signs and cartoons. In 1903, he signed a contract with Brown & Bigelow at St. Paul for what came to be a series of 16 paintings, nine of them showing dogs playing poker, sometimes five dogs, sometimes six, sometimes eight. The paintings became widely known and highly popular illustrations for calendars.

The most popular painting, Five Card Stud, has a bulldog passing an ace under the table to a bulldog accomplice on his left.

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Cassius Marcellus Coolidge died in 1934, about the time the dog picture went on display in Worthington’s Hotel Thompson.

In later years, when I had a different arrangement with the Daily Globe, Carroll Koepsell cut my hair, standing in for Chris Hanson. Carroll had hip replacement surgery in January. I heard he was back at the old stand but the day I got there, he was closed for a funeral. My head was pretty shaggy by then and I decided I had better stop somewhere - stop at a salon, which is the successor to the barber shop. This is an uncomfortable experience for me.

My young barber - my hair stylist - was notably pleasant. She is better looking than the best features of Chris and Carroll put together. She told me she has lived in Worthington all her life.

When she was through with me, she said she was charging me only for a boy’s haircut. “You haven’t got all that much hair,” she explained.

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