By DAVID BORAKS
Published April 16, 2015 on DavidsonNews.net
Ken Norton spent Thursday at Raeford’s Barber Shop on South Main Street doing just what he has for nearly seven decades in Davidson – cutting hair. But this day was different, though there wasn’t much fanfare to note it: It was Norton’s last day on the job.
At 87 years old, Norton is calling it quits – for good. A man of few words, he is announcing the big news this week by handing customers a slip of paper with the headline: “RETIRING-RETIRING-RETIRING-RETIRING-RETIRING-RETIRING.”
It continues: “I wish to thank all of my friends and customers for allowing me to serve your barbershop needs for so many years. It has been wonderful working with you.”
Norton retired once before, in 1993, when he closed his own barber shop on North Main Street. That first retirement didn’t work out, and in recent years he has continued barbering two days a week, “just helping out” at Raeford’s.
What will he do next? Well, on the first day of his second retirement, he plans to mow the lawn, he said Thursday.
And on Monday, he’s planning to volunteer at the Lions Club Regional golf tournament at Northstone Country Club, as he has for many years.
“I might be one of the oldest members serving,” he said.
Beyond that, he’ll probably be doing a few other things that he enjoys. “I paint,
I do ceramics and stained glass. And, I’m trying to write my memoirs,” Norton said.
Norton lives these days in Kannapolis, but he’s a Davidson institution, having worked on Main Street Davidson for probably longer than anyone still alive.
He was born Kenneth Watson Freeman in the foothills of Rutherford County (“Chimney Rock area”) in March 1928. He moved to Davidson in 1929 to live with relatives Annie and Hood Norton, and soon after changed his name to Kenneth Watson Norton. (When he says it, he draws it out real slow.)
Norton grew up at a home on East Sloan Street, now called Lorimer Road, across from the present-day Swimming Hole community pool. At that time it was the Thompson farm, and he recalls plowing, planting produce, and picking cotton there from about age 7 or 8.
“It varied from year to year,” he recalled in a December interview with DavidsonNews.net.
He learned to cut hair at the Charlotte Barber School at age 14, taking a course that he said cost $250.
Later, he began working at Hood Norton’s barber shop, Hood’s, on North Main Street, perfecting the art of “Nortonizing,” what his customers – from townies to Davidson College students – affectionately call his brand of very short hair cut.
He eventually took over the barber shop, and Hood’s became Norton’s. A plaque on North Main Street marks the former location.
In 1950, he married his wife, Betty, and they had two children, named after themselves, Kenneth and Betty. At one time, they lived in a house he built on Mock Circle.
Besides barbering, his other activities over the years have included serving for decades as a Boy Scout leader (his son Ken II was an Eagle Scout) and volunteering at his church, Sandy Ridge AME Zion Church.
He said last December he wanted to keep working “until the Lord sets him down.” Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, and he says we’re sure to see him around town.
– Brenda Barger contributed to this article
LISTEN TO AN AUDIO INTERVIEW
Feb. 23, 2014, DavidsonNews.net, “Christmas memories with Ken Norton.