25th July, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 2

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Tale of an old saloon

By Shezna Shums

What was most striking about a visit to an old saloon was the old-fashioned entrance and antique furniture inside.

Men's saloons are relatively few in Colombo, and this in Thimbirigasyaya has been around for close to 60 years. The colourful entrance certainly draws the attention of passers-by and the brightly coloured outer door too, attracts interest.

At the end of Jawatte Road that leads to Thimbirigasyaya is 'Lucky Saloon'- a small saloon that can accommodate just a handful of clients at a time and a small child since they have a children's chair as well. The two barbers who work there even use instruments that are as old fashioned as the place itself. 

Multi-coloured doors

The entrance has an outer door painted in bright yellow. On one door, written in red paint is the name 'Lucky Saloon' while the other door has the same name written in Sinhala.

On the same frame is a saloon door; this is an upper part of a door and is intricately decorated and coloured in blue. There are also glass squares on the door.

An intricate design cut into the bottom part of this door provides an insight into how remarkable old buildings must have been.

Inside, the chairs are leather bound and there is a tiny wooden child's chair in a corner.

On one side of the wall is a long table with three individual long mirrors and tiny cupboards inbetween where the hair cutting instruments are stored. Behind the cupboard is a well-built wall but the archway that was visible was covered so as to divide the space.

Opposite was a single bench for the customers to wait, and at the very end of the saloon is the owner's house.

Family business

Joseph Wesley has been a barber there for more than 30 years and the saloon was first his father's before he took it over.

However although the saloon is nearly 60 years old, sometime soon the saloon as well as the entire old building will have to be broken down in order to make way for the road.

Joseph Wesley was busy at work when The Sunday Leader visited the place. He mentioned that there was no electricity supply at the saloon. The fact that there was no power does not bother him because he does not use any electrical appliances when he cuts hair.

One instrument he showed us was called "machine"- it is similar to the electrical hair-cutting machine but works manually.

This is similar to a pair of scissors but with jagged blades at the end that cuts the shorter hairs.

He uses the usual scissors and barber blades to obtain that perfect cut, being careful to use dettol to clean the instruments thoroughly once done .

Low budget cuts

The prices at this very old saloon will raise a few eyebrows because they are indeed pieces of a bygone era.

An adult's haircut will cost Rs.30, and a haircut and shave costs Rs. 50, while a child's haircut will cost, Rs. 25.

Furthermore a person from the forces will have to pay only Rs. 25 for a haircut. He says that for a day he may earn around Rs.1000 to Rs.1500.

At the same building that this saloon is housed is also a tailor shop, an arts shop and a small garage that repairs motor bikes.

Lucky Saloon though certainly a tiny place, has had its fair share of luck over the last six decades.

This little corner in Thimbirigasyaya certainly tells its own story and a very colourful one at that.

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