Ottawa's Bucko the barber hanging up his clippers after 60 years

After more than 60 years cutting hair — 33 of them in the same Vanier location — Rene 'Bucko' Charron has decided to retire in the spring and shut down the cosy, cluttered barbershop that's become a neighbourhood institution.

Cosy, cluttered barbershop a Vanier institution, loyal customers say

Vanier barber Rene 'Bucko' Charron shows off one of the tools of his trade as he gets set to retire in the spring after more than 60 years in the business. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Rene Charron was just nine months old, or so the story goes, when his family came up with the nickname that would stick with him for a lifetime.

At home in Edwards, Ont., little Rene took a tumble one day just as Detroit Red Wings' player Wilfred 'Bucko' McDonald crashed to the ice during a game on the radio.

I love my work. I love talking to the public.- Rene 'Bucko' Charron

The synchronicity of the moment earned Rene the moniker 'Bucko" from his brothers and sisters, a good thing if your destiny to is to cut hair for a living: "Bucko the barber" just has a better ring to it.

Bucko's Barbershop, nestled on the main floor of a grey, two-storey home at 9 Marier Ave. near the corner of Beechwood Avenue, became a Vanier institution.

It's a cosy, cluttered place that's full of memorabilia, part business, part museum — a barber harbour for anyone who enjoyed the warm refuge of an old school barbershop and the shaves, haircuts and two cents that came with it.

But not for much longer. 

Started at 17

As he approaches his ninth decade, Charron has decided to hang up his clippers for good come April. 

"I'm 79 so my wife is always bugging me, 'You have to retire because you're going to hit 80 soon,'" he says.
'He's not looking forward to retirement,' says Thérèse Charron, Bucko's wife of nearly 56 years. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"I love my work. I love talking to the public. I love doing this. If I wouldn't love it, I wouldn't do it. I decided before I get sick I might as well retire now."

Bucko started putting scissors to hair for a living more than 60 years ago, when he was just 17. After toiling for other barbers, he opened his own shop on Cumberland Street, where he remained for 23 years. He moved the business to Marier Avenue in 1984, and that's where he's been ever since, taking just one week of vacation each year. 

"That's all my husband would take. The first week of August," says Thérèse Charron, Bucko's wife of nearly 56 years and the mother of their two children.

"Sometimes he was making a dollar a haircut way back. People come here for him. But he's not looking forward to retirement." 

'He's an institution here'

"No haircut is complete without Bucko," says former city councillor and longtime customer Richard Cannings.
'If you want to get your thumb on the pulse of what's happening around here, you talk to Bucko. He's an institution here,' says longtime customer and former city councillor Richard Cannings. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"He's a fixture around here. there's no question. If you want to get your thumb on the pulse of what's happening around here, you talk to Bucko. He's an institution here."

Now Charron will say goodbye not only to the clients and conversations, but also the assortment of antiques that fill his shop: the vintage cash register, the rotary dial telephone, the sharpening stone for his straight razor.

He's already sold his barber chair and pole along with other classic barbershop paraphernalia to an American collector. The rest of the items, such as his antique Marconi radio, are available to anyone interested in buying them.
Charron is selling off the antiques and memorabilia that fill his Marier Avenue business, which is as a much museum as it is a barbershop. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Counting down the days

Bucko may be counting down the days until he says goodbye to the only life he's known for more than six decades, but for now he'll keep sharing jokes over a shave and trading stories with a trim.

He admits retirement isn't really his style and knows that for him, the change ahead will be huge.

"It will be. I'm going to my quiet house. I don't know. Time will tell. My wife wants to travel a lot, so maybe we'll travel."

Does he have any dreams he wants to chase beyond the barbershop? Charron doesn't even have to think about the answer.

"No," he says. "This is what I've always loved."
The nickname Charron has carried for virtually his entire life adorns a custom-made sign inside his Vanier barbershop. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)