PEI

After 60 years, Joe the Barber can still cut it

Joe the Barber has spent 60 years as a barber. But there's one hairstyle he can't do.

Joe Punzo has seen his share of hairstyles — but says 1960s had the best

'I'm 75 years old and I'm still working. And I'm busy, too!' says Joe Punzo. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

If Joe Punzo didn't get caught skipping school when he young boy in Italy, he might never have become a barber.

But his teacher tattled, and his father had enough.

"He took me by my ear, and took he took me to the piazza, which was about four or five blocks away, and he went to his barber and he said 'Carlo, this is my son Joe, he's gonna be a barber.' And that's why I'm a barber."

'Nobody's going to kick me out'

Sixty years after moving to Canada, Joe the Barber is still in business.

I love it. People come and talk and tell stories. —Joe Punzo, a.k.a. Joe the Barber

Many of those years were spent in Toronto. Punzo moved to Charlottetown eight years ago "to retire," but he's now working six days a week. He said his daughter, Marley, will eventually take over the business.

Joe Punzo moved to P.E.I. to retire, but he's now working six days a week. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"This trade is something that I really like. I'm 75 years old and I'm still working. And I'm busy, too," he said.

"Maybe if I was working for somebody else, they would kick me out but I work for myself so nobody's going to kick me out."

All walks of life

Over the years, Punzo has had some big celebrities in his chair including George Lucas, Charles Bronson, Gordon Lightfoot and Pat Boone.

Punzo says he used to cut Bruno Gerussi's hair. Gerussi was the star of the CBC television series The Beachcombers in the 1970s and '80s. (CBC Television)

He's even tackled Bruno Gerussi's curly Beachcomber locks.

"I love it," he said. "People come and talk and tell stories. This guy's a golfer — I talk about golf. That guy's a fisherman, I talk about fishing. That gentlemen over there he's a businessman, I talk about business. So we talk about everything possible."

Punzo has seen hairstyles change through the years.

"I remember when I first got into the shop it was brush cuts, then it was crew cut, boogie cut, the Elvis Presley style."

He said the best era for men's hair was in the 1960s — "when the Beatles came out."

Customer's always right

But he said no hairstyle is bad, even the much-maligned mullet, if the customer likes it.

Punzo says the best era for hairstyles was the 1960s when the Beatles came on the scene. (The Associated Press)

"You do what people like. If you come to me and say give me this style, that's what I'll do because you the one who pays me, and you the one who's the boss."

Punzo said it was a challenge in the 1970s when customers would ask for a haircut in the style then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

"People with lots of hair would come and say, 'Can I get a Pierre Trudeau style?' and you couldn't do it because Pierre Trudeau was bald. We would laugh but you had to please people."

Some customers would ask Punzo to cut their hair in the style of Pierre Trudeau — even though he was bald on top.

He said there is one style, however, he doubts he could ever do — the U.S. president's.

"What is it? It must be a wig. I really don't know what it is," Punzo said. "No, no, you can't do a Donald Trump haircut."

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About the Author

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.