Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Walt ‘The Barber’ Opfer

September 22, 2005

Walt "The Barber" and his wife Marybelle Opfer moved to Lansing in the late 1940s. Marybelle was a dietitian at the Veterans Administration Hospital, and Walt opened the barbershop on Main Street next to Dr. Robert Moore's office.

When the Fire Department formed, Walt became assistant fire chief. During the day if you were unlucky enough to be in the barber chair when the fire alarm sounded you would be left with half a haircut, because Walt was out the door in a flash. At that time Mary Jackson had her beauty shop on the backside of the same building. Walt would holler, "Mary, come finish this haircut" and he would be gone by the time she got up there. This happened more than once. I know of one person who had half a haircut twice and did not go back the third time.

Walt was a colorful and fun-loving person with a great sense of humor. He was a charter member of the Lansing Lions Club and was involved in every type of early Lansing events. He was a good athlete and a good 100-yard dash man in high school. He also played softball on the Lansing Merchants team.

It is strange how a person remembers different things, but I remember when Walt got a hit and stretched it into a double. When he slid into second base, he got a terrible cramp in his leg, the likes I have not ever seen before or since. He was 37 at the time and I thought as a 20-year-old, "Is that what happens to a person when you become that old?" That was one of the few times he was not smiling and laughing.

In the late 1950s he moved the barbershop across the street to a building that Lee Lohman had built next to Wendel's Garage. Walt stayed there until the new Post Office was built in 1960 in the same location. Then his barbershop was in the Holiday Plaza until he retired.

Walt and Marybelle raised three boys, David, Lenny and Wayne, all of whom graduated from Lansing High School.

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