For men of all ages, races, and creeds, making the journey to a barbershop is a cherished rite of passage. Those establishments hold a venerable place in the everyday lives of men, who entrust their physical appearance to their barbers’ hands and also find within those precincts fellowship and camaraderie. Situated on the southern side of Wulff Road between Palm Beach Street and East Street stood a small pink wood structure, trimmed in red and white and boasting two windows, affectionately known as Walkine's Barbershop. For over four decades its premises were an institution where men from several “Over The Hill” communities polished their public image and enriched their social life.
Wielding the barber’s instruments in Walkine's Barbershop was Mr. Philip Johnson. Born Ilerdieu Raymond Thelusma on 23 January 1931 in the agricultural town of St. Louis du Nord in Haiti, Mr. Johnson eventually changed his legal name after coming to The Bahamas during the 1950s. Already familiar with carpentry before coming to his new home, he worked in a number of islands of the archipelago as well as in agricultural industry in the United States under a programme known as the Contract before he found his calling as a barber. His first barbershop stood on East Street and Fritz Lane within walking distance of his home. A growing clientele led him to relocate to the iconic wood structure on Wulff Road. The anchor and principal of Walkine’s Barbershop, he brought to his barber’s chair a spirit of friendship and made the barbershop setting a welcoming space for all.
During its fifty-year heyday from the 1960s through the first decade of the twenty-first century, Walkine’s Barbershop drew a steady stream of patrons through its doors. The establishment stood only a stone’s throw away from a bus stop used by men and women who worked in the tourism sector. Some of those workers chose to wait for their bus in the shop rather than at the bus stop. Likewise, some patrons used the barbershop as a place to unwind after a long day's work and share a drink with friends of kindred spirit. Unbeknownst to most, Walkine's Barbershop also served as a venue for moulding young minds. V. Alfred Gray, a former Member of Parliament for Acklins and Crooked Island, found the shop to be a forum for political discourse. He believes that being privy to conversations there deepened his understanding of Bahamian politics. Additionally, some clients assumed roles as mentors for young people who frequented the barbershop.
Notwithstanding how much it gave to the community, Walkine’s Barbershop will always be remembered for its barbering. Former clients remarked that Mr. Johnson was a barber of the highest skill who always ensured that his customers were satisfied. Walkine's Barbershop’s delivery of quality service went beyond providing fancy haircuts, moreover. Through relationships developed with their barbers, clients could get haircuts with the understanding that compensation would come at a later date. As a result, there were long lines of patrons waiting to get haircuts on weekends.
The new century brought technological innovations to the barbering industry. Unfortunately Walkine's Barbershop struggled to keep pace with those changes. Consequently it was unable to attract patrons of a younger generation. Still, until the institution closed its doors, clients of yesteryear continued to patronize Walkine’s Barbershop.