NAPPANEE — As is often the case, getting laid off from work set Nappanee native John Tobias on a different career path — a path that he’s stayed on for 50 years.
Tobias recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a hair stylist and an open house was held in his honor on May 3.
Tobias explained how this career shift came about. He said when he first started working he worked at Mutschler’s Kitchen Cabinets and then was drafted into the army. He served for two years “at the time when the Berlin Wall was built,” he said. When he returned, employees at his former employer were on strike so he got a job at a trailer factor in Wakarusa. He met his first wife, Dee, who was a hairdresser and when he got laid off after a year, “She talked me into going to beauty school.”
Tobias said he finished beauty school in 1964 and worked with his then wife for 30 years at their shop in downtown Nappanee — Moderne Beauty Salon. After the couple divorced and she moved out of town, John kept the shop open for a couple of years but said it got to be too much.
“So I came out here to rent a booth,” he said, looking around Hair Quarters.
At that time the shop on East Market Street was called Hair Dimensions, now it is Hair Quarters and is owned by Rob Shaw.
Although becoming a hairdresser rather than a barber in the early ‘60s was not very common, because he was around his wife’s business it was second nature to him.
“When I was in school I was the only male and the first one to get out of Elkhart Beauty College,” Tobias said.
He shared that when he was in school he couldn’t do facials or manicures, “Because they didn’t want me holding the ladies’ hands,” he said, adding that he did in later years, especially when running the shop on his own. “I got to where I was working until 9 p.m.”