Across the River | Memories of a dear friend to the Moss Vale community

SNIP’S SHOP: The old barber shop at 482 Argyle Street, Moss Vale will never been the same following the death of John Parry. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.
SNIP’S SHOP: The old barber shop at 482 Argyle Street, Moss Vale will never been the same following the death of John Parry. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

One of the most respected men in Moss Vale, John ‘Snipper’ Parry died last week.

He was 76.

The former barber, national serviceman, cricketer, train lover and all-round gentle man lived a simple life, with a heart of gold, picking up rubbish in the street on his way to and from his barber shop each day. 

Walking with his faithful old pound dog Barney, John was always up for a pleasant chat with any passer-by.

As one of his regulars, Lloyd Hopkins so eloquently penned in a note on his shop door; “John was a dear friend to the Moss Vale community.”

Born on October 16, 1941 to Douglas Roland Thomas Parry and his wife Isabel Minnie (nee Penfold), young John had rheumatic fever as a kid and missed a lot of school. 

After leaving school at the first possible opportunity, he learned his trade as a barber from Oscar Kramer, as well as young Johnny Rayner and his dad Cecil, before branching out on his own to continue his craft right up until he took ill a few weeks ago. 

He was the cheapest hairdresser in the Southern Highlands, only recently bumping his fee up from $5 to $7 when the rent rose. 

Mind you, he still only charged $5 for pensioners or old mates and if anyone handed him a $10 note there was no way they’d get out of the shop without collecting their change.

In earlier years he would visit Tudor House school with Johnny Rayner, where they’d do a job-lot on the boys, working to a strict time limit of a few minutes each, giving such good value for money the lads only needed two cuts a year.

John also cut hair at a local nursing home and for a few other older folk in their house to save them coming out.

In his younger days, John was an usher at the Moss Vale Theatre Royal picture show, working there until it closed in 1966.

“This theatre run by John May was the show-case of theatres in the district,” recalls Moss Vale historian David Baxter.

“All plush carpets, shiny brass rails and attractive usherettes selling confectionery, cigarettes and drinks in flashy little uniforms.”

John took his job seriously and was a very strict usher according to David.

“If you played up you were out.”

John played a bit of cricket for Moss Vale and loved to chat about the game, but his real passion was trains.

His barber shop was plastered with photographs of locomotives and he often did voluntary work at the Thirlmere Steam Museum.  

We should leave the last word for former local lawyer Garry Barnsley, who had known John for a lifetime.

“John kept his friend Barney close to him with a length of old baler twine. Sometimes I thought to offer him the use of a proper lead - but always held back. John was immune from being tidied-up, and a good thing too. We need our eccentrics and our non-conformists.

“I admired the way he and his dog patrolled the streets of Moss Vale with an insouciant air of proprietorship.

“John paused to pick up other people’s litter and stow it in the street-bins. It takes most of us some courage to do this. John did it without fear of ridicule or expectation of reward.” 

Garry reckons that getting a haircut from John Parry was an occasion for vigilance. 

“Just the right amount of chitchat was the go. Any more - particularly anything about trains - and John would prolong the discourse to his satisfaction. His means was the ceaseless clicking of his barber’s scissors.

“What was meant to be a light trim progressed to a short-back-and-sides, and ended-up as a Yul Brynner,” writes Garry, concluding by saying, “For a man who sought no fame, much less thought himself famous, he’ll long be remembered with nostalgia and affection.”

Yes indeed Garry, he certainly will.

 – Geoff Goodfellow