Across the River with Geoff Goodfellow | Trains and haircuts

Who would have thought there was a link between trains and the style of haircut you get?  

SNIPS LOOKOUT: This is the sort of scene John Parry loved watching for the past 70 years from his vantage point on the Moss Vale overbridge. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

SNIPS LOOKOUT: This is the sort of scene John Parry loved watching for the past 70 years from his vantage point on the Moss Vale overbridge. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

Well it seems there is.

Since the death of popular Moss Vale barber, John ‘Snipper’ Parry, many lovely stories have emerged and many of them seem to relate to the unlikely link between haircuts and trains.  

Apparently if you were having a trim from Snipper and the subject turned to trains, your hairstyle could be in deep trouble, with John just keeping you in the chair indefinitely, snipping away feverishly, while he talked.

One young lad who treasured his lengthy locks said he dreaded hearing a whistle from a train crossing the nearby railway bridge, knowing it would prompt a long soliloquy from John about timetables and rolling stock.  

“While he soliloquised Snipper snipped and snipped and snipped.”

David Stimson remembers once telling John about an exploit he had with the NSW government railways.

“I thought he was going to snip my ears off with his discourse,” said David, who reckons he was in the chair for an hour before John let him go.

Another person told me it didn’t matter who the conversation was with, the result was the same.

“If you were getting your hair cut and one of the blokes waiting happened to mention trains, it was game on as John’s eyes glazed over and his fingers started snipping. You just had to sit there getting snipped as Snip talked, with your locks getting shorter by the minute.”

Yes, trains were serious business for John. He would have so loved last weekend’s celebrations to mark 150 years since trains first rattled into Moss Vale. Alas!

Apart from a love of trains, John had a playful sense of humour.

I am told a regular customer went to see Snipper and jokingly told him he didn’t have the $5 fee, so asked if he could have a half-price haircut. 

“I’ll tell you what,” said John, not taking the bait. “I’ll give you half a haircut and when you get the rest of the money, come back and I’ll cut the other half.”

John once told me a train story during one of our many conversations when we met in the streets of Moss Vale.

The yarn was about a young lad from Coonabarabran who was given the job of signaling wheat train movements out west. He quickly picked up the trade, did a course of study and was being examined to get his signalman’s certificate.

“What would you do if two wheat trains were approaching each other on the same line?” asked the examiner.

The young bloke didn’t hesitate, “I’d turn all the lights on red to stop them both.”

“What if the lights didn’t work?” quizzed the examiner.

“Shoot off some flares,” replied the young bloke.

“What if they are wet and won’t burn?” asked the serious old railway examiner.

“Go down the pub and get the boys,” he said.

“What good would that do?” asked the examiner

“Bugger all,” said the young bloke, “but I’ll bet a quid none of them have ever seen a good train crash before.”

Finally, a lovely story from Clare Campbell.

Clare recalls that when she first started working in Moss Vale she saw a man pouring what looked like a can of beer all over the window of Frank Finlayson’s shop early one morning. 

An understandably concerned Clare said something like, “What do you think you’re doing?” 

It was Snip, who explained that some drunk had vomited all over the shop window the night before and he wanted to clean it up before Frank came in to work. 

That is the sort of man John Parry was – unique, humble, unpretentious, polite and courteous – a very proud Moss Vale identity, to steal the words written by Highlands businessman Phillip Minnis, who went on to say, “like many, many others, I will miss seeing John around the town.”

Yep, won’t we all, Phillip.

 – Geoff Goodfellow

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