Dockyard barber retiring after 38 years
By Joanie Veitch,
After 38 years doing military haircuts, Christine Goodridge is packing up her clippers. On September 22, Goodridge retired from her position as barber at Fleet Management Facility Cape Scott.
She got her start as a military barber in late summer 1983. To put how long ago that was into context, Return of the Jedi was the big blockbuster summer movie that year, and Madonna had just released her debut album.
“Thirty-eight years is a long time,” Goodridge said. “I still love cutting hair… but I’m tired. You know when it’s time… and it’s time for me.”
Goodridge, who grew up in Mill Cove, NS, near Hubbards, got her start in the hair-cutting business early. In fact, when she finished her training at the Atlantic Barbering and Hairstyling Academy she was the youngest registered barber in North America, at just 16 years of age.
Working first at the iconic Golden Clipper – back when it was still on Spring Garden Road – and then at a hair salon on Dalhousie University campus, Goodridge had already decided that she preferred barbering to hairstyling when a friend recommended her for the military barber job.
“The barber up at Stad was having trouble with his barbers… drinking on the job, not showing up… that sort of thing. A friend I’d gone to school with suggested he give me a try. He did, and it worked out,” she said.
Although Goodridge says she was “petrified” when she first started out, she fell in love with the job immediately, especially the pace of work.
“I loved the speed. The time would just fly by, especially on the days we’d get an entire ship’s company. That’s what it was like then, they might bring in 100 men and say they’d be back in a couple of hours to get them,” she said.
So how fast can she do a regulation military haircut?
“If you’re in a rush, I can do a full haircut in three minutes,” Goodridge laughed.
When she first began cutting hair on the Navy base, Goodridge worked in a traditional-style barbershop on Stadacona’s A block outfitted with a classic red Belmont barber chair — the same chair that now sits in the Submarine Trainer that trains personnel on the Victoria-class submarines.
After that shop closed, Goodridge moved down to HMC Halifax Dockyard, to a shop near the former Fire Hall, before her final move to FMF Cape Scott in 2004 — on the second floor, down the hall from the cafeteria.
Over the years, Goodridge has cut the hair of thousands of sailors, many of them repeat customers who she first met as newly-joined recruits, some going on deployment for the first time.
“I remember when the Gulf War started in 1991, I was really busy as they’d had orders to go. I had two young French guys going out, they’d never even been on a ship before and here they were going off to war. I could feel their fear,” she said, her smile dropping for a moment before shaking her head and cracking a joke. “I’ve often said, I’m the world’s cheapest therapist.”
One of the most interesting parts of the job, Goodridge said, is that in the run of an average day she would have a range of customers — from the top brass to the lower ranks, and everyone in between.
Some canny officers would tap into the knowledge they knew Goodridge gleaned from conversations with the junior ranks as she cut their hair. Back in the early 2000s, for instance, when Rear-Admiral Bruce MacLean held command of MARLANT, he’d regularly stop in for a haircut and a chat.
“‘How’s my dockyard doing?’ That was always his first question,” Goodridge said. “I’d never reveal my sources, but I’d be honest about what I was hearing. You do hear a lot of things if you know how to be quiet and listen.”
Although she knows it’s the right time to leave, it won’t be easy, Goodridge said, shedding a few tears as she recounts how many people have dropped into the barbershop to say farewell.
“In the past if someone would get posted it was never a big deal because they’re Navy guys and they would always end up back here at some point so we’d just say ‘See ya!’,” she said. “Word’s gotten out that I’m leaving now and a lot of my older customers have come round. It’s been so nice… but it’s hard because we’re really saying goodbye this time.”
The barbershop at FMF Cape Scott will remain open, with Amanda and Letitia “taking the baton,” Goodridge said.
And for Goodridge? She’ll continue with her “second job” of property management, and enjoy spending time with her four cats.
“I’m going to miss it here. It has been a joy… it’s been my life.”