At 90, Port O'Connor barber still cuts hair

PORT O'CONNOR - This barbershop can transport clients through time.

Adelard "Dell" Girard's shop still has the barber chair he bought in the 1950s. Photos chronicle the decades-long fishing competitions with his best friend, Clarence Albrecht. One 60-year-old black-and-white photo shows a young Girard shaving another young soldier in a New Guinea jungle.

Even at 90 years old, Girard remembers that day well. The colonel told the National Guardsmen they would receive a haircut no matter what, even if they had to do it themselves.

"I told my buddy, 'I'll cut yours, you'll cut mine,'" the former cartoonist recalled. "To me, it was like drawing a picture."

That's how the Port O'Connor old-timer got his start cutting hair - a duty he carried out twice a week every year for the past 55 years.

The service brought Girard to Camp Hulen in Palacios, where he met Ray Elizabeth Stapp, when she was 16 years old. They married in 1940.

In 1949, Girard went to barber college in Houston and apprenticed at a barbershop in Port Lavaca while he drove a school bus. Eventually, he opened his own barbershop in Port O'Connor in 1954, when the Matagorda Air Force Base needed someone to cut hair two days a week.

When the base closed in 1976, Girard worried the small town couldn't support its own barber, so he became a fishing guide after spending the mornings fishing on his way to cutting hair.

That's how Girard and Albrecht came to be best friends 50 years ago. The two would hide secret fishing holes from each other in a friendly who-can-catch-the-most-fish competition. And, of course, Albrecht would let Girard cut his hair.

"I still had a little hair back then," Albrecht said. "Now it doesn't take him five minutes and he's through with me."

Albrecht thinks it great that his friend stays busy with work, even at 90 years old, but joked that Girard is out-living half of his customers. Those customers are the same old-timers that keep coming from all over the Crossroads area to get their hair cut like they could back in the 1940s.

"I must have been doing a pretty good job," Girard said. "As long as they keep coming, I'm going to keep working."

His only retirement plans involve not being physically able to cut hair anymore.

With the rest of his time, Girard tends a garden and keeps grapefruit, lemon, orange and fig trees. He can't eat the grapefruit, so he offers them to his customers, friends and neighbors.

"He is the most generous person. Never had a lot of money, but he'd give you anything he had," Albrecht said.