Customer Charlie Goodwin he goes to barber Steve New for two reasons. “He gives a good haircut and my wife told me I had to.” (Photo by Steve Pokin)


The TV is tuned to a channel that offers old Western TV shows. It’s in black and white.

The magazines include “Car and Driver,” “Guns & Ammo,” “Fly Fisherman” and something called “Reminisce.”

This is the realm of barber Steve New, who has been cutting hair in his Spring Valley Barber Shop since 1971. It’s in the Spring Valley Shopping Center at 1675 E. Seminole St., near Glenstone and Seminole.

Barber Steve New says he’ll do mohawk cuts and has done lightning bolts, but he won’t do letters or sports logos. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Over the arc of New’s 73 years, he has been cutting hair for 55 years.

His client list has dwindled over the years, so his hours at the barber’s chair have dwindled over the decades from 11-hour days to 20-hour weeks. He employs other barbers who work here, as well.

“My clients are getting so old I lose a lot of them through death. Every month or so, I will lose two or three. I’ve got one who is 100.”

He knows them so well he goes to their funerals.

Steve New has been cutting hair for 55 years. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

‘I need a hunting license to cut his hair’

All his customers are male.

In fact, Charlie Goodwin, who happens to be in the chair during my visit, shares with me one of the barbs New once threw his way.

“It looks like a woman cut your hair.”

Long-time barber Steve New tells customer Charlie Goodwin that he not only needs a barber’s license to cut his hair, but a hunting license in order to find it. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Goodwin is well aware he doesn’t have much hair left, at least on top.

“I need a hunting license to cut his hair,” New tells me. “I have to hunt to find it. Then I need my barber’s license to cut it.”

New, who spent ages 19 and 20 in the Marine Corps, likes his job.

“Just being around people. One-on-one. I’m not a big-group talker.”

Steve New, who will be 73 later this month, has been cutting hair at his Spring Valley Barber Shop since 1971. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Styles come and go, then come and go again

The job hasn’t changed much over 55 years, he says. Styles come and go and then come back.

“Short hair. Long hair. Back to short hair. High and tight.”

He will oblige if you want a lightning bolt as part of your cut. He’s done that a few times.

He’s done his share of mullets, but always with his request that the customer, when asked, say that someone else cut their hair.

If you want a cut with a sports logo design — Cards, Chief, Royals — you’ll have to go elsewhere.

“I have had requests. But that is just stupid. That is too much trouble for me.”

He charges $15 and explains to me that it covers “everything from the neck up.”

“Ears. Eyebrows. Beards. Nose.”

You can talk about anything, but he’d prefer to avoid politics

He graduated from Cuba High in 1968. He asked a buddy what his plans were.

“He said he was going to go to barber college in St. Louis. I told I might as well go with him.”

His first job as a barber-college graduate was in Jefferson City. One customer was a very convincing Marine recruiter. New said yes and was in for two years. He did not leave the country.

He married Linda Rector, his high school sweetheart, at age 20. They have been married 52 years.

On the job, New can talk with ease about himself or he can talk about the customer.

He knows what they do; he knows the names of their wives.

He certainly can talk sports, but he tries to avoid politics. That kind of talk gets too heated these days.

“You have to know who is Republican. Who is a Democrat. Who is a liberal. I have guys who think Trump was the greatest in the world. Some say Biden is.”

His racing days ended when the steering wheel came off in his hands

For years he raced stock cars throughout the Ozarks.

Steve New raced cars for many years. That’s his car in the photo, No. 32. He retired in 2001 after he crashed into a wall and broke his leg. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

It was more than a “hobby,” he says, although he never made money at it.

I ask if his wife worried about him getting hurt in a fiery crash.

“She never said too much. I wouldn’t have listened anyway.”

New felt the overpowering urge to retire from race-car driving the day the steering wheel he held during a race was no longer attached to the rest of the vehicle.

He crashed into the wall — Turn No. 3, he says — and broke his leg.

“It hurt,” he says. “I told myself, ‘I’m too old for this.'”

His son Chris raced a while and his grandson races now.

He was blind for six months

New sold his inventory from his racing days and used the proceeds to buy a recreational vehicle.

He was working on that RV one day. A bungee cord was involved.

Steve New was blind for six months years ago. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

The cord slipped off and the hook at one end first latched into one of his eyes and then slid across his face and latched into the other one.

“I was blind for six months,” he tells me. He had surgery in Kansas and his vision returned.

When he went back to work, he put on a show for his customers. He describes it to me in words and through a convincing bit of acting.

He would feel his way to his barber’s chair, as if blind, and call out: “Who’s next?”

He’s on the Deceased Board; in fact, he is the Deceased Board

New attends the monthly meetings of the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation. In fact, he is an officer. He is on the Deceased Board. He’s the only member.

“I am the Deceased Board,” he says.

If a member dies, it’s New’s task to make sure their name is added to the Big Board the group keeps.

He tells me he is in good health and hopefully is years from making the Big Board.

No, he says, he’s not thinking of retiring. He has no plans to sell his shop.

Barber Steve New will be 73 later this month. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

But … “If somebody comes along and asked me to sell the shop, I would,” he says. “I have no desire to sell it, but I would.”

We say our goodbyes. He wishes me well and then says, as I walk out the door:

“If you need a haircut, come see me.”

This is Pokin Around column No. 97.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin