Kratzer Barber Shop
A major part of Urbana life was the
Kratzer Barber Shop. Myrval Kratzer
was son of Myrtle Beghtel and Ed
Kratzer. Below is article from Wabash
Plain Dealer by Earleen Ulery who
interviewed Myrval sometime in the
We always enjoyed stopping at Myrvals
shop. Below are pictures from the shop.
Barber is town hair-storian
By Earleen Ulery
Community Affair Editor
URBANA — Myrval Kratzer tenderly rubbed the
handmade board seat on his
Worn smooth as silk, it means much to the 81-year-old
man, who never thought as
a youth that he would spend much of his lifetime behind the
"The older it gets the better I like it," Kratzer said.
The seat, which has saddled Kratzer's barber chair for
decades, originally belonged to Kratzer's father, Ed. It was
carved from a garden seed box from Independence, Iowa,
which the elder Kratzer salvaged from Adam Cook's store
next door. Countless kids have sat on it.
"Mark Beghtel is a grandfatheI now and he used to sit on it
as a boy," Kratzer said.
Kratzer's Barber Shop, always one of the most popular
places in town, drew just about everybody from the
"When Urbana was going strong, was I ever busy. Just
about everybody came in," hesaid.
"Mrs. Charles Purdy would bring her whole family and I'd
cut their hair one right after the other," he said as he named
each child. He rattled of the names of other Urbana families
that have had as many as four generations in Kratzer's
barber chairs — the Millers, Speichers, Hauperts,
Daweses, Shultzes, Brembecks, Chamberlains, Karnses
Kratzer claims the title as the only person living in Urbana
who was born there, and tine was he knew everyone in the
community. But not any more, he says; times have changed.
Searching his keen memory about the town when he started
barbering nearly 60 yearsago, he sald, "It was a thriving
town. There were two banks, four grocery stores, a
hardware store, two barbershops, four creameries, a
bakery, a shoe cobbler, a blacksmith, a lumber company, a
stock yard, an elevator, a drug store, two restaurants and
Amber's Hotel where a person could get all they could eat
Six passenger trains a day ran through the town.
"Going to see the people get off the train was the only
excitement for the kids," he said.
Kratzer got his feet wet in the barbering trade as a high
school boy when he worked for Virgil Britton and later for
Lawrence Giver. That shop was across the street from the
present one. In those days, the barbershop's cistern water
was heated in copper boilers on a coal oil heater, and
people warmed themselves by a pot bellied stove. Kratzer
learned the haircutting trade by doing.
After high school, Kratzer was a soldier in World War I
and worked in the office of the Ball Band Rubber Co. in
South Bend, where he met his wife, Maxine.
He borrowed $300 from the Urbana Bank and bought the
shop where he started in
His father, a jeweler and merchant, had his store across the
street. Kratzer moved in with him in 1924, when he
promised he would help with the barbering.
The time of men getting shampoos, massages and mud
packs are history now.
"Men got out of the habit and shampoos and tonics went the
way of shaves. There's nothing left but hair cuts, and that
suits me, he said.
In his early experience, haircuts were 35 cents and shaves
were a dime. Haircuts were short and people hadn't heard
of hair styling.
The Kratzer barbers burned the midnight oil, especially on
Saturdays when men wanted to get shaved late so they'd be
freshly trimmed for Sunday.
Kratzer also recalls when bobbed hair for women came in
about 50 years ago.
'When women first came in, they were so shy, "They would
bring their dust caps and cover up their hair," he said.
Barbering has been a large part of Kratzer's life, but not the
He was a substitute mail carrier for 30 years and worked
several hours a day in Cyclone Manufacturing Co.'s
shipping department for about the same length of time.
And he was probably Wabash County's most prolific prize
winner. Working mostly with magazine contests, he won
cars, a tractor, washing machine, refrigerator, stove, ponies,
a diamond ring, bicycles, watches and more trinkets and
Kratzer still keeps himself busy with the barbershop but he's
cut down the hours. He still stays open two nights a week,
but takes off two afternoons.
He remembers well, a bit longingly, when the barbershop
was as popular a loafing place as the country store cracker
And in recent years Jesse Devers, Carl and Frank Eiler,
Frank Crumley and Herman Gray would come in to chat a
while. But they are all gone now.
"I miss them," he said. "The days seem longer. But I've got a
good business and I'm thankful I'm still able to do it. I've
had good health through the years and good food. I've been
well taken care of by Maxine," he said
Myrval cutting Floyd (T.I.) Whistler's hair
Myrval cutting hair of Art Eaton, great grandson Lu
& Ralph Oliver