Salem business Journal
he’s a Man’s Man, no doubt About it
Hunt’n, fish’n, “tussl’n” (code word for popp’n somebody), finger pulling, arm wrestl’n, quarter pitch’n, you name it, Don’s done all these “manly” things. Many a young Salem athlete had to make their right of passage through Don’s Barber and Style Shop before they could really be counted
. If they did good, they got a free If they did poorly, they would as men haircut.
experience some really painful moments from an “old” man and lose a little face in front of their peers and some strangers. Don was smart enough to back off a little when the kids got too big and too strong.
My father-in-law, Don Prodzinski, was born December 2, 1929 in a home in Buchanan, North Dakota. He says, jokingly, 3 bad things happened that year: His dad broke his leg when a horse fell on him, the stock market crashed and he was born.
His dad was a sharecropper, his mom, a homemaker. They had 2 girls and 3 boys. Don was the third oldest. Don likes to recall how he got at least one whipping a day whether he needed it or not. All of the kids worked on the farm.
When he wasn’t farming, Don went to school at a one room school house in Kensal, ND, 30 miles from Jamestown. The school went from the first grade through the 8th
grade even though there were only 6 kids in attendance. That would be the extent of his formal schooling. To help put food on the table, he went from the 8th grade in Kensal to farming and the “University of The World” (where he received his masters).
Don left the farm in 1948 for the gold mines of Deadwood, South Dakota (where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back). Two years later he headed for the air base in Rapid City, SD, where he built warehouses for the next 3 years. He returned to the mine for one more year before making the move to Jamestown, ND, in 1952. A few months later, he headed to Payson, Utah, to work for Mac Explorations drilling minerals for the USGS.
Drafted by the Army in January, 1953, Prodzinski was sent to Germany as a draftsman. While there, he found time to play guard on the football team. At 6’ 3” and over 200 pounds, he was a pretty big boy for those days and football seemed like a natural fit.
That same year, while Don was home on leave, he made the smartest move of his life and married my future mother-in-law, Patsy Keiser in Fried, ND (she could have done a lot better, I always tell her). They’d met in 1950 at a skating rink at Spirit Wood
Lake near Jamestown.
Discharged from the Army in 1955, the Prodzinskies headed back to Mac Explorations in Moab, Utah, where the company was drilling for uranium.
In 1957, Don experienced one of the toughest fights of his life. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent a miserable 7 months in the VA hospital at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, battling it. He wasn’t about to let that “inconvenience” derail his future plans.
Later that year, following his bout with TB, Don and the family moved to Hood River to help Patsy’s father with his garage. But it only took Don about 4 months to realize he didn’t like working in the cold and grease.
He’d heard in Portland
about Mohler Barber College
ready to launch
a 38 year
with people’s heads (and arms, wallets) in more ways than one.
His first barbering gig was at Coursey’s on State Street near the current Oyster Bar. He shared customers with none other that Salem’s “Tree Man”, Maynard Drawson. A year and a half later Don moved to Mac’s Barber Shop at the Sunnyslope Shopping Center. After 3 years, Don bought the shop, changed the Mac’s to Don’s and his future was set. He renamed the shop Don’s Barber and Style when he moved across the street
to its current location in 1980. barber there, Ray Ingram, was one original “hair wrestlers”.
Current of Don’s
My father-in-law has cut the hair of just about every person I’ve written about in this column. And I’m sure there are a lot more of his former customers reading this right now and thinking, “me too”. Just one of the many notable customers who survived Don’s chair is former Governor and US Senator, Mark Hatfield.
Don and Patsy have four kids. Son, Mark, is currently a senior Oregon State Trooper (23 years) with the game division in Madras. He shined shoes in Don’s shop for a couple of years when he was around 10 or 11.
Daughter, Karen, the oldest, works in the Santiam Canyon School District (married the superintendent, Brad Yates). She has Don’s only other grandchild, 19 year old Lacie (ironically, no grandsons for this man’s man).
Daughters, Debbie Skoog, and Donna, the youngest and my favorite (she’ll like me for pointing that out) live in Salem. Debbie’s with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and my wife, Donna, has been a legal assistant with the law firm of Parks (Her attorney), Bauer, Sime, Winkler and Fernety for over 25 years.
don and Patsy Prodzinski
Mom, Patsy, worked for the Marriott Corporation in the school district, nineteen years at Sprague (where Donna graduated in 1980) and two years at South Salem HS. She retired in 1996.
Don sold his shop to the late Donny Wilson in 1997.
A true “man’s man” has to be an outdoorsman and Don certainly fills that bill. He’s caught more fish than Skippers, had his share of boats, bagged about forty deer and a couple of elk, and with his many hunting dogs over the years, brought down enough chucker and pheasant to make feather beds for everyone in Salem. I’m sure the customer’s at the barber shop heard all of his exciting nimrod stories many times whether they wanted to or not.
And, of course, who could forget the time this “man’s man” chased a car burglar up and down the street in his bathrobe in front of his house. He caught him and held him for the police.
Always a “pure” country music fan (Garth Brooks need not apply), today Don’s hobbies include skeet and trap shooting, reloading, cribbage, poker, pinochle and
pitching Taylor. game of
coins with my 14 year old daughter, Claims he used cards and a mean pool to help fund himself through
barber college. I used to be pool myself. Hmmmmmm.
He also enjoys picking on Granddaughter, Taylor, with the quarter tossing and cribbage. Unfortunately for him, she beats him more than just once in a while. He’s afraid to try her with the finger pulling and
arm wrestling. gym.
She’s working out at the
Another “hobby” of Don’s, to a fault, is “helping” his friends with their projects. He’s built 13 deck covers, 4 sheds and maintains a couple of sprinkler systems.
He’s mellowed just a bit (and I really mean just a bit) and even lets Heidi, his English Pointer of 10 years, into the house ... a lot.
And of course, he still has his jokes and opinions (A barber with jokes and opinions? What a shock!). Do any of you customers out there remember that barber?
Don Prodzinski might be nearly 77 now but if I were you I wouldn’t be challenging him to finger pulling, arm wrestling, or quarter pitching. There are some very successful Salem citizens who’ve made that mistake over the years and I’m guessing some of them have sore arms and fingers to this day. You could get hurt, or at the very least, lose a few dollars. You don’t want to find out the hard way that this old barber is still a man’s man.
Bill Isabell is chief meteorologist for KBZY Radio, 1490am, and a personal financial representative with Allstate Financial Services, LLC