Many visitors to Qualicum Beach comment on the yellow house with the red white and blue barber pole on the west side of Memorial Avenue hill.
The house is the location of one of the longest-running businesses in the area. The house was built by Helen Eggersman (nee Adkins) and her husband Phil in 1945. New buildings for non-essential services were prohibited during wartime and haircutting was not considered an essential service.
Helen explains that Senator McRae had a role in helping them get a building permit and Simon Little of St. Andrew’s Lodge, who was an architect, helped them design and build the combined business and home, which included two bedrooms, a large kitchen and a living room behind the barber shop and hair salon. Helen and Phil cleared the lot themselves, as “it was woods right to the road”. They paid $85 for their half-acre wooded lot and they built the house with a budget of $5,000. They moved into the building with their two young daughters and Helen claims that “there were always people in the shop, we always seemed to be so busy”.
At 105, Helen is one of the oldest residents of Qualicum Beach. She began her hair-cutting business in 1931, using rental space in the front of the building at the south corner of Second and Memorial. It was her mother who suggested hairdressing to her after the family moved to Qualicum Beach when her father took a job with the railway in 1930. Her mother pointed out that there was no hairdresser in the village, and suggested Helen move to Vancouver temporarily to train as a hairdresser.
Helen attended Moler School (now Moler Barber School) for hairdressing and she also trained at a barber shop on Hastings Street “because I knew there was no barber here”.
Many of her clients were guests of the Qualicum Inn, whom General Money, the manager, sent to her. Helen laughs as she says “they thought it was really something to have a lady cut their hair, cause they were used to barbers.”
At first she worked with hand clippers, as electric clippers were not available until after electricity was installed. As for earning a good living, Helen explains “haircuts were only a dollar in those days so we didn’t get very far”.
After Phil was injured in a logging accident Helen suggested he take up barbering and he could have the barber shop while she would run the beauty shop. Phil attended barbering school in Vancouver and they worked side-by-side, and as Helen says “the men were in one place and I was in the other and we could talk through.”
Helen remembers that the work was not easy, as some equipment was large and had to be heated up. Speaking of the tourists who visited her shop she recalls “I met so many people from all over the world. It was very interesting”.
In 1964, Helen and Phil sold the business and moved to Victoria, returning to live in Qualicum Beach in their later years.
During a recent household move, Helen donated her hairdressing chair and some of her tools of the trade to the Qualicum Beach Museum.
She is also featured in one of the oral history videos available for viewing by all museum visitors.
Quotes are taken from an oral history collected by Qualicum Beach museum staff in 2012.
— Submitted by Nancy Langford