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BREAKTIME: John Salido — Forty years of making the cut

By Amy Agronis on February 6, 2004 in University

The furnishings of John Salido's office of 34 years are a perfect marriage of work and play -- the putting green in the corner, the case of fishing flies, the maps of California and Hawaii, the stacks of books of all genres, and, of course, the two barber chairs.

Salido has long run the University Haircutters shop in the lower level of the Memorial Union.

The Winters native is a barbering legacy of sorts; he had an uncle who cut hair. As a youth, Salido toyed with the idea of becoming a barber, but decided in high school that he wanted to enter the forest service instead. When he enrolled in barbering school in Sacramento in 1961 it was merely with the intention of cutting hair to pay his way through college.

But while taking classes at Sacramento City College he decided to turn his side job into a career. "I got married and I needed a full-time job," he says. "I told myself, 'I'll go back later,' but later never happened."

Salido's first full-time job was at Sacramento's El Mirador Hotel, near the state Capitol, where he cut the hair of Gov. Pat Brown and other state legislators while he was still in his teens. Salido moved to the campus shop in 1963, only to join the Army Reserves in 1965 and be moved into active service a year later.

He finished active duty in 1966, but would remain in the Army Reserves for 25 years training recruits from Fort Ord, Calif., to Fort Jackson, S.C. He retired with the rank of command sergeant major.

After leaving active duty, Salido opened the Hideaway barber shop with a friend in downtown Davis. He remained there until he was asked to return to the campus shop in 1970, and has been calling the shots in the basement of Freeborn Hall ever since.

The Sacramento resident has found plenty to do on campus when not cutting hair. He has been a fly fisherman since he learned the technique from a student in the 1960s, and has taught fly-fishing courses through Outdoor Adventures for the past 22 years. He regularly takes students on fishing trips along the Truckee River for hands-on experience, and also teaches a stream ecology class for fly fishermen through UC Davis Extension.

He also makes bi-annual scuba diving excursions to Hawaii and goes backpacking frequently. He says his favorite spot is along the Carson River, but says he'd rather keep the locale a secret. "My friend would kill me if I told the exact spot!" he says.

What makes the campus barber shop unique?

Everyone who comes in is in the same capacity, either teaching or learning. I've talked to people about engineering, law, geology, biology, everything. I've learned a lot, and I'm still learning.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

The best is definitely the interaction with the people. I've had lifelong connections with some of my customers. I've been cutting some people's hair for 37, 38 years. I really don't have a worst part; I couldn't be in a better job.

What do you do in your spare time?

Fly-fishing and backpacking obviously, and scuba diving in warm water. I don't like cold water! I've also been playing golf for five years, here in Davis and at Land Park in Sacramento. I've recently gotten into digital photography, too. I used to take pictures of wildlife in the woods with my 35 mm camera, and it just evolved into digital.

What's your favorite spot on campus?

I used to love to take walks in the Arboretum through the redwoods. I liked it during the winter when there weren't as many people around. I don't have much time to go there anymore though; it's a ways away and I spend more time in the shop than in the past.

What is something others might find surprising about you?

I talk so openly about everything, so I don't have many secrets. I'm a map fanatic though. I like geology, and I like how maps show the layout of terrain and things like that. In the shop I have some maps on the walls and atlases of California and Hawaii.

If you weren't a barber, what would you be?

Probably something involving the environment and the outdoors, like a forest ranger. I always wanted to be in the woods. I just love the mountains, the rivers, the open space.

What are some of the craziest haircuts you've been asked to give?

I've shaved a lot of heads and given some Mohawks, but the craziest is probably carving initials for sports teams.

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