After 60 years, a barber’s scissors go silent in Mt. Airy

 Don Murphy sitting in his shop in 2013. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Don Murphy sitting in his shop in 2013. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

For 60 years Don Murphy cut hair at 7149 Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy, but a fatal car accident silenced the barber’s scissors last Tuesday.

Being a barber for six decades had garnered the 81 year-old Murphy the credentials of being a true community institution, says David Fellner, the shop’s building owner and one of Murphy’s longtime (nearly 20 years) clients.

Customers “didn’t go just for a haircut. It was a social experience,” Fellner says.

What happened

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 2, Don Murphy left for work. He would never arrive there.

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Driving from his home in Roxborough to Mt. Airy, his car struck a tree on Park Line Drive. Murphy was transported to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he later succumbed to injuries sustained in the crash, confirmed Officer Tanya Little, a Philadelphia police spokesperson.

A community’s loss

Shearing and shaping the locks of four generations of clients, Murphy had numerous ties to the community. His barbershop banter always reflected a wealth of neighborhood history, from the relationships between its residents to the changes which marked the passage of time on the avenue. He seemed to never forget a name or face, Fellner says.

He also gave a good haircut. “The truth about Don was, his haircuts were great after two weeks,” jokes Fellner.

But it was conversation, including Murphy’s stories and recollections, that created a loyal following. Customers brought in their sons and, in time, those sons brought in their sons. Murphy had a special bond with his clients’ children, who received their first trims on the back of a vintage horse head kiddie barbershop chair.

Murphy told NewsWorks in May 2013 that he continued to work well past retirement age because he so enjoyed interacting with his clients, whom he considered old friends.

Still absorbing the shock of Murphy’s sudden death, Fellner says he has no immediate plans for the quaint retail space. It has been a barbershop for more than 100 years.

“There won’t any place to come and share stories anymore,” he says.

The funeral of C. Donald “Don” Murphy took place Sept. 8, at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Manayunk. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery. Don is survived by his daughter, Suzanne, his son, David, five grandchildren and three siblings.

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