“Ken was Facebook before there was Facebook,” says Ed Konjoyan, the pitch of his voice confirming he is still mourning the loss of Ken Bolton, first his friend, second, his former barber.
Bolton passed away on Monday, October 21 after a brief illness. He was 81 years young, as they say.
Konjoyan saw Bolton just two days earlier and other than some small “issues,” as Konjoyan puts it, Ken was in good spirits.
That is how Bolton – who cut his first head of hair in San Marino in 1955 – will be remembered by his legion of fans: As more than just a barber.
“Ken is probably in more San Marino family photo albums than anyone else in the world,” Konjoyan said. “The number of people I know who took their children to Kenny for their first haircut…”
“Ken had an unbelievable work ethic,” says Brad Hall, a customer of Bolton’s since Hall was ten years old. “He was out in front of his shop every day at 6:30 in the morning. We used to say you had a progression – you started in the booster seat and it was a rite of passage to finally sit in the regular chair for a haircut. Ken kept up with everyone. You could go in, get a haircut and Ken would bring you up to date on what everyone was up to,”
Hall, who coaches basketball at Pasadena Poly, once coached the Panthers’ junior varsity football team. One day about twenty years ago, Hall marched his players down to Bolton’s barber shop and watched as every player received a flat-top.
“Suffice to say, not all the parents were happy,” Hall chuckled.
“We used to say that Kenny’s barber shop was the Southern Branch of the Poly Alumni Office,” Hall quipped. He then drew serious.
“A lot of people saw Ken once a month for their for their entire lives,” Hall said. “There aren’t a whole lot of people you can say that about.”
Former San Marino City Manager Matt Ballantyne checked in from Chino yesterday to remember “the old school barber.”
“He used a straight razor,” Ballantyne said. “I liked that.”
John Cushman spoke at Bolton’s memorial service, which was held this past Monday at Forest Lawn, Hollywood, and declared that “five generations” of his family trusted their locks to Ken Bolton.
Konjoyan shared that he once told Bolton that The Tribune should write an article about the humble town barber.
“Nope,” Bolton reportedly said. “Nothing special going on around here.”
“But he was special,” Konjoyan said. “You could get a haircut anywhere, but there was only one Ken. We all considered him a friend and part of the family. He will be greatly missed.”
“We were talking at his funeral – where are we going to go now for haircuts?” Hall asked, rhetorically. “There might be a bunch of bushy-haired guys walking up and down Mission for the next few weeks.”
– Mitch Lehman
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