Manila artist captures history on canvas

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Artist Dan Donovan created Mid-Town Barber Shop on canvas. Pictured are, from left: Donovan, Paul Fleeman, barber, and T.J. Bazemore (seated) customer. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Artist Dan Donovan of Manila enjoys painting a variety of subjects but especially likes to preserve historical sites on canvas. Several pieces of his work, including the old Manila ice house and mule barn, are displayed at the Depot Center.

One of his latest works of art is a painting of the Manila Mid-Town Barber Shop.

"I had the idea to paint the barber shop a couple of years ago, but when I would get ready, it had been closed," Donovan said.

Mid-Town Barber Shop reopened a little over a year ago when Paul and Nellie Fleeman of Manila decided to come out of retirement and work part-time. Mr. Fleeman has the front of the building for a barber shop and Mrs. Fleeman opened the back of the building for a beauty shop. They are open two days a week.

"We were excited when Mr. Donovan came by and asked if he could paint the shop," Mrs. Fleeman said. "We were even more excited when we saw the finished product. It is wonderful."

The Mid-Town Barber Shop is a landmark and, according to local memories, has been around since the 1930s.

Some of the early barbers named included Ira Harris, Dial Ballard, Clyde Parker, Troy Matheney, Elmo Morgan, Herb Stokley, and Curley Wright.

"I'm sure there have been others," Mr. Fleeman said. "I got my hair cut here years and years ago."

One customer said she remembered all little boys first hair cut was free when Mr. Harris was barber.

Mrs. Fleeman said the floor was put in during the early years and the building still has the original metal ceiling. At one time it had a sky light.

"There is an old coal stove in the back that was probably used for heat," she said.

Other customers remember the shop when it had at least four chairs and would stay open late on the weekends for the area customers that came to town.

"You could get a hair cut, shave, shoe shine and even a bath," Mr. Fleeman said.

When Mr. Donovan came to take pictures to use for his painting, T.J. Bazemore of Gosnell was getting his hair cut. It was ironic but the men discovered during their conversation they were both stationed at the Blytheville Air Force Base at the same time. Mr. Bazemore retired from the Air Force and now lives in the retirement village that once was the air base. He and his wife live only a couple of blocks away from where they lived in the 1950s.

Mr. Fleeman cut hair at the Blytheville Air Force Base and later in his shop in Gosnell. Mr. Fleeman is glad to still have him as a customer.

Donovan's painting of Mid-Town will hang in the Depot Center.

"We have had a lot of people stop by here to take a look at the painting," Mrs. Fleeman said. "The painting seems to bring back memories of the shop throughout the years."

Donovan said he has several more projects in mind including painting Dr. Shaneyfelt, Manila's long time physician, and a man at Leachville that restores saddles.

Donovan said the barber shop painting took him about three weeks working in the evenings.

"The only thing I changed was the barber pole," Donovan said. "I put it on the outside instead of the inside.

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