Eugene Field principal was known to include haircut along with education
Laura Griffen submitted this photo of Charles O. Christian, left, and William Henry Reger, right, to the “Growing up in Hannibal” Facebook site. Henry Reger served as principal of Eugene Field until his retirement circa 1955. Mr. Christian was named his replacement, and served until circa 1977. You will see the old Market Street fire station, 1634 Market, behind Mr. Christian. In 1959, the building to the right of Mr. Reger (across the street from the fire station) housed a grocery store, Clark’s Market, 1639 Market.
“He longs at time for coffee
Like his mother used to make;
He often speaks of bread and pies
That she was want to bake;
But you don’t hear him talking
To his barber, as I live,
Of the neat, artistic haircut
That his mother used to give!”
Palmyra Spectator, Jan. 5, 1916
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Charles Otis Christian, a respected long-time principal at Hannibal’s Eugene Field School (from 1955-1977), stepped in, when needed, to give his young charges - whose families were typically cash strapped - a proper haircut.
This is the confirmed memory of Ed Schoenfelt: “When I first started my teaching career, 1978, yes, he did cut students’ hair to help. He was an excellent principal at Field.”
Mr. Christian, trim, 5-foot-9 with sandy hair, was, indeed, a man of significant heritage in the barber field. While his own chosen career path was education, his grandfather and namesake, Charles Jackson Christian, for some four decades, watched Hannibal’s progress through the plate-glass window of his barber shop, located at 702 Broadway.
And Mr. Christian’s own father, Otis W. Christian, who later served as Oakwood’s postmaster, apprenticed in that same barber shop.
Charles J. Christian
The 1900 census found 34-year-old Charles J. Christian (1865-1935) in the township of Union, in Lincoln County, Mo. He and his wife, Mattie B. Christian, (1875-1958) were the parents of 6-year-old twins, Otis W. Christian and Opal M. Christian.
During the next half decade, the Christian family packed up their belongings and moved to Hannibal, where C.J. Christian at first secured a chair in the barber shop of Jesse H. Fassnacht at 227 (on the south side) Broadway. Two years later - by 1907, C.J. Christian was in business for himself, at 702 Broadway. (This shop was previously occupied by W.A. Lawler, barber.)
Partnering with William F. Starr, the men garnered their fair share of the barbering business in Hannibal.
By 1912, there were more than 35 barbers in and near Hannibal, representing every neighborhood, from Ilasco to Union Street on Hannibal’s south side, from the 200 block of Broadway to the 700 block, from Market at the Wedge all the way out to Oakwood, from South Main to North Main and on Palmyra Avenue. In addition, Palmyra offered at least three more barbers.
Services included a good, clean shave for a dime, shampooing, haircutting, massaging and even a shoe shine.
Charles J. Christian and his family lived in various neighborhoods through the years, from 315 N. Third st., in 1907; to 1005 Bird St., in 1909; to 822 Bird from 1911-1914.
It was at the last named location - most likely rental property - where they posed for a portrait along with their next door neighbors, in front of the stately two-story frame duplex near the top of Bird Street Hill.
The house was just to the north of what was then the high school, known as Central School. Just a few doors to the west of the Christian home was a mansion now known as Rockcliffe, built by lumber baron J.J. Cruikshank Jr., circa 1900. Both the Cruikshank house and the two-story rental at 822 Bird commanded notice along Hannibal’s landscape, high atop Bird Street hill, with a commanding view of the river valley below.
By 1916, the Christian family had relocated to 110 N. Seventh, near the barber shop. After the end of World War I, they purchased a country home located at 3911 (on the south side of) Market, in Ralls County, where Mr. and Mrs. Christian would live out their lives.
Charles O. Christian (the school principal) spent much of his life in Oakwood. As a toddler he lived with his parents, Otis and Roberteen C. Bush Christian, at Brookfield, Linn County, Mo., where his father was working as a machinist at the round house.
By 1930, the young family had returned to Oakwood, making their home at 1714 Singleton.
In May 1942, Charles O. Christian was married to Miss Donna Hortense Brinkley, a home economics teacher at Tilden Consolidated High School in Oakwood. At the time, Mr. Christian was a science teacher at Eugene Field Junior High School in Hannibal.
He served with the U.S. Army during World War II from Nov. 5, 1942, until Dec. 16, 1945, then returned to teaching. He replaced William Henry Reger as principal of Eugene Field School circa 1955. His tenure at the school continued until his retirement circa 1977, when Larry Degitz was named principal.
Donna Brinkley Christian taught for the Hannibal Public Schools, and at St. John Lutheran School. After moving to Corpus Christi, Texas, in the 1980s, she continued to serve as a substitute teacher until the age of 75. She died May 14, 1998, in Corpus Christi. Her husband died in 1984. They are buried at Grand View Burial Park south of Hannibal in Ralls County, Mo.
Even with the barber
“Don’t you care for any postcards today?” asked the postal clerk as he handed the man the stamp he had requested.
“No, not today,” said the man.
“Or some stamped envelopes? We have some new ones.”
“No, thank you.”
“Would you like a money order?”
“Or perhaps you would like to open a postal savings account?”
But the man had fled.
“Who was that fellow, and why did you ask him all those questions?” asked a fellow clerk.
“That,” said the other clerk, “is my barber. For years when he has shaved me he has bothered me with recommendations of massages, shampoos, haircuts and hair tonics. I am even with him now.”
Marion County Herald, Oct. 31, 1917
Note: Men associated with the Fassnacht barber shop in 1905 were:
Ed Simmons, porter
Fred W. Miller, barber
Aaron C. Howland, barber
Charles J. Christian, barber, who made his home at the Conklin Hotel, 316 Broadway.
J.H. Fassnacht, owner/barber
In a photo from Steve Chou’s collection, is the house located at 820-822 Bird Street, Hannibal, Mo., circa 1912. Pictured at left are occupants of the duplex, Charles J. Christian and his wife, Mattie Belle Mitchell Christian, and their children, twins Otis and Opal, who were born in 1894. Pictured at right are Martha (Mattie) Agnes Bennett and her youngest son, Otis Bennett, who lived in the duplex at right. Mrs. Bennett’s husband, Ben L. Bennett, worked for the cement plant. The house is still standing.
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.email@example.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com