Doug Fields aspired to a career as an old-fashioned barber. 

Doug Fields aspired to a career as an old-fashioned barber. 

Rehabilitation doctors told a polio-stricken Fields that he would last six months as a barber and would be unable to last so many hours on his feet.

Forty-six years later, after cutting at least one person’s hair each day he went to work, 66-year-old Fields put down his clippers for the last time Wednesday. 

“If you tell him he can’t do it, he’ll do it twice to show you he can,” Fields’ wife of 46 years, Georgeanna, said.


While sustaining two crutches to aid in walking, Fields always wears brown cowboy boots. A shoe cobbler even installed his leg braces on each side. The boots were $200 and the installation was another $100, but they’re worth it, he says.

Fields is completely paralyzed in his right leg. His left leg is 80 percent paralyzed.

He was diagnosed with polio, a viral disease that affects nerves and can lead to paralysis at age 5. In the early 1950s, he was a poster boy for the illness and has since undergone 12 major operations in his lifetime.

Flipping through a scrapbook, his remembers his eight-month stint at the Burge Hospital in Springfield, Mo. One pamphlet bears the authentic signature of Ronald Reagan, one of several actors who visited the hospital during Fields’ stay.

In 1962, Fields moved from Waynesville, Mo., to Kansas City and attended the Moler Barber College for six months, later working as an apprentice under a licensed barber for 18 months.

Old-fashioned barber shops are fading away. A dying art form, Fields says. An instructor told him in 1962 that someday, “barbering will fade out as we know it.”

No, Fields wasn’t discouraged then at age 19. “That’s all I’ve ever known,” he says.

When longer men’s haircuts became popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s, many barbers shied away from learning to cut them and said, “Go to the beauty shop where you belong,” Fields says.

But he “just tried to cut it and deal with it.” He attended seminars in Kansas City to learn more about longer hair. Fields didn’t pass the customers along.


Positioned comfortably between Best Little Hairhouse and Calzamundo Western Wear at 1202 W. U.S. 24 in Independence is Doug’s Barber Shop. Thriftway stands to the east, and Fields watches the people walk in and out of the business 10 hours a day, five days a week. He’s memorized most of their walking patterns.

“You learn people over the years, you know,” he says in his shop, a Glen Campbell tune playing in the background on radio station KFKF.

Clippers have remained the same since the early 1960s. He’s stuck with a good, old-fashioned haircut and nixed on coloring and styling. And blow dryers, well, they didn’t exist when Fields entered the barbering game.

“I think in the ‘60s we got a dryer and thought that was somethin’,” he says.

Most of his clientele are men his age, but there also are those second-, third- and even fourth-generation customers. Standard Oil, Armco Steel Corporation, Kentucky Hills and General Motors and “the Union folk” provided Fields a steady flow of business in his early days. That waned a bit, he says, after several of those corporations closed their area doors.

On Mondays, when his shop was closed, Fields would cut customers’ hair in their homes, hospitals and nursing homes.

“They supported me all them years, so it’s my turn,” he says.

And the discussions...Well, there have been some interesting ones.

“I know my people. I generally know before the guy gets a divorce – or when it’s coming.” Fields chuckles. “I hear all about that. I hear a lot of things I don’t need to hear.”

Doug’s Barber Shop opened in 1959 as L&M Barber Shop. Fields said he started with the shop on a temporary basis, but “temporary” turned into 45 years. He purchased it in 1977.

Upon his retirement, a Raytown husband-wife barbering pair will keep the shop open. Give them a chance, Fields says.

“I didn’t want to close the doors, but when you try to sell a barbershop, you’re just basically selling equipment,” he says. “It’s hard to sell customers ‘cause you’re selling blue sky.” 


Independence resident Ron Hickey received his final cut with Fields early Tuesday afternoon. He’s kept coming back to the U.S. 24 shop since the early 1980s. Why?

“Doug,” Hickey replies. “Nah, it’s just the general atmosphere of the place. What can I say? I think one of the things I’ve always been impressed with is Doug and his polio and standing on his feet all day.”

The shop also is inspiring, Hickey continues.

“I look up to you, believe it or not,” he tells Fields.

“Well, thank you,” Fields replies. He wants to thank each and every customer he’s serviced in more than four decades.

Hickey especially enjoys hearing about Fields’ crazy escapades in Colorado, where he’s gone elk hunting for more than 30 years. Once, Fields lost both of his mules in one day deep in the mountains. Also gone were his saddles, a gun and his crutches.

Later, the mules were found. Fields’ son cut two sticks in lieu of his father’s crutches. Three weeks later, Fields received a telephone call back home, notifying him that his belongings had been recovered.

“I hadn’t heard that one before,” Hickey says Tuesday.

“I’ve gotta cut one more haircut tomorrow, Ron, to be satisfied with my career,” Fields tells his friend. “I don’t care who it is.”

The two men exchange cash when the cut is complete. Fields and Hickey laugh briefly, buddies linked together with their Shriners involvement. They shake hands.

“Be good, Doug,” Hickey says. “If you can’t be good, be safe.”