Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Billy Joel and Elton John: Face2Face Concert Event @ US Bank Arena (Cincinnati, OH) - March 10, 2009 Review and Setlist

Re-posted from original content created at

As I fully expected, this performance did not disappoint. This was my fourth time seeing both Billy Joel and Elton John in concert and the third time in the Face-2-Face format. The first two concerts I ever saw were Billy Joel (November 1998 @ Schottenstein Center (OSU campus), Columbus, Ohio) and Elton John (June 1999 (on my birthday) @ EJ Nutter Center (WSU campus), Dayton, Ohio) in two awesome solo performances. I have seen many shows since that time in the 10+ years that followed, but those two shows are still very memorable and among the best.

My only two F2F shows before last night (Tuesday, 3/10) were both in 2003, during the last edition of the duo's touring show. The first was in Columbus (Nationwide Arena, May 2003), and the second was in Detroit (The Palace of Auburn Hills, June 2003). Both shows were awesome, although I thought the second show (in Detroit, as the tour finale) might have been the single-best show I've ever seen. They put on tour-de-force performances knowing that the US Tour was coming to a close ... and the Detroit crowd was rocking.

Since I don't want to dwell only on those past shows, I did want to provide some context for this Cincinnati event. Yes, folks, a F2F show is more than just a "concert" ... it is truly an EVENT. I can honestly say that I have never seen Elton or Billy looking more physically fit, active, or energetic than I did last night. WOW ... simply amazing piano work, great vocals, and a passion for performance that most singers and musicians today take for granted. Without further adieu, here is the night’s setlist:

[7:30 PM Ticket Start Time … 7:42 PM Actual Start]
EJ & BJ on stage together (Elton stage right and Billy stage left) facing each other on baby grand pianos … no band members on stage to begin
1. YOUR SONG – As expected, a great show opening … EJ gets a HUGE crowd response when he starts his line of “If was a sculptor …” after BJ sings the opening line.
2. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE – No real surprise based on prior F2F shows I’ve seen … but a shame that “Honesty” was ditched on this night (based on the other show reviews I saw). BJ got his HUGE crowd response on the second line as well … for singing, “Don’t go trying some new fashion …”
3. DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME – EJ’s band makes it’s first appearance … rising from sub-stage level onto the upper platform.
4. MY LIFE – BJ’s band arises as EJ’s band lowers below … thunderous applause on the rising and dropping band members from the crowd (for whatever reason … I guess the floor was impressed). Among my favorite BJ songs … EJ doesn’t do it justice (sorry Elton).
[BJ exits … time for EJ to go solo]
5. FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND / LOVE LIES BLEEDING – EJ says “hello” to Cincinnati and opens playing an album track we’re fully expecting (from past F2F shows)
6. SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT (FOR FIGHTING) – Fun, fun song in concert … crowd gets very energetic
7. BURN DOWN THE MISSION – Just as everyone is lifted to his/her feet, most take their bio break during this song … or the next one
8. MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER – A classic album track from the classic album of the same name … with all of the piano play and band “features”, it could be shortened to make room for another of his classics instead (just my two cents)
9. TINY DANCER – One of my favorite EJ songs (still plays very well)
10. GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD – Simply a classic (and expected)
11. DANIEL – Ditto that last remark … a lot of “sing-a-long” in this part of the set
12. ROCKET MAN – Who doesn’t know Elton’s first mega-hit? EVERYONE knows this song … and, if they don’t, why were they here?
13. LEVON – A classic hit … going way over the head of the younger part of the crowd but a fan favorite for classic Elton fans
14. I’M STILL STANDING – Gets the crowd back up and dancing
15. CROCODILE ROCK – Never lets them sit down … a fun song from beginning to end … and who doesn’t like the crowd interaction on the “na … na na na na na …” parts of the song?!? A fun way to end the solo set…
[EJ exits and BJ reenters to perform his solo set]
16. ANGRY YOUNG MAN – The absolute best piano song to begin the set with a high-level energy unmatched by most of the BJ catalog … I love this song in concert
17. MOVIN’ OUT (ANTHONY’S SONG) – Thanks to the Broadway hit, this song has become all the more recognized and played … not that it wasn’t already a hit back in the day
18. ALLENTOWN – A very appropriate song in today’s economic woes … even if it was targeted at Pennsylvania of the late 1970s and early 1980s … switch “steel mills” for “auto factories” and you have the same scenario
19. ZANZIBAR – Expected only because I saw the earlier concert reviews … not my favorite BJ album track by any stretch … whatever happened to “Summer Highland Falls” or “Miami 2017” in the rotation? I saw SHF at the Detroit show (if memory serves) … and I was blown away by it in concert. Even “Miami” would be a great fit in the same vein as “Allentown” … but I understand that this is Billy’s “bio break” song in the set [and “Miami 2017” might just be too energetic]
20. SHE’S ALWAYS A WOMAN – I remember the time period when he wouldn’t play this song … now I kind of miss “New York State of Mind” or the aforementioned “Summer Highland Falls” … but the crowd generally loves this song
21. SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT – He dedicated this absolute classic gem to his “Aunt Mert” in Dayton, who he said was watching in the audience. Funny enough, I remember him dedicating a song to her in Columbus in 2003 as well … I just don’t remember if it was this one.
22. RIVER OF DREAMS – One of the first BJ songs that simply hooked me for life … I even had it played (by request) during my senior graduation slide show (since it was released in 1993 during my senior year).
22a. HANG ON SLOOPY (interlude) – I would be remiss to leave out the page taken from the “Bruce Springsteen playbook” … The Boss played “Sloopy” in Columbus when I saw him there in 1999 (along with the great “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” since it was December and a rescheduled event as well)
23. WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE – One of my favorites … even if it seems dated now that it’s a shocking 20-years-old this year … tracking Billy’s first 40 years of life from 1949 to 1989 … I still learned a lot of history thanks to this song.
24. IT’S STILL ROCK AND ROLL TO ME – His shadow boxing and fun on stage jumping, dancing, and hopping about is about as classic Billy as it gets … I LOVE IT!
25. ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG – I almost wish he’d play the “reggae” version for the fun of it … but maybe I’m one of the few who likes the unreleased reggae track (ala Bob Marley) versus the original release (that almost everybody knows)
[BJ ends his solo set as EJ reemerges to join him onstage for the joint finale with ALL band members together along with the duo]
26. I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES – A classic Elton pick … one of personal favorites of EJ’s catalog … I guess I just relate to the lyrics (thanks Bernie Taupin) that hit home for me.
27. UPTOWN GIRL – It doesn’t get much bigger for Billy as a hit … probably the closest thing to the “career-defining” track in his catalog (featuring ex-wife Christie Brinkley in the video, of course) … it just doesn’t fit his grittier, older voice these days … I would personally love to hear “Tell Her About It”, “The Longest Time”, or “Keeping The Faith” from that same album if given the choice (over “Uptown Girl”) … I’m sure the EJ-only fans wouldn’t know them nearly as well (if at all)
28. B*TCH IS BACK – Wow, Elton was as energetic as I’ve ever seen him on stage (not counting the long-ago days when he younger and thinner) … twice climbing on top of his piano and once jumping down to the delight of his fans
29. YOU MAY BE RIGHT – Among my favorite Billy songs of all-time … still a classic and joy to watch
30. BENNIE AND THE JETS – What a great mano-a-mano piano performance for both EJ and BJ
31. BIRTHDAY (Beatles cover) – Seemingly an “odd” cover to choose … although EJ’s birthday is coming soon (3/25), BJ’s birthday isn’t until May (5/9) … whatever happened to Beatles’ covers like “Hard Day’s Night” … maybe even an Elvis cover (like Billy has done in “All Shook Up”) … since they did the following song, how about a Beach Boys cover (ala “Good Vibrations”, “Don’t Worry Baby”, or the like)
32. BACK IN THE USSR (Beatles cover) – I can understand this one (to a degree) … but I don’t think it fits well at this point in the show … WAY TOO MANY other fine choices from their own respective catalogs (no need to rehash earlier thoughts)
[Band members exit to leave the stage looking identical to how the show began … just Billy and Elton on stage face-to-face at the pianos … and we know what’s coming]
33. CANDLE IN THE WIND – Final “encore” (of sorts, since they never left the stage) … no real surprise to be played for Elton, especially with just the facing pianos
34. PIANO MAN – The ONLY way to end a F2F show … when this gets played, we all know (unfortunately) that the show is almost over … although they gave us a moment of doubt (when the house lights took a few minutes to come up)
[Show over @ ~11 PM just shy of three-and-a-half (3.5) hours … and AWESOME AGAIN, as usual, with almost no breaks in the action]

The "stripped down" setlist without remarks ...
22a. HANG ON SLOOPY (interlude)
31. BIRTHDAY (Beatles cover)
32. BACK IN THE USSR (Beatles cover)

Sorry for the length ... for anyone waiting for an upcoming show, HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2009 Academy Awards (The Oscars) - Preview SPECIAL

I am going to stray a bit from my "typical" posting topics in this editorial today. I have seen a share of the Oscar contenders for this year (which covers films released during the 2008 calendar year), including nearly all of the Academy Award nominated films. The list for BEST PICTURE includes:

- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
- "Frost / Nixon"
- "Milk"
- "The Reader"
- "Slumdog Millionaire"

Arguably, there were some other films of equal caliber that were not on the "Top 5" list of nominees, notably the following two films: "Doubt" and "The Wrestler".

Of the aforementioned list, I have not seen Benjamin Button, but I have seen the other six films. After reading Roger Ebert's review of this film (starring Brad Pitt, who ages in reverse in the title role), I had no real desire to see it. However, I do have my own reviews / opinions of the other four top films and the two films that were also deserving pictures.

In no particular order, here are my views on the Oscar contenders:

Frost / Nixon
Great performances from both of the lead characters, notably Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.

An incredible performance by lead actor contender Sean Penn, who gives quite possibly the absolute best role of his storied career.

The Reader
Kate Winslet is undoubtedly the best actress nominee worth watching in this World War II-based period piece about Nazi Germany and ethical dilemmas.

Slumdog Millionaire
The odds-on favorite for Best Picture winner, most notably for an ensemble cast of great actors and actresses.

What a great assembly of actors - Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman - to carry a film making a statement about the Catholic Church of the 1960's.

The Wrestler
Mickey Rourke gives a career-defining performance in the film's lead role as an aging wrestler being forced to give up the career he loves due to injuries and an aging body.

[Since I am short for time, I will come back soon to finish the rest of this entry...]

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Celebrating 50 Years ... [Credit: Knapp's News (]

[photo caption: Jerry Rentz cuts Joe Oen's hair]

Editor's Note: This article has been re-posted, in its entirety, from Knapp's News (, which is hosted and maintained by my former Marion Local High School guidance counselor, Ivan Knapp. If there were any factual errors (which there were a few), I corrected the mistakes immediately after the notes in question.

Jerry Rentz Celebrates 50 Years as a Barber

This story is a salute to Jerry Rentz, who has been a barber for 50 years of which 47 years have been in St. Marys, Ohio. He lives in Chickasaw, Ohio, with his wife Carol who has been a beautician for 40 years.

He graduated with the last class of St. John’s High School in Maria Stein in 1958 with the next class to be the first to graduate from the new Marion Local High School in 1959.

His parents were John and Henrietta Rentz. His father died when he (his father, ambiguous) was 55 years old (in 1943, when dad was only 3), and his mother lived to be 95. He grew up on farms first on Guadalupe Road, and then St. Johns Road. His family moved to Chickasaw when he was 6 years old, where he still lives (for clarity, he still lives in Chickasaw, but the grammar needs help). He and his wife have a son, John (Rentz, unecessary), who is a civil (chemical) engineer in Mason, Ohio. His (John's) wife is Jennifer, an elementary education teacher. John works as a contractor for Harris Products Group (formerly JW Harris) / Lincoln Electric Corporation as a Process Engineer.
[Editor's note: John now works for U.S. Playing Card Company / Jarden Corporation in Cincinnati after previous stints for P&G, Kao Brands, and Formica as well.]

He (Jerry) graduated from Andrews Barber School in Columbus and worked as a barber for three years on North Main Street in Lima, Ohio. He came to St. Marys in 1962. He and his brother, Harry, set up the Rentz Barber Shop at 138 East Spring Street. Three years later, they moved across the street to 133 East Spring in 1965 as Wilsons purchased the property across the street at 138 East Spring Street.

Jerry had a half-brother, Gene, who talked him into becoming a barber. His other brother was Harry, with whom he barbered for several years. Harry had a twin sister, Mary Catherine, who died in infancy (Harry barely survived as well).

He and his brother Harry cut hair in St. Marys from 1962 to 1993. Harry died suddenly of a heart attack in September, 1993. He was 55 years old. (odd twist of fate that both grandpa John and uncle Harry died at 55 ... irony, actually, since neither died of the same ailment) Jerry said he remembered the ambulance coming by the golf course where he was playing golf and commenting about the tragedy of someone dying, not knowing at the time it was his brother.

With 50 years as a barber and 47 years in St. Marys, Jerry Rentz got to know thousands of people in both St. Marys and the surrounding area. We estimated he knows better than 50,000 people, many of whom have now passed on. He has been in business on Spring Street in St. Marys longer than anyone except Dick Hudson, the jeweler. Noble and Montague (and Moul) have been in St. Marys a long time but not as long at a Store Front as Hudson and Rentz have.

While I interviewed him, several customers came and went each with their own stories and memories of Jerry Rentz. It was a special year also for customer Joe Oen, who is celebrating 50 years of marriage.

Paul Wein of Spencerville, who had brought his grandson Matt for a haircut, said he liked Jerry because he was dependable and on time. Ron Selby said Jerry Rentz was both personable and efficient.

Jerry said the problem today is that barbers no longer go through a period of time as an intern and (not needed ... that way) miss out on some important training. Sure, you need to know how to cut hair, but you also need to know how to get along with people and how to handle the bookkeeping aspects of the business.

Probably nobody knows more about St. Marys and the surrounding community than Jerry does. He remembers the time one customer grabbed the clippers and took a chunk out of another customer’s beard. “I never let another customer have an opportunity to do that again,” he said.

He remembers the day the Glass Block building burned down. “I always came in the back way along the lake, and I could see the burning some blocks away. When I got up to the east side of town, I could see it wasn’t the barber shop and knew I still had a job. The area smelled for a long time.”

Over 50 years, he has collected a lot of mementos, some of which hang on the wall. One is a picture of a line of men unloading into the lake, with the caption: “Every little bit helps.” Another is a photo of the annual SMAKO, with a couple guys dressed as an elephant crossing the building tops at the corner of Spring Street. Jerry said the rest of the story is that these two actors died from a fall at their next performance down the road. There is also a caption about how important things don’t get done because the barbers are too busy cutting hair.
Jerry knows a lot of the "rest of the stories". He is reminded every year on his birthday of the young kids from Minster killed at a crossroad near Marion Local School on March 7.

He remembers Lovey Dickson, who delivered Penny Savers all over the county from his coaster wagon. And local poet Bob Sampson and Murv, both who lived at the Fort Barbee Hotel.

He has a running account not only of what has happened in St. Marys but also what is happening now. He is familiar with efforts being made to buy up the town and reestablish downtown events. Probably, at some time, every man in the community stops by Rentz Barber Shop.

Jerry Rentz likes people, and people like him. He treats his customers with respect, knowing when to talk and when to shut up. He could write a book, and it would be a good one, full of personal stories with insight and humor.

His hobbies include golf, NASCAR racing, and movies. He said his favorite movie is “Caddy Shack” with Steve Martin (actually, that would be Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray ... come on, Ivan ... it's a CLASSIC! ;-)). On his tombstone, he recommends the words: “I told you I was sick.” (Dad has been saying that for years now ... funny, but not his best material, since he has other qualities besides illness)

Finally, (odd place to use "finally" ... but I digress) he seldomly passes out advice except when someone asked him about going into a partnership. He notes, "I recommended it was not a good idea. I remember, first-hand, the difficulties my brother and I had."

One of the people who had the most influence on his life was his high school football coach, Coach Moore. Jerry played guard on his high school football team. Coach Moore had a way with kids. He left the area to take a job at a high school in St. Joseph, Indiana, and then went on to coach at Notre Dame with the famous Ara Parseghian.

[photo caption: Ron Selby praises Jerry Rentz' hair cut]

Hours at the barbershop are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m; and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Once in a while (more specifically, two to three times per year), he closes the shop and takes a long weekend with his family, who go to Bristol to watch the races. [Editorial note: The "family" includes Dad, Mom, my wife, and me ... occasionally (lately, almost always) we also include our "extended family" of Rosie and Tom Ruetschilling, from Minster, Ohio). This doesn't include non-NASCAR trips, which he and Mom usually take once or twice a year at most.]

No matter where he goes, he knows people. His son John said the same thing one time when they were miles away from home, saying “Dad, no matter where we go, you know someone.” (pretty close to a true quote, actually ... I think I said "you seem to know someone everywhere we go" ... but the meaning is the same ... it has actually happened in Myrtle Beach, Walt Disney World, etc. when we've seen someone on vacation he didn't expect to see) (And) Not only that but he also knows something about everyone and can tell you a story if you have a couple minutes.

Customers drive hundreds of miles for a haircut from Jerry Rentz, as my bother does from Germantown, Ohio. He’s a good barber, and people like him. (a bit redundant ... we get it ... "he's a good barber, people like him, yada-yada-yada ... no offense, Dad ... your ego doesn't need inflation after 50 years)

We congratulate Jerry Rentz on his 50 years as a barber and thank him for the positive impact he has had on thousands of people, including you and me. ("you" is a bit presumptuous ... but, since I was the "you" who read it, obviously I agree)

FINAL Note: I would include the original link to Ivan's photo page, but I had a hard time finding this original content because he has created some massive HTML files on his website. They are very photo-intensive (photography is his side passion, I believe, since he used to take photos at school events, too) but worth your time if you are interested in Mercer / Auglaize Counties in Ohio.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Barber of Saint Marys: A Tribute to My Father (Part I)

Barack Obama has nothing on me. He wrote a book entitled "Dreams from My Father" in which he chronicled a story of "Race and Inheritance", as the book is subtitled. Obama never actually grew up with his biological father, who abandoned him with his mother at a young age. He probably developed a great deal of resent and anger for his father's actions but chose to overcome the "neglect" and "absence" by becoming a stronger, more optimistic individual.

My story is quite different ...

My biological father is Gerald Rentz, the barber of Saint Marys, Ohio, who has been cutting hair in the small city in Auglaize County for nearly 50 years. FIFTY YEARS ... that's longer than many people live ... longer than MOST people work ... a half-century establishing himself as the barber of three generations (or more). I cannot even imagine what he means to the thousands of customers who have walked through the door of his small shop on Spring Street in downtown Saint Marys.

Most of his customer base is aging, while the younger set has fallen away to go to the malls and chain discounters who offer styles at cheaper prices. He is a man set in his ways, having fixed his price at $10 many years ago already, after having it set around $7 to $8 for a very long time. The price of a haircut has hardly stayed in line with overall economic inflation, where staples like milk, eggs, soda, and gasoline have doubled in price in recent years.

What makes my dad, part of a dwindling breed of male barbers from an era long ago, different? What has established him as THE longest-tenured barber still working in the area full-time? He is cut from a cloth that my own grandmother, a widowed mother raising three sons, established many years earlier. I will save my grandmother's story (rest her soul) for another day and another time ... she was a remarkable woman who still manages to impact my life in countless ways. My grandfather, my namesake, died in 1943. My father was born in 1940, the youngest of three brothers, following in the footsteps of his oldest half-brother Eugene and his middle brother Harold. Why my grandmother named her children Eugene, Harold, and Gerald is a mystery to me ... but all of them shortened their respective names to the more sociable Gene, Harry, and Jerry. Gene was a military man, having served in World War II, considerably older than my father. Harry, born in 1938, was closest to my dad, but their relationship could hardly be described as anything greater than "sibling rivalry" when it came to competing for my grandmother's love and attention.

Grandma Henrietta (who would have been cooler as a "Hank" or something else) was a cool woman ... possibly too cool for the time period in which she lived. Grandpa John was an older man (possibly 15 to 20 years her senior) who befriended my grandmother after she had given birth to my uncle Gene out of wedlock. A single mother in the 1930s wasn't looked upon kindly, especially when the real, biological father was unknown (to everyone except for grandma, the father, and possibly the immediate family). The Zahn family, one of the more "prominent" names in the area, treated Gene like one of their own until John Rentz adopted him as his own son somewhere in the mid-to-late 1930s. To be honest, I'm not sure that Grandma and Grandpa Rentz got married because they HAD TO get married (grandma was "with child" (Harry) again) OR because they truly loved each other. Grandpa John was a travelling musician back in the day (his stories must have been legendary) as a fiddle player in a country band. Grandma worked on the farm with her many sisters and brothers. As a quick summary, she had older brother Paul (who died a young age in a car wreck), younger brother Urban (a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who owned the Chickasaw Machine and Tool), and younger sisters (twins) Iola (who lived in Saint Henry) and Viola (married a Stammen who lived in Coldwater) as well as Mary (who married Charles Hueslman, who lived in Chickasaw, across the street from my grandmother's house). I came to know my great aunts very well (probably better than I wanted to know) when Grandma would visit all of them throughout the summers I spent with her. Again, this is Dad's story, not Grandma's, so I will digress on this topic.

Dad was only three-years-old when Grandpa John died. Stories say that he died due to complications from kidney stones (very possible), but, of equal possibility, he may have had cancer (spreading to the kidneys) possibly from the liver or pancreas. He was only in his mid-to-late 50's. My grandmother was 36. Of horrible irony agewise, my uncle (my godfather) Harry also died in his 50's of a massive heart attack (failure of a coronary artery), which still haunts me to this day. If the track record for males in this family is any indication, I have a 50-50 shot to die in my fifties or make it to my 70's or beyond. Thankfully, my father is in the latter camp (now pushing 69 in March), heading closer each year towards Grandma's "record" of 95, which my father claims he doesn't want to reach (he hurts too much already, he says).

Within the year of my grandfather's death, my grandmother needed steady income beyond the farm and went to work for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Saint Marys. She sold the farm, located midway between Chickasaw and Saint Marys, and moved into town in Chickasaw down the street from sister Mary and brother-in-law Charlie as well as a block away from brother Urban, whose business was less than a quarter-mile to the north on Chickasaw Road. Interestingly, her property also sat on the opposite bank of the Chickasaw Creek from the Rentz Family Farm, not immediate family but second cousins, which sat on the East side of the creek on State Route 274. Because the Rentz family was well-known in the area for their large real estate holdings (extensive farm ground owned throughout Mercer and Auglaize counties), my father was assumed to have the "Rentz money" (which, unfortunately, I suppose, he owned or was entitled to none).

There were some family "firsts" worth noting. Great-uncle Urban, as I noted, owned the first major business in Chickasaw, which has since been passed within the "family" to my cousin's families (LaVern Heitkamp, Dan Bruns, and (I believe) Steve Heitkamp), who bought out Urban as full-time owners of the business. LaVern is my Dad's first or second cousin (on the Zahn side), same goes for Steve. Dan's dad, Julius, was a farmer who lived next to Charlie and Mary's house on Franklin Street (on the north side of the road from where my grandmother eventually built her own home). The Rentz family, which consisted of Grandma, Uncle Harry, and my Dad, moved into the home on Maple Street (running perpendicular into Franklin Street) adjacent to the Catholic Church (Precious Blood) on the South side of the property. My grandmother was a devout Catholic (who had clearly reformed from her "wilder" youth by her late-30's) who went to Church every Sunday (usually on Saturday evening in her older age) as well as EVERY holy day of obligation. You haven't lived life until you go to Church four straight days for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday in succession. Those days are HELL (pardon my irony for celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ) with some of the longest readings and Gospel passages known to man.

Anyway, Grandma worked for Goodyear until the mid-1970s while my uncle Harry and father Jerry went to school (St. John's in Maria Stein, which become Marion Local after the local schools consolidated in the mid-1950's). As a sidenote, my father went to school for a year in Minster as the new school was being built for Marion Local High School, and he graduated as the FIRST class (of 1958) from Marion, even though (technically) he never really went to school there. I also graduated from Marion Local in 1994, a little bit better academically (as valedictorian) than my father (who was a B-average student), but there is no doubt in my mind that my Dad is a smarter-than-average man.

Instead of going to college (something I believe he still regrets to this day), his brother Gene convinced him to go to barber school (something he had done years earlier after military discharge and older brother Harry was also considering). Why be a barber in the late-1950's? The pay was good, the work was steady, the economy was strong ... we were between wars (Korean and Vietnam), and John F. Kennedy, America's first Catholic president, was about to take office. Clearly, the market timing to be a barber was right ... until the late 1960s.

For those with memories only to the 1980s or 1990s, you may think that "long hair" is a current fashion statement that your parents could not POSSIBLY understand. Check out pictures of your grandparents, then ... circa 1968 or 1969 ... and tell me how a barber managed to survive in those lean years of long hair, "hippie power", and Woodstock. The 1970's weren't much better, as my Dad saw his income steadily decline and the requests for the short cuts of the past (like the flat-top or the crew cut) go out of fashion. Clearly, the cycle was destined to repeat itself (eventually) as the 1980's dawned, and, in my personal belief, it took an "old-fashioned" President (Ronald Reagan) as well as the rebirth of Conservatism to see haircuts get shorter, flat-tops become "cool" again, and, generally speaking, business to be good.

For all of those years, from the early 1960s until the early 1990s, Dad was in a partnership with Harry. For over 30 years, he stood by, as the "younger" brother, the "lesser" partner, because that's just how it was. The shop's look was old, with model cars on the mantle from the 1960's, and Dad readily admitted he was thinking of breaking away from Harry permanently because their relationship had grown apart over time. There is great truth to the statement that you should NOT go into business with your family ... Harry and Jerry, as partners of Rentz Barber Shop, were clearly the model for what NOT to do over time. Yes, their banter was enjoyable. Yes, they argued a LOT over the years. Most days, my father came home angry, ready to kick the dog with another story about how Harry had "pissed him off" again that day. They needed to be apart as business associates ... their familial relationship had been strained and compromised because of it.

When Harry died suddenly in 1993, it was an awakening for my father. Considering it was 15 years ago last September, which seems almost too long ago to be real, I never got to see my godfather at my graduation. I stood on the podium, giving my valedictory speech to an audience that was one short.

... I apologize for needing to stop at this point. I am overcome with sadness over a loss I've never fully accepted. I cannot believe I was only only 17 when Harry died, and I am honestly struggling with it right now. I miss him.

Rest In Peace, Harold Rentz (1938-1993). The Lord took you too young at 55 that year ... you were a Gemini (born June 21) just like me, and I fully understand why you fought with my father. You never felt appreciated ... even though you did far more for your community than they ever understood or recognized. I thank you ... and Chickasaw (as well as Saint Marys) should thank you ... for a good life lived.

PART II of The Barber of Saint Marys will continue in my next post ... thanks for reading.

Post-script Editorial Note: For MORE information about my father, please read this informative piece from the Evening Leader in Saint Marys that was done earlier this month (January 2009) covering my Dad. He has also been covered by the Lima News, the Evening Leader (previously), and the Community Post (now defunct (I think)) in Minster, Ohio. My former guidance counselor, Ivan Knapp, covered Dad last year in an article he wrote for his photographic web journal as well. I will need to find the link there as well for next time.