Oradell’s “Indispensible Barber” Was a Staple of the Community
A Journey into Oradell
For the first part of the 20th century one of the mainstays of Oradell was a man described as in local histories as “indispensible”.
He was Frank Preis, and for many years he was Oradell’s only barber.
In his 1969 book, "Oradell: A Biography of a Borough," J. Irving Crump goes to great lengths to describe Preis and his impact on the community.
Preis, his wife, and six-week-old son first came to town in 1898. He did business there until his death in 1940. In between, he served customers downstairs in the old , and then at a shop in the living room of a home his father built at 358 Kinderkamack Road.
This shop (also known by some as Price’s) served not only as barber shop, but as a town square of sorts too. Highlighted by black walnut, it was best known for its rack of personalized shaving mugs (names and all), and its group of folks that would assemble at its round table to play pitch and pinochle as they waited for a haircut or shave
It was written that Saturday nights could be an especially busy time for barber Preis – lines could be long waiting for the close shave that would look good at church the next morning.
In the Borough Biography mentioned above, Mrs. Preis (she died in 1966) was quoted recalling her husband’s shop, “It was a good clean shop. My Frank would let it be anything else. Mammas who brought their children for haircuts there didn’t get insulted by bad language. Frank would never let rough customers into the place”.
Finally she recalled what happened after Frank died and they closed the place, ”..You would be surprised all the people who wanted to buy shaving mugs, old razors, and all the old furniture”.
Looking from a perch in a world where all too much has become impersonal, the story of Frank Preis and his barber shop provide a window to what a community once was and can still be, if we care enough to work at it.
This piece was originally written for River Dell Patch - it appeared there in August, 2011
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Source Materials - Biography of A Borough: Oradell (1969), by Irving Crump; Oradell Centennial; 1894-1994…..Thanks to Borough Historian Frank Vierling for his guidance. And, a special thank you to Borough Archivist, George Carter for his ear, his support generally and in particular his help in securing historic pictures from the Borough/Library Collection….. The Archives, located at the Oradell Public Library, are open to the public the first Friday afternoon of the month from 1-5 p.m.