Burr Cheever (right) opened his barber shop at Sunnyside and France Avenues in Morningside in 1928.
Burr worked there for more than 60 years. He cut his son Jim's hair in this 1985 photo.
Burr Cheever cut hair from a small shop at the northwest corner of Sunnyside and France Avenues for more than 60 years. Technically, the business was called "Country Club Barbers," but no one called it that. Men just called it "Burr's," like they were going to a neighbor's house for the afternoon.
Burr didn't take appointments, so customers thumbed through worn issues of Field and Stream or National Geographic (offering many young men their first glimpse of the naked female form) and chatted while they waited their turn. Officially, Burr's was a barbershop; unofficially, it was a neighborhood men's club.
All this I know only from talking to his many customers, who saw the above photos in our Morningside exhibit a few years ago. Whether they were 80 or 40 years old, men of all ages shared the same memories of the neighborhood barber. They loved Burr, and by extension, so did I even though he died long before I came to Edina as historical society director.
Yes, it's true. I love Burr. Let me count the ways:
1. Burr grew a large lemon tree -- something many native Minnesotans had never seen -- and made fabulous lemon pies with the juice -- something many men of the era left to their wives.
2. As Burr passed retirement age, he started charging less for his haircuts, figuring that as his skill declined so should his prices.
3. Burr didn’t bother with appointments or a telephone. In 1988 he told Jim Klobuchar, columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “I don’t bother with the fool things. They keep you running around. I got all the customers I want. If people like the way I cut hair, others will find out about it.” Burr usually had a full shop, so his philosophy worked for him.
4. Burr's decor never changed, at the insistence of his customers. He kept the same chairs, barber pole, cash register, outdoorsy prints, and old deer head on the wall. A small sign hung on the wall "Work Hard 8 Hours a Day And Don't Worry. In Time, You'll Be Boss and Work 12 Hours A Day -- and Have All The Worries." Burr tried taking it down, but customers demanded that he put it back up.
5. Most of all, I love that fathers brought their sons to Burr, who in turn brought their sons. In times where businesses often open one month and close the next, a place like Burr's is a common thread that runs through everyone's tapestry of memories.
One of my favorite things at our museum is the collection of Edina building photos taken in 1959. City workers went around the village and took one or more photos of every structure in the community.
We have photos of places like Cameron's store, located at 70th and Cahill in what was then rural Edina.
Travel there today and you won't see any hint of the busy little store, located at the crossroads shared with St. Patrick's Church and the one-room Cahill School.We also have photos of Savory's Greenhouses, which still operates today.
The house photos are helpful for residents researching their house history. In addition to the photos, we have the tax assessor files that include information about building permits on remodeling projects. (I happen to like the photos that show cars and bikes in the driveway.)
I also like the ones that show people. Many of the business photos show shoppers on the street or entering the building. Odds are, somebody out there knows the man strolling out of the Shell station. Anyone know anything about the coffee vehicle at the pumps?
I would love to have a volunteer (or group of volunteers) take photos of each address for a Then and Now exhibit. If you'd like to help with the project, please email me or call me at 612-928-4577.
Sometimes I come across a piece of paper in the files that raises more questions than answers. Please take a moment to read the two-page document (above) written by Ken Joyce, then mayor of Morningside, in 1960.
I had to know more. Although Ken was no longer living, I talked to his children, who provided Ken's scrapbook that contained newspaper articles about the issue, as well as contact information for the family whose move to the village touched off a storm of controversy.
As a result, I wrote the following article in 2005 for the Edina Historical Society quarterly newsletter.
Moving to Morningside required courage and faith for one newcomer in 1960. “Our minister told us to buy a shotgun for protection,” said Mary Ethel Pyburn (formerly Taylor) when I interviewed her in 2005. “Everyone thought we were crazy to move there.”
She and her family were the first blacks to move to Morningside, a suburb of middle-class professionals. Friends feared that they would face hostility and even outright violence as many other blacks had who dared move into all-white areas.
Despite an initial effort by a small group to keep them out, most Morningside residents went out of their way to welcome the Taylors, Mary recalled.
“We became part of a very close-knit community,” she said.