Louis Ayala was born on July 21, 1930 and passed January 14th he was 90, he was married for over 40 years to the former Delia Perez they have two grown children. Mr. Ayala was an avid golfer that played twice week and has been a member of the Pan American Golf Association (P.A.G.A.) since 1953. Among the notable former clients is long time actor Emmy and Oscar nominated Jason Robards (now deceased) one of his last roles was Steve Martins’ Father in Parenthood.


In 1939, Louis Ayala was 10 years old.  And at that ripe young age, both Louis and his father decided that it was time for Louis to start making his way in this world.  To lend historical perspective on that era, recall that Hitler had ordered a 5-year expansion of the Nazi navy and was already making threats against the Jewish community of Germany.  In church news, Cardinal Pacelli — Pope Pius XII — succeeded Pope Pius XI as the 260th Catholic pope.  In America, John Steinbeck’s novel — The Grapes of Wrath — was published.  Among the movies released that year was Stagecoach and later in the year, The Wizard of Oz.  In sports, Lou Gehrig – “The Iron Horse” — ended his playing streak at 2,130 consecutive games, a record that would stand for 56 years, until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it.

By. A Govea


Originally appeared on Nuestra Voz November 2013


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Leaping forward to today, Mr. Ayala’s business card reads that he has been serving the community for more than 65 years.  In my opinion and those people, he has served, Mr. Ayala’s accomplishments in his chosen profession – at the very least – are equal to those of both Gehrig and Ripken.  Back to 1939, Mr. Ayala and his Dad understood that opportunities were limited for a 10-year-old boy in Fort Worth, but they both knew that personal appearance was a primary need for nearly everyone.  So, together they decided he must go into business for himself, to capitalize on the human need to look at his or her best.

With a total investment of less than a dollar, the father and son built a shoebox.  But this was no ordinary shoebox for just any shoeshine boy.  This box held the future for young Mr. Ayala the son, and generations following him.  In 1939, North Main Street was a beehive of activity, with numerous retail merchandize stores, restaurants and an overabundance of bars and saloons.  Louis recalls a mixture of white-collar and blue-collar shoppers in the area.

Surely there were some “Whites only” signs, right?  “I never experienced that issue, either in my work or everyday life,” Mr. Ayala said.  His dad told Louis: “Treat everybody with respect.  Do a good job, and good things will happen.”

Thus, the young Louis, with shoeshine box in hand, ambled up and down North Main.  He applied his craft on street corners and near the doors to the bars/saloons.  At 10, Louis was making up to 35 cents a day, after school and on weekends.  The child thought himself a very lucky boy to be earning 35 cents a day.  But his situation was about to improve.  There was a barber shop, located across Main from where El Rancho Grande Restaurant is today.  The shop needed a shoeshine boy.  Louis applied and was hired.  He was making more money and not having to walk Main and peer into bars for customers.  Louis turned 12 during this surge in work.  He was already a veteran of customer service, a hard worker, and a responsible youth.

The barber shop proprietor was Jack Mead; 65 years later, Mr. Mead’s picture still hangs in Louis Ayala’s own barber shop.  Mr. Mead, as Louis still fondly calls him, took notice of Louis’s efforts and paid the $100 tuition fee for Louis to attend Barber College.

Source: Facebook; Celebrating 89th Birthday

Source: Facebook; Celebrating 89th Birthday

At 15, Louis became a licensed barber.  Unfortunately, Mr. Mead passed away, and his wife sold the business.  Louis was unable to work for the new shop owner.  That led Louis to Mr. Gutierrez’s barber shop.  While there for three years, Louis earned his Master Barber License.  At 18, Louis was ready to open up his own shop.  He did, next to what is now the Rose Marine Theater.  It was 1948, and Louis was eligible for the military draft.  Louis was also old enough to sign a contract.  He had learned from his business mentors that it’s best to own the building housing your shop.  So, fate seemed to step in; a property became available just down the street.  The problem was the price, $4,000; that was a lot of money back then, especially for a young start-up business owner.

Enter Dr. Greines, a former shoeshine customer and then current hair client of Louis.

Dr. Greines loaned Louis the money. Later, after the $4,000 loan was paid, Dr. Greines loaned Louis $5,000 to build a new shop, the building still housing Louis’s shop.  The loans were made on trust, a handshake, and no collateral, which speaks volumes for both Mr. Ayala and Dr. Greines.

Mr. Ayala described Dr.Greines as a Jewish gentleman with a beautiful heart. The historical perspective again: It was the summer of 1955.  Rock & Roll was really getting hot with stars like Chuck Berry, Bill Hayley and a new kid named Elvis.  Gasoline was 23 cents a gallon, and the minimum wage was raised to $1.00 an hour.

Mr. Ayala started his Cal Ripken run.  Fast forward to 2013, Mr. Ayala is 83 years old, 65 percent of his clients have now passed on, and many spent their last days in nursing homes. For all of them, Mr. Ayala visited to cut their hair and perhaps relive old times.  He still serves clients in the nursing homes. I asked him the secret to his success,“Treat everyone with respect. If they want to read or take a nap, don’t bother them. They are there to relax, not to entertain the barber by answering questions,” Mr. Ayala said.

In a world where every experience seems to be linked to mass communication media, or some kind of electronic device, some modern barber shops have ten TV’s on and/or music blaring from multiple speakers. Chatterbox barbers — or stylists, as they prefer to be called – are common.

At Mr. Ayala’s shop, though, the customer can still relax. As soon as we were done with interview, he went back to what he does best, he put a client in the chair, and it was back to work.

Thanks to Angele Henning, for help with this story, a third-generation Ayala barber/stylist on the Louis Ayala Family Tree; she is Mr. Ayala’s grandniece. Ms. Henning is the owner of Prescription Hair Studio with locations in Watauga and Saginaw.  The family also includes John Ayala, Louis’s brother and assortment 2nd and 3rd generation Barbers/Stylists.  

In 1967, there was a Sonny & Cher song titled, “The Beat Goes On.”  And so, it does for Mr. Louis Ayala and family. May he RIP and our deepest condolences to his family

One Response

  1. Many great people do great things and history passes them by because they did not do great things according to historical standards. Mr. Ayala may not be remembered as a man that did great things but a great man he was.

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