Barber Pete Franco dies at 93, a year after retiring

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 26, 2001

Pete Franco cuts hair at his downtown barber shop in 1997. (The Vicksburg Post/FILE PHOTO)

[03/23/01] Legendary Vicksburg barber Peter “Pete” Franco died Wednesday, March 21, 2001, at The Heritage House Nursing Home. He was 93.

Franco was a native of Vicksburg and cut hair in his Vicksburg shop from 1931 until 1999, when a stroke disabled him at 92.

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Joe Canizaro, who owned a jewelry store on Washington not far from Franco’s shop on the side of Crawford Street hill, was a regular.

“I was a customer of Pete’s for about 50 years,” Canizaro said.

And the haircuts over the years were very good. “He had a very steady hand before he got sick,” Canizaro said.

But friendship was friendship and business was business.

“One day I went down there to get a haircut, we got to talking and I forgot to pay him,” Canizaro said. After he headed back to his own store through the alley that led to his back door, he looked up and saw Franco coming in the front door. “Pete was coming to tell me I forgot,” Canizaro said.

Although Franco insisted on being paid, it wasn’t much. As writers and TV producers visited for feature stories in recent years, a central point was that Franco hadn’t changed his prices in decades.

Another customer for about 50 years was Bill Sheffield.

“The only time I ever saw Pete was at the barber shop and that was almost weekly,” Sheffield said. “He was always nice to me and he was always nice to everyone that I ever heard of.”

“He was a talker,” recalled C. Leonard Katzenmeyer Jr., another long-time customer.

Katzenmeyer recalled when the late D.C. “Chris” Christenberry was still working the second chair at Franco’s shop. The two barbers were always bantering back and forth.

Katzenmeyer also said Franco was the type of person who always wanted to work, adding that when the Mississippi River steamboats like the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen began stopping in Vicksburg he apparently got considerable business from them.

“I don’t know if the people were from the boats or not, but you knew when one of them was in not to go down there because he’d be busy,” Katzenmeyer said.

Manuel Applebaum operated a business, Applebaum Business Machines, across Crawford Street from Franco’s shop for about 25 years.

“He had cut my hair just about every week since I got out of the Army in 1945,” Applebaum said, adding he spent time hanging around the barber shop whenever he had a few minutes to spare.

“He was a man of integrity,” Applebaum said. “He didn’t want a penny that he had not earned.”

Applebaum said his old friend often visited him in the hospital when he was sick, even coming late in the afternoon or early evening, after he closed his shop.

“Considered myself real close to him,” Applebaum said.

Franco is survived by two daughters, Vera Franco Dahm of Dayton, Ohio, and Anna Marie Franco of Richmond, Calif; and four brothers, John Franco, Raphael Franco, Joseph Franco and Paul Franco, all of Vicksburg.

Arrangements will be under the direction of Fisher-Riles Funeral Home.