BEEVILLE – That bare spot on the west side of North Madison Street is difficult not to notice.
It was where Martin’s Barbershop had stood for about 57 years, from 1962 until recently.
But the historic shop is not gone. George Benavides had the old shop transported to his property, the 2J Ranch, on Deaf Smith Road where Sanchez loved to spend time.
“Martin Sanchez was my father-in-law,” Benavides said recently as he was in town getting the shop ready to be moved by Richard Garza.
The shop, it’s three barber chairs, the chairs where Martin’s customers sat, the mirrors, the shelves where the popular barber kept his hair tonics and everything else that was in that historic space when Sanchez cut his last head of hair remain in the building.
“It’s in place; it’s leveled,” Benavides said. “All I have to do is get the water and electricity connected.”
“I think I bought it in 2010,” Benavides recalled. Sanchez asked his son-in-law why he wanted to buy the shop.
“I told him I wanted to move it to my place and turn it into a museum in his memory,” Benavides said. “He liked that idea.”
Sitting in one of the empty barber chairs Benavides smiled as he leaned back to remember the man who had worked in that shop all those years.
“Martin C. Sanchez, Jr. was born on Aug. 10, 1920, in Beeville,” Benavides recalled. “He was the only son of Martin Sanchez, Sr. and Rafaela Chapa Sanchez.
Benavides was proud to continue the story of a man he had respected. He recalled that Sanchez had quit school in 1936 to earn some money for his family during the days of the Great Depression.
“He joined the CCC (the Civilian Conservation Corps), Benavides recalled. “He passed himself off as 18,” even though he was only 16 at the time, because his parents divorced, and he wanted to help his mother.
He was paid $30 a month, and most of that, about $23 of it, was put into an envelope and sent to his mother in Beeville. The other seven dollars was enough for Sanchez’s haircuts and cigarettes.
About four years later, on Sept. 26, 1940, Sanchez did what a lot of veterans of the CCC did. He enlisted in the U.S. Army.
He went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio first and later was sent to duty stations in Wisconsin, Kansas and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Then came Dec. 7, 1941, and what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called “A Day that will Live in Infamy.”
Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, and WWII promptly started for the U.S.
“He got to the Philippines on Christmas Day, 1945,” Benavides said. But the stay was a short one. Sanchez was honorably discharged on Jan. 7, 1946.
“He used the G.I. Bill to go to barber school in San Antonio,” Benavides smiled as he remembered the stories his father-in-law had told him.
When he returned to Beeville, Sanchez found a civil service job at Naval Air Station Chase Field where he worked for much of his life.
On May 21, 1950, Sanchez married the love of his life, Petrita Alaniz, at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church.
The couple had three daughters and seven grandchildren. One of those daughters, Maryann, later married Benavides.
Sanchez was one of those who enjoyed working and never met a stranger. So in 1962, he went to the First National Bank, sat down with a loan officer and borrowed about $2,600. Then he approached the owner of a lumber yard in town, named Sylva, and asked him to build the little three-chair shop on North Madison Street that would be known as Martin’s Barbershop.
Sanchez started opening the shop on Saturday mornings and weekday evenings.
For years, the three chairs in the shop were occupied by fellow barbers, like Tony Loya and Lupe Garcia.
In 1985, Sanchez retired from civil service and opened the shop full time.
As his 85th birthday came around, Sanchez was the subject of an article in the Bee-Picayune.
Benavides said this week that his father-in-law did not want to close up the shop when he bought it in 2010. Sanchez was 90 years old at the time.
“He kept right on cutting hair for the next two or three years,” Benavides said. “He was 92 or 93 when he finally quit.”
Benavides remembered that all of Sanchez’s grandsons wanted to be the last person to get a haircut from one of the region’s most experienced barbers.
That honor went to Alex Vasquez. The last haircut Sanchez did was on Benavides’ front porch in Austin as he cut his grandson’s hair.
Sanchez stayed around a while longer after hanging up the scissors and hair tonic. He passed away on July 26, 2015, just days away from his 95th birthday.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.