15 October 2007
If you've had your hair cut along the Old Kent Road in the last sixty years or so then you might have missed a familiar face recently, who at one time or other has lopped off your locks.
That's because Phil Sonenfeld, 80, has finally hung up his scissors after years of shaving, clipping and cutting people’s hair.
Phil is convinced that fate dictated that he was to become a barber. He said: "I was supposed to work with my elder brother in his business as a leather salesman, but he went off into the army.
"Instead I ended up working with my other brother in Dockhead at a barber shop when I was fourteen."
His elder brother sadly died in 1944 so he stuck with the hairdressing and has been doing it till July this year.
He admitted his first attempt with the clipper wasn't a raging success but he persevered with it. And the reason for cutting hair for so long is simple: "I was happy and I had an incentive to work. Not many people have that - they just want more and more money."
Phil first owned his own shop on the Old Kent Road near All Saints Church and was able to start the business after his father-in-law lent him the money. He ran the shop for 36 years before moving to work further down the Old Kent Road, at the salon near Peckham Park Road. It wasn't long before his loyal customers followed. He worked there for another 27 years before stopping this year.
Phil cut the hair of many Millwall stars down the years but particularly remembers Alex Stepney as a regular. Phil managed to survive both the trend of long hair in the ‘70s and the punk rock era, claiming to have gained custom as the footballers deserted him for the unisex salons.
Phil is a man who has no regrets: "I liked seeing the old faces. We had a laugh and a joke and it was a pleasure to go to work. I had four generations of the same family coming to see me at one stage."
Although content to be a barber, Phil is happy that none of his children or grandchildren, who now occupy his time, followed him into the business. "It involves standing up for a long time, but I've enjoyed it. As I say for me it was fate, but I didn't want my kids to be barbers."
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