LOCKPORT TOWNSHIP – Percy Conway said his career as a barber had to start some place.
That place was on his father’s porch when he was 10 and living in Mississippi. He said he was cutting people’s hair and became good enough that he developed a clientele.
When Conway moved to Illinois in his late teens, after fighting in the Korean War and working a series of jobs, he opened a barbershop years later that has remained open for 50 years.
“I think it would be something of interest for people to know and motivate younger people on what can be done,” Conway said about the longevity of his shop. “If you put your mind on what you really want to accomplish in life, then move in that direction.”
Conway is the owner of Conway’s Hi-Styling Beauty Center, 3226 S. State St. in Lockport, which also is located in the incorporated community known as Fairmont. Conway said he has a strong passion for barbering.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said.
Working alongside him have been barbers Rosie Seals, David Gaddy and Albert Baley, he said. Gaddy is the barber in the morning while
Baley works toward closing time. Seals works on a part-time basis while Conway works in the middle of the day, he said.
The barbershop also is a place where people socialize.
“Most of the time I sit here to entertain people and keep up the atmosphere,” Conway said.
Besides running the barbershop, Conway also has been involved in local politics, pushing to rip the barrier of minority participation in local elected offices.
He served on many government boards and also served as a Lockport Township trustee for more than 20 years. He said he was involved with the township because he wanted more leverage to secure funds to improve the area.
“I wasn’t going any place. I was going to stay here,” he said.
Lockport Township Supervisor Ron Alberico was mentored by Conway when he decided to get involved.
“He told me a lot of great stories. … He mentored me and brought me along. I owe him a great deal,” he said.
Conway said he still respects and honors his barbershop.
“It brought me a long ways. We brought each other a long ways and made many friends,” he said.