A South Boston barber known as much for his clean cuts as his quick wit has put his clippers down for the final time. Almost 80, Harold Amato says his boat is ready.
For 51 years, Amato has been steady with the clippers and quick with a joke at Harold's Barbershop, nestled on the corner of L and Emerson in Southie.
"He knows everything that is going on in Southie," said Frank Tkasik, who started coming to Harold's Barbershop when he was a little kid. "He's like a psychologist. You got your problems, you talk to Harold, he straightens you out."
Amato says he started cutting hair out of necessity. At 15, in state custody as a foster child, he had enough.
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"I was tired of being abused, beaten in some places, so I just bailed out," he said.
The only option for him? Barbershop school.
So that's where he went. Amato got a job cutting hair, saved money and then opened his barbershop 51 years ago. And he's never looked back.
"At one time I would never sit down, even for five minutes," he said. "The last year has been the toughest year."
About to turn 80, Amato started thinking about what's next. He recently sold his building, and his last day is Wednesday.
"The boat is ready," he said.
Patrons stopped by all day to say their goodbyes.
"It is a BIG DEAL," Peter Finnigan said. "I didn't need a haircut but I was coming anyways."
"Harold may not be a lady's man, at least according to hair, because he doesn't do us gals, but he has been a really lovely neighbor," a woman named Eileen said.
During a rare break, Amato sat down and reflected on the decades of customers he has had -- even the notorious ones that used to stop by.
"Whitey [Bulger] a few times," Amato said. "I didn't cut him many times because he was always on the run for something."
The man who has kept his neighborhood clean cut is now moving on to life's next appointment.
"I got my pets, my parrot, had a wife but she passed, now I got a new girlfriend," he said laughing. "It has been a good run but it is time for me look at things a little different now."