Norman Millette has been a barber for 66 years, almost all of them on the first floor of a two-story brick building in Portland’s West End. He opened the classic shop at 664 Congress St. in 1960 as Longfellow Barber Shop. He later changed it, in reaction to the “hippie” hairstyles taking hold, to Senior Citizens Barber Shop.

At one time, the little shop had three barber chairs and four barbers. Now, just one barber chair remains, and Millette sits in it and drinks tea from a cup that says “This is going well” when he is between customers.

At 86, he says he has no plans to retire, although he has cut back his hours in recent years and started taking the bus into Portland instead of driving. He lives in Old Orchard Beach now but comes from Biddeford, where he raised two daughters in his childhood home.

“We’ve given up trying to get him to retire,” says his eldest, Merrilou Millette George. “Now we just try to keep him working. We think it is his social hour and keeps him busy and active.”

Both of his daughters live nearby and help him when he needs it, like when a tree limb fell on his car during a late winter storm. Merrilou remembers visiting the barber shop when they were kids. Millette would give them money to go to Soule’s Candy Kitchen and buy bread to feed the ducks at Deering Oaks.


Over the years, Millette’s had some memorable customers including Fred Hale Sr., at the time the world’s oldest man, who died in 2004 just short of his 113th birthday. Millette cut the hair of the late Gary Merrill, an American film and television actor, who was married for a decade to his “All About Eve” co-star Bette Davis and who once lived in Cape Elizabeth.

But his favorite customers, he says, are the ones who work in the city – a group that includes many police officers.

Not all of his work has been in the barber shop. Millette used to make house calls when customers were sick or in the hospital. “I don’t do it anymore,” he said. “I can’t find a place to park.”

He would also cut hair for the funeral parlors, which some of the other barbers refused to do. “It didn’t bother me,” he said. “No complaints there.”

On a Thursday in late March, Millette was just finishing up with his final cut of the day.

“I took a little off the top,” he told the customer, who thanked him, handed him some cash and said, “Keep the change.”

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