Anyone familiar with our downtown is very likely to be aware of the oldest continuously operated business in Los Altos. That is the barber shop located at 365 Plaza Central. For 65 years, Al Galedrige has been providing his customers with professional barbering services. Visiting Al’s Barber Shop can not only get you a haircut, but also a walk through nearly 70 years of history, as the shop walls are covered with pictures and commendations dating back to World War II.
Al was born in Hawaii and came to the Peninsula in 1946. He graduated from Barber School and immediately started working in Palo Alto. He came to Los Altos in 1947 to join Ike Kerr in his shop on Main Street. Al soon bought the shop and gave it his personal touch. Al remembers that at that time Main Street was only two blocks long and ended where Third Street now exists. Main Street was only paved up the middle. Parking was on dirt surfaces adjacent to the paved center section.
According to Al, the price of a haircut in those days was only $0.75 (now $20.00). The barber business in Los Altos was very good in the early days. There were five barber shops with three barbers each in Los Altos. This all changed when the Beetles became popular and long hair came into vogue. Al’s Barber Shop is now the only one remaining in downtown Los Altos.
In his 65 years of business, Al has cut the hair of many very distinguished Los Altans such as David Packard, Senator Cranston, and Judge Paul Myers. He has also given the first haircut to thousands of young boys, many of whom he has taken a picture of while they were sitting in the chair.
Prior to becoming a barber, Al served nearly three years in the Navy. Being raised in Hawaii, he sat near his home with binoculars and watched the attack on Pearl Harbor. As soon as he was 17, he enlisted in the Navy and was involved in the battles for Iwo Jima and Guam. He served on a rocket ship equipped with 500 rockets and provided protection for the Navy “frogmen” as they prepared the shores for invasion. He was awarded the Distinguished Cross and the Navy Commendation for his outstanding service. At Iwo Jima, he watched the Marines raise the victory flag that has become such a memorable World War II event.
When asked what he hopes people will remember him for, Al says he only wants to be remembered for providing good service and being friendly to all his customers.
Although Al sold the business to Greg Giedt in 2000, Greg has kept the name of the shop in honor of Al. Al has yet to fully retire. So, whether you need a haircut or not, stop by the shop on some Friday or Saturday and say “hello” to Al and thank him for keeping the barber shop business going in downtown Los Altos for 65 years!