EL PASO, Texas — The barbershop is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city on a side street at the corner of Piedras and Alameda that was created when the Piedras overpass and Interstate 10 highway were built in the mid 1960’s.
Working inside, Estine Davis, an elderly but lively African-American woman who won’t reveal her age, has cut hair for decades. The wrinkles on her face and the countless plaques on the wall whisper tales of times long past.
Davis is the owner of Estine’s Eastside Barbershop. For those familiar with this border city, this area is considered South Central El Paso. But according to Davis, that wasn’t always the case.
“This is the Eastside of town when I started here and it will always be the Eastside to me,” said Davis. Although now the area has billboards in Spanish and is rapidly becoming a predominantly Hispanic area, she said.
“This area has always been white, black and Mexican, although I have been seeing more Mexicans come in lately.”
Davis’ story starts in Pendleton, Texas, a town near Austin of 60 souls. She said that her family moved from Pendleton to El Paso when she was six years old and she has lived here ever since.
She started cutting hair in Fort Bliss, Texas for the soldiers at the time and became accustomed to cutting men’s hair.
A female barber was rare then and she said she could have gone into styling in a beauty shop, but she enjoyed her work. She didn’t mind being a barber.
“The woman is interested in the way a man looks and want’s his hair cut, a man barber just get’s it cut to get the customers out. That’s what makes a woman barber better!”
After leaving Ft. Bliss, she would later work for her godfather. He had bought a shop from a man named “Fred Hughley” on the corner of Alameda and Piedras, the very same shop she was working in now.
Most people would have already retired at her age but she will have none of that.
“Nobody should retire. When you retire your brain retires with it. You have to keep moving and doing stuff.”
Then she curled her lip and smiled and said. “Besides, I’m not everybody else. I’m just Estine.”
Just at that moment a customer drove up outside the shop and came in the door. He sat down and Davis began to place the red gown over him and prepare her tools.
The man in the chair, Dr. Donald Phifer, a local El Paso Physician, has been Estine’s regular customer for over 25 years.
He said that Estine doesn’t just leave her imprint on a barbershop. She leaves it in several places in the community.
“Estine believes in the development of the young black woman,” said Phifer. She turned on the clippers and began to cut his hair.
“She’s sponsored the Ms. Black El Paso pageant for countless years,” he said trying to speak over the clipper’s noise.
“She’s so creative, adventurous, and a relentless worker. She’s been making floats for the Thanksgiving parade for years.”
Twenty-eight years to be exact. Davis created her first float for the El Paso Thanksgiving parade in 1982 and has been making one yearly ever since. Last year’s float named “Soul Train” won the Honorable Mention.
“This year’s parade theme is about dreams. What should I make this year’s float about?” she asked.
“Maybe Disney characters since, they constantly use the ‘dream’ theme,” someone said.
But she had already decided on the real dream come true for African Americans and the rest of the American people.
“I’m going to do the float on the White House,” she said, smiling.