The son of Taichi and Shigeno Kawamoto, Tadao “Barber” Kawamoto (1911-2000) was born and raised in what was then the fishing village of Kukuiula on the shore southwest of Koloa, Kaua‘i.
Beginning at age 10, while on summer vacations from Koloa School, Kawamoto worked for McBryde Sugar Co. planting seed cane 10 hours a day for 25 cents a day.
And, following his graduation from Koloa School, he was employed in McBryde’s cane fields for several months, and as a delivery boy for the McBryde Company Store in Kukui‘ula.
During that time, he also became interested in becoming a barber while observing Filipino men skillfully cutting hair.
So, he saved up and ordered a barber’s clipper, comb and shear (scissor) from a Montgomery Ward catalog and started off by cutting his brothers’ hair and doing a pretty good job of it.
Then he began his barber apprenticeship at the Tip Top Barbershop in Lihue’s Tip Top Building, which was built in 1915 and stood at the intersection of the Government Road to Kapa‘a and the Government Road to Koloa (today’s Kuhio and Kaumuali‘i highways) until it was demolished in 1965.
In 1927, after training for a few months at the Tip Top Barbershop, he left Kaua‘i to work in a barbershop in Honolulu until 1932, when he returned home prepared to open his own barbershop.
On Kaua‘i, he leased space in the Yamada Building (later renamed Kawamoto Building) next to Sueoka Store in Koloa, bought equipment for a three-chair shop from barber August Aguiar of Kapa‘a at a good price, and opened for business.
In 1965, he also opened a liquor store in an adjacent space in the Yamada Building that he operated with his wife, Lillian.
Tadao “Barber” Kawamoto retired in 1982 after 50 years of cutting hair in Koloa.
In 1987, he shared this advice for young people: “Well, if they don’t care to go to school, I think the best thing to do, learn a trade. Whatever it is, learn a trade. Or join the service.”
He was survived by his wife, Lillian, his son, and three daughters.
Source: The Garden Island