From The Transcript, May 21, 2005
By Mark E. Rondeau
CLARKSBURG — Gus Jammalo, owner of Gus’ Barbershop, says that cutting hair is very much an art form.
“No question about it. When a person is here, I look at their hair and their head and then try to decide what looks
good on them,” he said. “I might even try to talk them into something different, because you’ve to shape
the hair to the head. The sideburns have got to be the right length to fit their face and nose. It’s very artistic.”
“Every haircut’s different,” he said. “It’s a challenge to make it look good.”
When Jammalo left the Army in the 1950s, a friend convinced him to go to barber college. He started barbering in 1957 at a
shop on River Street in North Adams, where Goodyear Auto Service Center is now. He has been barbering in his Union Street
location in the city since 1984.
“I still love it,” he said of barbering. “I love to go to work. I’m 71 and I don’t want to quit.
I like my job. I’ve got a lot of good friends in town. It’s fun. It’s a fun place.”
Jammalo is also a coin dealer. In fact, this interest in coins led to an even greater interest — painting. After he
bought an autographed Norman Rockwell print of a man and his grandson looking at coins, Jammalo took it to the Rockwell Museum
in Stockbridge to be authenticated.
“I became impressed with the Rockwell paintings, so I went back home and said: ‘I think I’ll start painting,’
” Jammalo said. “I was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s paintings.”
So at age 54 in the mid-1980s, Jammalo began painting. He had always had an interest in art. In fact, as a teenager interested
in taxidermy he had done paintings of fish. He has loved photography his whole life. However, he had no formal training in
In the years since, in a realistic style uniquely his own, Jammalo has completed more than 250 oil paintings. In addition
to traditional canvas, he’s done paintings on saw blades, slates, and washboards.
He has painted such local landmarks as the North Adams Public Library and Johnson School; landscapes; animals such as dogs,
cats, fish, birds, and tigers; famous people such as Albert Einstein, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong; and a variety
of other subjects such as a silver dollar, hobos, farm workers, lighthouses, and even souls ascending to heaven at the end
of the world.
Often he draws and then paints from photos; other times he uses his imagination. “I just paint different things that
I like,” he said.
His artistic projects have extended into nearby Vermont. Jammalo was a part-time barber in Readsboro from 1969 to 1978, where
he ran his own shop. He received a warm welcome from residents.
“They would even shovel the steps for me at night when I would go up there in wintertime,” he said. “They
were so grateful they would prepare it for me.”
He got to know everybody in Readsboro in those days: “The Bolognanis, the Marchegianis, many many people. They’re
very nice people. They were good to me.”
During the time he worked in Readsboro, the Readsboro Chair Co. was still a going concern. “It was like the Sprague
Electric Company of North Adams,” he said. “It was like the biggest thing in town. Everybody worked in the chair
factory for 100 years.”
In fact, the kitchen table in Jammalo’s Clarksburg home where this interview took place was made at the factory. At
one point about 30 years ago, he bought some used saw blades from the factory.
Readsboro resident Jim Finley, known as “Big Jim,” recently suggested painting a picture of the chair factory
on a saw blade. Jammalo liked the idea — in fact he had already done such a painting of the Hoosac Tunnel — and
he had a saw blade sandblasted. Then he treated the blade so he could paint on it. Betty Bolognani of the Readsboro Historical
Society gave him a photo of the factory to work from.
“I had a small photograph. I had to draw it out. It took me a little time to draw it out, to do it right,” he
said. “I had to make it a lot bigger, naturally. And then it’s a round saw blade — I made the roads a little
rounded, to get the perspective.”
“Also, it’s a black-and-white picture. I had to put my own colors in from memory,” he said.
The saw blade is 54 inches in diameter and weighs about 70 pounds. He bolted it to a wall to work on it this past winter.
He estimates the painting him took about 40 hours of work.
The factory went out of business in 1988 and was torn down in 1995. Jammalo has donated the painting to the Readsboro Historical
Society. “I thought it would be something nice to do,” he said. “I’ve given it as a gift to the Historical
Society because I wanted to give something back to Readsboro.”
On Tuesday night, May 10, about 35 town residents enthusiastically applauded as the painting was officially unveiled at the
Readsboro Historical Society headquarters. Many who had worked in the factory were present, as were three generations of the
As for the future, Jammalo is thinking of a painting project that tells a story, but for now he’s keeping it secret.
He’s keeping his options in other ways, too. “I’ve still got my Vermont [barber’s] license in case
I want to go back to Readsboro,” he said.