It was quite a weekend of celebration for Conley “Ray” Beeler. Ray, of Big Orange Barber Shop fame, turned 80-years- old on Sunday, though the celebration began Friday.
Ray’s children, Cory Beeler, Robin Cumbie and Tina Moody, started Friday evening by trying to clean and organize the barber shop for Saturday’s big day. That didn’t go over too well- sort of like trying to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
TOP PHOTO: L-R WLAF’s Jim Bunch, Tina, Robin, Big Orange Barber Shop customer Ray Watson and Cory.
Customer Lee Reynolds (L) congratulates Ray Beeler on his 80th birthday – photo courtesy of Robin Cumbie
Ray’s adult children are one of the region’s favorite gospel singing groups, The Beelers. Before heading to the shop on North Tennessee Avenue, they took time to open Saturday at WLAF with a half hour of singing, story telling and bragging on their dad. The trio sang some of their favorite numbers including a song their dad wrote.
The Beelers new CD is “You’re loved”
They each had a “dad” story to share starting with Cory. He recalled the times he would walk from their home on Rose Hill to the barber shop in town to finish the afternoon hanging out with his dad. The younger Beeler would anticipate closing time and getting home for supper. Yet one thing always confused him – as his dad locked the door, swept the hair up and turned out the lights, he would let a customer come in for a haircut. He’d turn those lights back on and unlock the door. And then another would come in. Cory said, “If it’s me, I’m telling them we’re closed.” But Ray kept cutting hair. All these years later, he now understands his father’s motivation and can see why Ray has customers coming in now from generation after generation and has a shop that’s full of love.
The Beelers, the pride of the Rose Hill neighborhood, sang some of their favorites on Saturday morning over WLAF
All agreed that Robin is “dad’s favorite.” Robin shared she was supposed to be a boy and had already been named. She was to be Conely Ray Beeler, Jr., with a nickname of Connie. “My mom said that everyone was so disappointed when I was not a boy that my dad just loved me even more, and he has,” she said. “We’ve always had a really sweet bond,” Robin added.
Then there was the time a very young Tina decided she was going to pluck her eyebrows. That night at the dinner table Ray asked, “Tina have you done something to your eyebrows?” “No!,” Tina responded. Now, Tina, are you sure? “No!” “Tina, I’m a barber! I do hair for a living! One of your eyebrows is shorter than the other,” Ray exclaimed. Tina came clean. Robin swears Tina got a whipping for it.
L-R Tina, Robin, Ray Watson and Cory share a Ray Beeler story
Ray finished out the weekend in style, though he didn’t slow down much on Saturday. When the kids told him what they were planning, he said, “You know that’s my busy day.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/14/2019-6AM-PHOTOS COURTESY OF WLAF’S NEKA WARD)