At a time when the color of his skin or the pronunciation of his last name could bar him from certain establishments in the city, Manuel Banaga Jr.’s Simi Valley Barber shop opened its doors to anyone in need of a snip.
“When you’re a barber, you see no difference in hair,” said Banaga, 79, owner and operator of Simi’s first barber shop, whose doors opened in 1958. “I’ll never forget the time I was in the barber shop and a fellow came in and he said, ‘Do you cut Mexican hair?’ I couldn’t understand that. Hair is hair to me.”
The place where so many residents came for their first trim, the tiny wooden building on Los Angeles Avenue on the edge of Simi’s Old Colonia is one of the final lasting landmarks of what was once the center of a burgeoning agricultural community.
The historical society’s main reason for including the building, which also once housed Dora Beach’s general store and a chiropractic office, was obvious: It dates back nearly 100 years; citrus orchards and coastal live oak trees were all that once surrounded it. It’s one of the last buildings left from our old so-called downtown, It’s the only thing that’s always been on L.A. Avenue as a link to the past.