A ‘Welcome’ Snowbird: When a haircut is more than just a haircut (PHOTOS)

Shelby DeSoto
Welcome Palmeter has been coming to the Barbery Coast for 20 years and always asks Kelly Martine how her kids are doing as she gives him a trim. She says Welcome is “a kind man.”

This time each year, Snowbirds flock to the Emerald Coast to enjoy the beaches and soak up the sun during the winter. One Snowbird in particular makes his regular visit to The Barbery Coast for his usual haircut. Only this time, the “usual” is a mere 15 cents.

Welcome Palmeter, 90, is just one of the shop’s patrons who receive a 15 cent haircut for the rest of their lives. And with a name like Welcome, so is his personality.

“He’s a real gentle, quiet man,” said owner Tim Lupori. “He has been coming here for over 20 years.”

To see more photos from the haircut, CLICK HERE.

To see a video from Log Photographer Kathy Harrison, CLICK HERE.

Lupori said he opened The Barbery Coast 28 years ago, and of course has “millions of stories” about all the nonagenarians that have come through his door.

“This age group is so respectful and full of integrity,” Lupori says.

The 15 cent haircut began after a gentleman named Earl asked for a haircut. Lupori said the man was 95 and he “wanted to do something special for the man.”

“I asked him, ‘what was the least expensive haircut he can remember,’ and he said it was 15 cents.” Lupori said he told the man that from then on, his haircuts would always be 15 cents.

But some people were left out of the 95 and older group, and so after a visitor brought their 90-year-old father for his haircut, Lupori kindly “changed the rules so the dad could qualify.”

Born October, 23, 1924, Palmeter served in the United States Air Force during World War II as a Bombardier. A Bombardier or bomb aimer is an aircraft observer who oversees the targeting of aerial bombs.

“I graduated from high school in June of ’43 and in July I went to Biloxi for basic training,” said Palmeter. “From there, I went to Sioux City and went through more Air Force training there at Morningside College.”

“It was a girl’s college,” he adds, “but I guess they didn’t let anymore girls in because I didn’t see any when I was there,” he joked.

Palmeter mentioned that during his training, he would have three missions a week to “drop bombs” in nearby areas.

“One of the missions I was on, I bombed the Golden Gate Bridge once a week for about nine months,” Palmeter recalled. “One of the other missions was the Hoover Dam and I would bomb the bridge there once a week. The third mission that we had, I was bombing oil tanks in Nevada.”

“I bombed that Golden Gate Bridge about 35 to 40 times. I’m probably the only one alive that’s ever done that,” he laughed.

He still has a newspaper clipping of the bomber plane, the B-24 Liberator, he flew in during his time in the Air Force.

Palmeter later received his Honorable Discharge from the Air Force and then he perused a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University in 1949.

That same year he started working at Concurrent Technologies Corporation, and retired in 1985, he said.

When asked how he discovered Destin, he said it was after taking a trip to Bluewater Bay in ’83.

“I fell in love with the sugar white sands,” Palmeter said.

After traveling around the states in a motor home for about five years, Palmeter said he has been coming back to the area every winter since 1990.

Originally from Michigan, Palmeter now lives in Indiana to be closer with his family and grandkids, he says.

Kelly Martine says she has worked at The Barbery for 19 years. Palmeter claims to be one of her first haircuts after she was hired. Palmeter later recalled he was about her third or fourth customer when she started working in December that year.

“I was really nervous so I don’t remember,” Martine recalls, “but he says I was so it must be true.”

Martine added that she got the job right after graduation and has been there ever since.

“I just love his name. He’s a kind man and when he calls for an appointment I say, ‘Oh, Welcome’s back,’ and that’s how I know he’s in town,” said Martine.

She said although Palmeter can be quiet, he always asks about her kids and is friendly with the entire staff.

Palmeter specifically asks for Martine every time, because everyone understands a good barber can be hard to find. He adds that he likes to come to The Barbery Coast because of the close proximity the shop is from is winter home at Sandpiper Cove.

Palmeter joked with Lupori, letting him know he brought his birth certificate as proof, but only brought 14 cents.

“I think I can spare you a penny,” Lupori laughed.