“Stipo, ho tagliato i capelli di tuo nonno su questa stessa sedia”
As Battaglia Salon celebrates its 60th anniversary this week, 92-year-old Antonio Battaglia showed his memory remains as sharp as his cut throat razor.
“Stipo, I cut your grandfather’s hair in this exact same seat,” he greeted The Area News photographer Anthony Stipo in Italian on Wednesday.
Mr Battaglia may be Australia’s oldest working barber, and he’s not done yet.
Carry on is his favourite saying to customers, and that’s exactly what he keeps doing.
“Will you still be cutting hair when you’re 100,” we asked.
“Yes, I think so,” he replied.
Antonio’s father Frank came to Australia in 1927 with five pounds in his pocket. He settled in Griffith in 1940, and through hard work and saving was able to buy a cafe on Banna Ave, which he converted to a general store. He eventually earned enough to be able to reunite his family.
Antonio was 22 when he reached Australia in 1948, and began working as a barber with Bob Evans.
Nine years later, in 1957, Tony and his father built three art-deco shops on Banna Avenue's top block and Battaglia Salon was born.
Since then, Antonio has cut six generations of hair, and been more than just a barber.
“He’s been like the Consigliere for the next generation of Australians,” son Frank said.
Frank said when people move here, they come to Antonio for advice on how to get jobs and set themselves up.
“We take great satisfaction passing down our knowledge”.
Longtime Battaglia Salon hairdresser Nadia Aloisio is one to benefit.
“Thirty-two years ago, I was his first apprentice. He taught me how to do cut throat shaves”.
“Like a boomerang, I keep coming back here”.
The salon has gone on to train another 25 apprentices.
Three generations of the family continued the craft of hair and beauty starting with Antonio, his son Frank (named after his late father) and daughter Olga and his grand children Giulia, Sofia, and Caprice .
Son Frank said, “my dad has had a lot of fortitude in his life. Without that, you can’t achieve anything”.
“I want to thank my Dad and Nonno for everything they have give us”.
Antonio’s loyalty also extends beyond his business – his marriage to wife Lina in now in it’s 59th year.
“Has he been a good husband,” we asked
“Sometimes,” Lina joked.
“We carry on the same”.
Antonio vows to carry on doing what he’s done best for at least eight more years.