DANVILLE - A 1960 Scott High School graduate returned home to Boone County last week to reconnect with old friends and sift through a physical archive of vintage photographs at the Coal Valley News office in Danville.
"I absolutely cannot believe that you still have these photos," said Daniel Stringer. "I've seen a lot since 1960."
Stringer, 76, calls Byron, Georgia, home today. He's been married to Francisca Stringer for 54 years. Francisca doesn't share the passion for travel that her husband does.
"In recent years, I've made it back once a year but it wasn't always that way," he said. "I'm retired so I cut a lot of grass and try to keep moving."
Stringer's father, Fred, and his Uncle Dock Stringer were staples in Madison as Stringer's Barber Shop served the community from about 1940 until the mid 1970s. Fred retired first, but his brother kept the business going for a few more years after. Fred passed away in 1993 and his wife Marilla LaFabure in 2006.
Daniel Stringer remembers his parents well.
"They were good people and they raised us well," he said. "They were hard-working folks."
Marilla LaFabure was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Nova Scotia is one of eastern Canada's Maritime provinces on the Atlantic. Her family came from France to Canada to work in the mines.
"The kids called her 'Frenchy' and they made fun of her for speaking French, which really hurt her, I think," he said. "My dad was actually born in Dawnson, New Mexico. I think because of her bad experience, my Mother would never allow us to speak French. She and my grandmother were very fluent, though."
The Air Force and Vietnam veteran said that he wishes he had asked more about his family history when he was young.
"In those days, you just didn't ask about family unless your parents offered it up and you may or may not have listened," he said. "I wish now that I would have asked more questions."
The couple settled in tiny Turtle Creek in 1948. Daniel had two siblings, David and Patricia (Sargent).
Their father worked in the coal mines, including one in Racine for nearly two decades before his brother was seriously injured in a mine collapse that damaged his face and the side of his head. It was at that time that he decided to pursue another career. After training at barber school, became a barber and eventually opened the shop with his brother.
"I think it was at that point that my dad had to take a step back and think about his family and their future," he said. "I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision, but mining was very dangerous business in those days."
Stringer's Barber Shop was created after the brothers trained under another barber in that building and after some time, the owner of the shop passed away and the brothers bought the business in approximately 1940.
Fred Stringer nearly lost several of his fingers in an accident with a saw while cutting wood and had problems with the hand after he healed that affected his barbering.
In the early 1960s, Daniel went to beautician school and earned his credentials, but in February of 1962, he joined the Air Force. After basic training, he was shipped to Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville, South Carolina. Then he was reassigned to Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia. Daniel was then deployed to the Philippines and spent several years there while specializing in supply early on in his career.
"I was in Vietnam for two tours," he said. "I eventually landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1967."
He returned with a new wife with whom he had two children, Rosemarie and Ephraim.
"That was the early days of being able to have interracial marriage in the south," he said. "That didn't go very well at the time. Her dark skin at that time made it difficult for her. It was really hard to see her go through that. We didn't have any friends and we lived a pretty isolated life, which was fine with me, anyway. It bothered her."
In the late 1960s, he spent five years in Germany with the Air Force but after returning home in 1973 and returning to Korea for another stint, Francisca expressed her desire to put down roots somewhere with her husband.
"I had been promoted but if I put that stripe on they were going to send me back to Korea," he said. "I decided to retire in 1984 and 23 years."
He worked for a zipper manufacturer and went to work for McDonald Douglas, which was eventually absorbed by Boeing. Daniel spent his days building military airplanes in Macon, Georgia, after extensive training by the company.
"I didn't use any of my electronics training and went to school to learn how to work sheet metal," he said.
After 10 years and myriad health problems at that time, he stepped away from the runway and hung it up for good.
"I liked that work and it was very interesting," he said. "I met a lot of good people and I learned a lot. I'll tell you, it was hard work."
Today, the former Boone County resident enjoys the balmy Georgia heat with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren while maintaining several acres of land where his family all live close together.
"I've lived quite a life, I guess, but you can't forget where you came from and as I've gotten older, I try to live by that," he said. "I hate to see the state of Madison today, but the people haven't changed. Boone County has some of the best people you could ever meet. I always enjoy my visit."
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.