|Angie Raybourne, the new owner of LMH Salon (formerly Jim's Barber Shop) seated next to her father, Mark Cuthrell.|
In the past few years if you had driven past 10 Renshaw Road in Highland Heights, it's likely you would have given the small, brick building no notice. But all buildings hold stories and this one holds one of the best: the story of James (Jim) T. Mountain.
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Mountain was born June 12, 1921. He grew up at Second and McKinney in Dayton, Ky., where his mother owned a candy store (Mountain's father died when Mountain was 6). Mountain had one sister. One of Mountain's best childhood friends, Jim "Red Dog" Doughtery, lived at Third and McKinney (more on that later). Mountain's home flooded during the 1937 flood, and he and his family moved to Bellevue.
According to old news clippings and a family scrapbook, Mountain's childhood was spent playing basketball and baseball on the street, and fishing and swimming in the Ohio River. He and his friends would take canoes out on the Ohio River, and paddle in the waves of the Island Queen, a sidewheeler steamboat, while the boat's crew would try to shoo him and his friends away by throwing plates and shooting BB guns at them.
|Dayton High School's football team in 1938.|
Mountain attended Dayton High School where he played basketball (guard) under coach John Wooden (Wooden would go on to win 10 NCAA national championships in his 12 years as head coach at UCLA). Jim "The Man" Mountain (family says he was maybe 100 pounds, soaking wet) also played football for Dayton, losing to Highlands High School in 1938 but beating them 35-6 in 1939.
|Jim Mountain served in the Navy during WWII.|
Mountain served in the Navy for five years during WWII. He was a torpedoman. His ship, the USS Leary, sunk on Christmas Eve in 1943. Mountain was 22. He spent hours on a cork raft in the icy North Atlantic before being rescued. He was one of 60 survivors, and only one of two torpedomen (out of 11) who survived. According to family stories, one of the men on his raft asked to switch positions with him, believing he had a better chance of survival. Out of kindness, Mountain did. But the man was wrong – he died, and Mountain survived.
|Local newspapers around northern Kentucky interview Jim Mountain upon returning home as one of the few survivors from the USS Leary.|
From a newspaper clipping: "Mountain arrived home early yesterday, surprising his mother, who had been frantic with worry since hearing the previous night that the Leary had been sunk. Mountain's shouts of 'Mom, Mom, Mom,' as he pounded on the door were music to her ears."
Mountain was discharged from the Navy in 1947.
|Jim and Louise Mountain.|
Mountain attended Xavier University to study physical education. He began coaching football at Dayton High School in 1947. In In 1949, the Green Devils won the Kentucky State Football Championship. After, Mountain stopped coaching. He married the love of his life, Louise, who worried there wasn't enough money in education. So Mountain attended school to become a barber, which they both thought would lead to steadier work.
Mountain opened Jim's Barber Shop at 10 Renshaw in 1953.
Fast forward to 1994. Remember Mountain's childhood friend, Jim "Red Dog" Doughtery? In 1994, Doughtery was the assistant football coach at Highlands. One day, at practice, Doughtery recognized a man sitting on a bench at the top of hill, watching the Highlands team play. That man was Mountain. Doughtery introduced Mountain to head coach Dale Mueller. They needed a punting coach, and Doughtery knew Mountain could do the job. Mueller hired him.
|Jim Mountain served as an assistant football coach at Highlands High School for many years.|
Mountain served as an assistant football coach through four Kentucky State Football Championships, including 1996, 1998, 1999 (50 years from his first state championship with Dayton) and then 2004, which marked his 55th year of coaching.
|Jim Mountain was inducted into the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.|
In 2005, Mountain was inducted into the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame. He quit coaching in 2006.
|Generations of boys and men visited Jim Mountain for haircuts.|
But for all the years Mountain cut hair, if you were a customer, sitting in his barber shop chair, you wouldn't know about the newspaper clippings welcoming the war hero home or the years he helped lead football teams to state championships. He was humble. He loved fishing and horse racing. He often cut Highlands football players and coaches' hair for free. And he loved his wife, Louise.
|This sign was taped to a window in Jim's Barber Shop during his wife's illness.|
For years 10 Renshaw held Mountain's barber shop on one side, and a salon (which Mountain rented out) on the other side. When his wife, Louise, became sick he turned the salon into a small apartment so he could both care for her and work at the same time. A sign taped to the window said "HONK YOUR HORN ONCE FOR HAIRCUT". Upon hearing a honk, Mountain would leave Louise, cut the customer's hair and then return to his beloved wife.
Today that "HONK YOUR HORN" sign is kept in a scrapbook Mountain's family put together before his death. The book is filled with pictures and news clippings, all of which help to tell the story of a life well lived. Raybourne's parents, Mark and Paula Cuthrell (Paula is Mountain's niece), took Mountain home to live with them when Mountain was in his 80s. Mountain stayed with them until his death in 2014.
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|Jim's Barber Shop at 10 Renshaw, before the renovation.|
"Every hair stylist dreams of going to school and having your own shop," Raybourne says. After her daughter's birth, Mountain's health was declining. Knowing her dream, he sold 10 Renshaw to her for $1.
|Raybourne and her family gutted the shop, while preserving as much of Mountain's history as possible.|
The family got to her work. Raybourne's father, who sells life insurance for a living, became the lead contractor on the building. It had to be gutted. New plumbing. New electrical. New floors, walls and ceiling. They redid everything, all the while preserving as much of the barber shop's history – and Mountain's history – as they could.
|Mountain's chair, restored, next to his old sign: "Jim Mountain Barber Shop."|
The first thing customers notice upon walking into LMH (Love My Hair) Salon is a vintage barber chair. It was Mountain's, now restored. Mountain's tools, found while gutting the property, were cleaned and polished, and placed in shadow boxes now displayed throughout the salon.
|LMH Salon has a modern-day vintage vibe, while also serving as a museum to the building's past.|
Raybourne says she always knew she wanted her someday-salon to have a vintage look, and incorporating her great uncle's past with her modern-day offerings provides the perfect mix.
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|Meg Bardo (left, seated) and Angie Raybourne (right, standing) – the two stylists at LMH Salon.|
LMH Salon (859-360-7971) is open Tuesday (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.), Wednesday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Friday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). In addition to Raybourne, Meg Bardo recently signed on as another stylist. They offer cuts, coloring, formal hair styles and facial waxing services. Folks are welcome to stop by for a consultation, and walk-ins are welcome.
This story could have easily been about the opening of a new salon. But Raybourne insisted its focus be on Mountain – his barber shop, his legacy. Raybourne and her father spent more time talking about Mountain's kindness, how soft-spoken he was, his love for animals and babies, and his legacy than they did the hours they've spent restoring his former barber shop and home.