I grew up in Dundalk. It’s very similar to Hampden where you had a bunch of jobs and industry that went away. So when I opened a business here, I immediately related to the community. The people that have lived here their whole life are just like the people I grew up with. I worked very hard to get out of my neighborhood. There was a lot of drugs, a lot of crime. I saw people facing the same thing here. I heard those stories.
It was the same with skateboarding. I grew up riding a skateboard. It was always a passion of mine. And then I saw how much the kids were into it here. I went to the Hampden Family Center to donate some old skateboards and they were like “do you want to teach a skateboarding class?” I’m like, what? I’m not a teacher; I’m a barber.
But I knew the kids were at that age where they can start finding the wrong path. That was true for myself. I remember throughout my childhood when I wasn’t on my skateboard, I was getting in trouble. So I said to myself if I can give these kids this gift, if I can give them this passion, if they can learn how to skateboard at an early age and really have fun, it could be something that would get them on the right path. So I went all in.
I think in some ways I’ve become a role model in this neighborhood to look at and say hey, there’s a possibility — I can be something different. Otherwise, if all you see is people ending up the wrong way, you feel like that’s what you’re destined for. Every day the kids come walking by when I’m sitting on the stoop. They’re like, “hey Mr. Dan, when are we starting the class again?” All the kids who took my class, I bought them skateboards so they can keep on with that passion. You can teach them the basics but the only real way to learn skateboarding is practicing and falling. You fall, and you fall, and you get back up.
Daniel Wells owns and manages The Old Bank Barbers in Hampden.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Wells.
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