Robert “Bob” Mitton Sr., who owned the landmark Bob’s Barber Shop in Portland’s Old Port for a half-century, died Thursday. He was 83.

Mr. Mitton opened his barbershop in 1959, before the Old Port became a trendy destination. The shop moved locations over the years, but most would remember it on Fore Street.

Bob Mitton sits in his barber chair. Family photo.

Mr. Mitton worked long hours, six days a week. He was a one-man operation and trimmed the hair of countless people, from former Gov. Joseph Brennan, city officials, local attorneys and businesspeople to Navy seamen and members of Portland’s homeless community.

Mike Mitton said Monday that his father loved working in the Old Port and being part of the excitement in town.

“The timing of cutting someone’s hair … there’s a rhythm to it. Every three or four months an old friend would come back for a cut,” his son said. “He had lots of people come in like that. He was sort of a local institution down there.”

Mr. Mitton was remembered this week as a friendly, old-school barber who was always ready with a joke or story to lighten someone’s day. His shop was iconic – not only for its reasonably priced cuts, but for the ongoing card game in the back room. At any given time, half his customers were there for a cut. The rest were there to play cards.

“If you went to his barber shop, there was always a little card game, something suspicious happening out back,” his son said. “It was low key. It wasn’t big enough money that it would get someone into trouble or anything like that.”

Loyal patrons of the barbershop remembered the atmosphere, storytelling, friendly bantering and backroom card games.

Bob Mitton of Bob’s Barber Shop on Fore Street in Portland shares a light moment with a customer in 2007. Jill Brady’Staff Photographer

Tom Bull, a longtime customer, said in a Facebook message that Mitton was one of the good ones.

“For those unaware in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, his shop was legendary …” Bull wrote. “I’m talking about a barber shop that was a community hub. A place where old dudes smoked cigars (until it was outlawed) and played cards or checkers all day. The jokes were plentiful and always questionable – but usually in good taste. ‘Spats,’ the shoeshine guy would stop in and sweep the floor a couple times a day and collect $5 for his time, and a cup of coffee in exchange for a couple of laughs. Where people would stop in just to say ‘hi’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘I got that job!’ or ‘We had a good trip and I’ve got 20 pounds of haddock for sale anybody want any?’ or ‘I got an A on that test.’ They would spend 5, 10, 15 minutes not there for a haircut but just to feel connected, just to see their friend. There were questionable magazines if you knew where to look (carefully hidden on the upper shelf of the coat closet under the back issues of Times, Sports Illustrated and News Week). God only knows what actually went on in the back room, but it was rumored to be the best card game in town.”

Mr. Mitton retired in 2009 and sold his barbershop.

He was a loving husband of Ann Mitton for 62 years. The couple previously lived on Ivie Road in Cape Elizabeth, where they raised four children. For the past 20 years, they lived at Breakwater in South Portland.

Mr. Mitton was a devoted family man who worked hard to provide a good life for them, his son said. He remembered his father at his hockey games cheering them on in the stands.

Barber Bob Mitton cutting hair at his shop in Portland in 2007. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

“He was a very good father,” his son said. “I remember he worked a lot, six days a week. When he came home, it was really special. We would run and hug him. Every Sunday, there was some road trip.”

Mr. Mitton was a devout Catholic and regularly attended Mass at Holy Cross Church in South Portland. He was a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus and earned the 4th degree level. He was also a member of the American Legion Post 17 in Portland.

Mr. Mitton and his wife shared a passion for travel. According to his obituary, they enjoyed visiting Alaska, parts of Europe, Hawaii and many of the Caribbean islands. One of his favorite places to visit was Aruba, where he returned 10 times over the years.

“They were fun to travel with. There were some really nice trips,” his son said.

Mr. Mitton’s health declined in recent years. At the time of his passing, he was surrounded by his wife, children and their spouses.

“He did an awful lot with the time he had,” his son said. “He lived a good life.”

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