Remembering the Duke - Your West Valley News: Topstory

Remembering the Duke

John Wayne fans a cut above the rest

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Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 8:09 am

John Wayne was born Marion Mitchell Morrison 103 years ago today in Winterset, Iowa.

Any other information about the movie star’s life, career or beliefs can be obtained from Dave and Roberta Jenkins of Sun City.

Enter the couple’s barber shop in El Mirage and you’ll see more than 160 pictures, drawings and posters on the walls. A life-size cardboard cutout of The Duke stands in the corner and other memorabilia is everywhere.

No doubt about it, the couple are John Wayne fans.

“We had one customer about 20-odd years ago who brought in two (pictures). He brought us in an 11-by-16 and an 8-by-10 and that started it. And people would come in and say, ‘Oh, you guys like John Wayne?’ And they’ve been bringing them in ever since,” Roberta said. “We’ve bought maybe half a dozen of the (items) ... but we have 160 pictures on the walls, we have all kinds of books and collections and knives and all kinds of things.”

“People come in and they look around and pretty soon they come back in and say, ‘You haven’t got this one.’ And they bring it in,” Dave said. “Christmas time is the biggest time. We’ve got one guy who brings something every year at Christmas time.”

Included in the collection is a blanket, statuettes, cigarette lighters, carvings, paintings, posters, books, belt buckles, bola ties, coffee mugs, calendars and seven clocks. Dave even visited the modest, four-room house where Wayne was born and raised.

But, at home, the couple sticks to the basics. No pictures, no decorative plates, no John Wayne toilet paper (“It’s rough and tough and don’t take no crap off of nobody.”) At home, it’s all about the movies. They have more than 100 of the actor’s films.

“We just keep it all here,” Roberta said.

“We like the Western atmosphere. This is the West,” Dave added.

Every cranny of the small shop has another piece of the collection, and a TV in the corner features any John Wayne movie being shown.

“We’ve got the Western channel, and we like to watch that. If his movies are on TV, we’ll find them,” Dave said with a laugh.

The exuberance for The Duke — who got his nickname as a boy from local firemen who watched him walk past the station with his airedale dog and called the pair “Big Duke” and “Little Duke” — is shared by customers, the Jenkinses said.

“I did a guy about a week ago or so and he said ... he knew John Wayne’s grandson. And he said, “I’m going to tell him you have all this stuff and maybe he’ll come over and check it out,’” Roberta said. “Wouldn’t that be neat? That would be fun.”

El Mirage resident Walter Jones, who was Dave’s “second or third customer,” and has been frequenting the shop for nearly 25 years, said he enjoys the ambiance created by the decorations.

“I like it,” he said. “Who isn’t a John Wayne fan?”

If and when the couple decides to close up the shop and retire, they said they will donate their collection to John Wayne’s son if he is interested in it.

“If we found out he wanted it, we’d send it to him,” Roberta said. “He’s probably got it all already anyway.”

For the Jenkinses, John Wayne represents more than a great actor and major movie star. He is someone to respect and admire.

“I think a lot of people looked up to him as a hero, you could call it. He’s our favorite — I don’t have heroes. But a lot of people look up to him as a hero. I think he was a great man. He had some awful good ideas, which will never be used,” Dave said.

Despite the extensive collection, the rewatched movies — the couple said they’ve seen more than 120 of the more than 150 films he made — and the appreciation for their favorite actor, Dave said he has one regret.

“I never met him. They say he was a wonderful man and what you saw in person was just like him on the movie screen,” he said. “We’ll be watching his movies. We’re just happy to have had him.”

Dave’s Barber Shop is at 12329 N.W. Grand Ave., El Mirage, along Grand Avenue west of Primrose Street. The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday and may be reached at 623-583-9114.

Erin Turner may be reached at 623-876-2522 or eturner@yourwestvalley.com.

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