William "Mac" McElroy isn't the easiest man to interview. He asked not to be photographed for this article, and initially wasn't overly forthcoming with information. But at 80 years old, and having been in business in the neighborhood for more than four decades, he has more than his fair share of stories to tell. "I've seen the beatniks, the hippies, the skinheads, the yuppies, the gays," Mac says about the city's changing population over the decades. "The thing about San Francisco is, it always evolves. It never remains the same." Mac attended barber college in the 1950s. Back then, this area of the city was inhabited primarily by white residents. But with the post-war boom, things began to change. "A transition took place in the 1950s," he recalls. "Whites moved out to the suburbs, and blacks moved in." By the late 1960s, the demographics of the area known as the Haight-Fillmore had changed. "It was predominantly black by that time," Mac recalls. It seemed as good an area as any for Mac to embark on a transition of his own. With several years of barbershop experience under his belt, Mac decided to start his own shop. He found a suitable space -- a former delicatessen at 505 Haight Street -- and in 1969 he opened Aquarius, named after his wife's zodiac sign. a credit for his role in the film. Here's a photo of Penn at the shop's entrance, with director Gus Van Sant at his side:
When asked about plans for the future, Mac doesn't concede to having any. He expects to keep operating the shop as long as he's able. We asked if, after all these years and with all the neighborhood's changes, he's glad he established his shop where he did. "Of course," Mac replies. "It's been good to me."
Thanks to Mac for spending some time with us. To learn more about Mac and the Aquarius Barber Shop, pop into 505 Haight and say hello. Just don't bother him if he's busy, and don't be offended if he doesn't have much to say. He's a man of few words.