Frank.S.Barberby Walter Fox

Frank W. Salemno, 91, of Lafayette Hill, a decorated World War II veteran who operated a barber shop in Chestnut Hill for more than 70 years, died April 27 at his daughter’s home in Egg Harbor, N.J., where he had been living for the past 16 months.

As an 18-year old, Mr. Salemno purchased the business – then located at 8112 Germantown Ave. – in 1940 for $50, $15 of which, he said, he had to borrow from friends, and started out charging 40 cents a haircut. He moved the shop in 1942 to 8140 Germantown Ave., where he remained until retiring in April of 2013.

To his customers, however, Mr. Salemno was more than a barber – he was a friend and confidant, and his shop, a place for sports talk and camaraderie. He became something of a legend in the Chestnut Hill community, where he was nicknamed “Frankie Smacks” for giving his favorite customers a slap on the back of their head and ordering them to get out of the barber chair when their haircut was done.

During World War II he closed his shop and joined the Marines, serving with the 4th Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, in the Pacific Theater. He went in with the first wave of Marines at Iwo Jima and, after the beachhead was established, served as a runner. He was wounded twice with shrapnel in his chest and a bullet in his leg.

For his wartime service, he was awarded the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, four Combat Stars and two Presidential Citations.

Mr. Salemno reopened his business in 1946, and became active in the community. He was a former president of the Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy Businessman’s Association – a forerunner of the Chestnut Hill Business Association – and in the 1970s helped to organize the annual Christmas Parade, the 4th of July celebration and other civic projects.

Born in Philadelphia, he was a graduate of Germantown High School. His favorite pastime was ocean fishing from his 44-foot Grand Banks trawler.

Mr. Salemno is survived by a daughter, Mary Ann Ravert, of Egg Harbor, N.J; a son, Carmen, of Benton, Pa.; sisters Mary Capece and Rose DiPinto; brothers Dominic and Carmen; seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Mr. Salemno’s wife, Mary; a daughter, Frances Romito, and a brother, Pete Salemno, preceded him in death.

A funeral Mass was celebrated on May 5 at St. Philip Neri Church in Lafayette Hill, with interment in George Washington Memorial Park.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718 Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718.

  • Ted Swain

    As anyone who spent long Saturdays waiting for their turn in the chair will attest, Frank was a true Chestnut Hill institution. His passion for cutting hair was surpassed only by his love for his customers and the joy he brought so many. His smiles, laughs, smacks, hugs (wrestles) and, most of all, his stories will be remembered by all. Hope you’re getting the straight razor in the sky, Frank. Rest in peace.

    • Brian

      Well put, Ted.

  • Jim Black

    I had the honor of being smacked by Frank for my 13 years in Chestnut Hill. He truly was an institution. I believe he was also the president of the Venetian Club for a number of years.
    Frank told me that he participated in 4 landings in the South Pacific during the war; wounded twice.
    No doubt he is eating rivets and spitting out bullets up in heaven.
    RIP, Frank. I am honored to have sat in your chair.

  • Mike

    RIP Frank. You were a big part of what makes CH special. God bless.

  • Gene Willard

    I liked Frank a lot. He always cut my hair and, yes, I got the traditional smack on my neck when he was finished. He helped me out once. The local VFW was just down the street but every time I tried to get in there it was closed. He gave me the number of the quartermaster there and I got to finally join. I later became the quartermaster myself for quite some time. Frank will be missed.

  • Brian

    Classic Frank story: After College, I came back to Philadelphia to work on a couple of political campaigns. One day, Frank’s cutting my hair and he asks who I’m working for, and I tell him. He said he liked that candidate, and he wanted me to get a sign to put in his window. This was rare in Chestnut Hill, as many local merchants don’t like to take sides in campaigns for fear of offending their customers and losing their business. So on the day I brought the sign in, Frank asked me to go and tape it up in the window. One customer, who was waiting in one of the wooden chars against the wall, asked with a smirk “Frank, if the sign stays up, do you mind if the tips go down?” Frank, who was shaving a customer in the chair, responded in in the quintessential Frank way. He stopped shaving the customer, and slowly turned around, pointing the razor at the customers, and he said “If the tips start going down, people are going to start losing ears!”

  • Tony

    Every second Saturday at 7 am I arrived. I would bring frank coffee from Bredenbeks. 12 years. Even at 7 am I was not even first in line. But that was the fun if it. Frank was a man’ man, but never a blow hard. I learned an alternative history of a Chestnut Hill. Priceless stories about politicians, businessmen, merchants and the man in the street. I learned the history of the marine corps, of Italian stone masons who built the neighborhood (one bring franks dad) . Several years ago I met now one of my great friends simply chatting and waiting for a cut. One afternoon, shortly before he closed, I was walking across the street from the shop. Frank, turned his chair to face out the window, was taking in the street scene with an enormous smile on his face. He appeared: Happy. Satisfied. Content. The next Saturday the shop was closed. The pole turned dark. Beyond the cuts and conversations, I will remember that 90 year old man, still working, smiling out upon the Avenue he helped to build.

  • Jim Palladino

    Jim Palladino