CRESTVIEW — Walking into Mack Brooks' Barbershop is like taking a trip back in time.

In fact, it’s more like a museum than a barbershop. Black and white photographs of Mack’s family and local history line the wall, along with colorful works of art done by Mack himself.

“I’ve cut a lot of people’s hair. Some of the (area’s) pioneers,” Mack said. “And some of the pioneers played with me for years. I’ve played the fiddle most of my days.”

The smell of chewing tobacco and acrylic paint lingers in the air. Country music plays faintly in the background as Mack paints on a canvas a memory of his childhood on a farm.

Mack knows nearly everything about the county he's lived in for almost 89 years. His family ran a farm in Baker, where a young Mack would spend his days driving loads of produce to the market or racing horses. The family also owned a blacksmith shop and grist mill on the site that is now the Baker Block Museum.

Mack is a man of many talents. He's a barber, an artist, a musician, a historian and an almanac for all things agriculture. Some folks stop in to get their hair cut, but most just come by to "shoot the bull."

Those who drop by may hear accounts from Okaloosa County’s early history. Or of the friends Mack saw go to war, some of whom never returned. Or even about a sweet potato he grew one year that was the size of a 5-gallon bucket.

The small memorabilia-filled shop is tucked away in the heart of Crestview’s Main Street, where it has sat for more than 100 years — 60 of those with Mack at the helm.

He bought the shop in 1959 after completing barber school in Tallahassee. It was previously Keel’s Barbershop, which opened in 1917.

Although it’s changed hands, the barbershop remains one of the city’s oldest businesses. And it’s seen some prominent figures in its time, including then-congressman and regular customer Bob Sikes. Mack said he’s even cut the hair of country music star Johnny Cash.

The pride Mack has for his home seeps from his soul as he shares memories and offers advice to future generations.

“Whenever your buddies die off and new people come in, they don’t care about history,” Mack said. “It hasn’t been learned, and that’s what’s going to cost you a lot of trouble. … It’s not just about education; you’ve got to have common sense.”

Mack remembers a time when Okaloosa County was an agriculture hub. Now, he says he’s worried that this knowledge and appreciation for nature hasn’t transferred to the younger generation.

But as long as people visit his barbershop, he will continue to share his knowledge with those who are willing to listen.

And if they are lucky, visitors may leave with one of his many pearls of wisdom.

“Because a fella talks big and thinks he knows everything, he don’t,” Mack said. “I was born in 1930, and let me tell you, those old folks weren’t educated, but they knew how to make a living.

"I’m a tough fella, and do you know why? You had to take care of yourself.”