A Fixture in Hanover

by Roy Lee | 5/1/98 5:00am

These days, whenever you read the front page of any newspaper, you read about some sex scandal, murder or bombing. They'll tell you who died, where they died and how many people died. After a while, it gets a bit depressing reading sad and disheartening news. Most people become callous to tragic news -- sort of like coroners get used to dissecting corpses. So I thought I'd break the trend and write one of those feel-good columns.

These days, all the top administrators and deans seem to be heading for the hills as they leave Dartmouth behind in a hurry. The whole scenario seems like a big exodus of refugees, trying to find shelter in safer and quieter settings. Are we THAT bad? I can't help but feel a bit dejected and unwanted when I read that another administrator has resigned or quit his job.

So I look for somebody who's been part of the Dartmouth community for a while, and surprisingly, I find him downtown.

This guy has been here longer than any Dartmouth president. Heck, he's outlasted over four presidents and has been here at Dartmouth longer than most professors. He does not earn an obscene amount of money, nor is he a student who has had trouble passing his classes for the past few decades.

He's not a retired Dartmouth professor who occasionally teaches a class or an alumnus who has nothing better to do than hang around Hanover. In fact, he's not even directly associated with Dartmouth. Who is he? Well, he's my barber.

He has run a small barber shop by himself since 1961. His name is Jim, but most people affectionately call him "Doc," a nickname given to him by a local man who owned a funeral parlor. He's been here for over 35 years, cutting the hair of generations of Dartmouth students. If you're a legacy, there's a pretty good chance that he cut your father's or grandfather's hair.

I first met Doc on a sunny day, 20 minutes before my two p.m. class. The weather was unusually hot, the sun was scorching, and it had been a while since I had gotten a haircut . Taking a recommendation from a friend, I went to the Hanover Barber shop, hoping to get a quick haircut and get out of there for my class.

What impressed me was how fast he cut my hair. He took only 13 minutes, and I made it to class on time. None of that shampooing, conditioning or any of the hairdressers' examining your head like they were trying to sculpt something. I liked my haircut, and it was cheap too.

He has regular students who come to his shop until they graduate, so his customers get to know him quite well. After the 13 minutes it took to cut my hair, I already knew his name, age, hometown and how long he's been a barber. Not only is he a barber but he also dispenses advice. A sort of a Dear Abby who cuts hair in a way. He has had students come in and ask for advice on things like what they should do after graduation or what kind of flowers to give to their girlfriends

Doc's been here for a while so he's seen the good and the bad. From the Vietnam protests and the destruction of the shacks to President James Freedman blasting away at the Dartmouth Review which occupies the room next to his shop, this guy is the living chronicle of the past Dartmouth history.

He said he will retire in four years or so. I guess he's been cutting hair long enough. Thankfully, he'll be here just long enough so that I won't have to go to another place.