Thursday, May 18, 2017

Clemson Says Goodbye to Its Barbershop

Sometimes we don't think we make a difference. We just get up, put our clothes on and go to work. Most days we just do the job--and don't think about if it matters.

Joe Tankersley is one of those folk. He's a barber--my barber. Joe was Principal of three schools in our area and after he retired he was looking for something to do. His Daddy had been a barber.  Early on Joe picked up barbering from his father and was licensed at age 16. So he began to work as a barber at the Clemson House across from the University. He enjoyed his work so much he decided to buy the business in 2012.  People  kept coming from all directions to get Joe to cut their hair. Professors, workmen for the school, folk that live in the neighborhood, college kids--and especially ROTC guys who had to get their heads shaved. One man came all the way from Greenville to get Joe to cut his hair.

When word got out that the Clemson House would be torn down they knew the barber shop would have to close. Over 800 people signed a petition hoping the Barber shop would move to another

location on the campus. But when that did not happen-- customers began to write on the walls of the shop what Joe and that place had meant to them. Professors, students, workmen, people from town scratched their heart-felt feelings on those walls.

The Clemson House which housed the Barber shop has been a Clemson landmark since the early fifties. Everybody in our little town has known where the Clemson House was. High on a hill you could see most of the campus from there. The building first served as a hotel mostly for the University and through the years many dignitaries stayed there. Slowly the Clemson House evolved
into a dorm for Honor's students and then a dormitory. Some retired people lived there for a while. On the first floor there was a fine restaurant where people gathered. In our little town there were few places to eat.  But in one tiny corner for fifty years men and boys of all ages have come too get their hair cut. The Clemson House will be demolished to make room for further growth for the University. Yet folk will remember that special building called The Clemson House.

The barber shop's last day was May 15.  Customers gathered that day to thank Joe for his service, to tell stories to one another and be interviewed by reporters from The Greenville News. Joe's story made front page news of that paper. You might want to read the story. Weeks from now Joe will open a new shop in Central.

Most folk may not know the name of Joe Tankersley but as a teacher and a principal and now as a Barber this good man has touched more lives than he ever knew. Maybe the point of all of this is that what we all do matters. Somebody out there--probably many somebodies--count on us. They may never write their feelings on some wall--but be assured we all count and we all matter. Maybe that's Joe's message for us all.

--Roger Lovette /

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