As I wander my way through life I have found that you just never know what is going to be behind that next door. That one door that jumps out at you unexpectedly and draws you in, begging you to step through to the other side. I found just that door one Saturday afternoon just off the square in Centerville, Tn.
I am not sure what I saw first, the faded white and blue sign hanging over the door or the torn, roll-up shade that I remember from the days of visiting my grandmother’s house. The rusted handrails on either side of the four steps that led down below street level, were as worn as the door knob, and could only make you think of all the hands that have added to the stains on the door itself as they made their entry over the years. I had to know what was behind this door. I had to know the story. I became obsessed with wanting to know.
Reading the worn piece of paper hanging from a makeshift hook I realized that I was too late. The hand written hours told me I had to come back. Anyone who really knows me knows that when I become obsessed with something I will not let go.
It would be two weeks before I would make it back and all that time I could only imagine what was down those steps. I found Jimmy Reece sitting on a park bench, his bench as locals will claim, just waiting for his next customer to stop by. We shook hands in the middle of the street and from that moment he begin to tell me his story.
As he walked me into his shop, all my expectations became a visual overload. I found myself stepping back in time, to a place that my imagination could have never dreamed up. His first of three customers made their way to his chair all to be greeted with a smile and a quick joke to bring laughter to the small room that has been Jimmy’s place of business for 42 years.
As the sound of his clippers do their work he tells me of the days in the past. How he grew up in the City of Detroit and how his father was a policeman. With pride in his voice he tells of how his father only had to pull his gun once. How in 1939 his family moved from Detroit to Centerville to work a 600-acre farm. He told me of his first car with a little regret in his voice, a 1954 Chevy 210. He really wished he had gotten the Impala but the 210 was okay. He claims the day the Beatles came to America was the day the barber business changed forever. With a quick chuckle, he says “I like seeing the young men around town wearing their hair short again.”
The stories go on and the clippers never stop buzzing. Then as he finishes his last customer, he begins to tell me about how he loves to play the fiddle. He claims to only know four songs: “Silent Night,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Old Joe Clark” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” With not much encouragement at all, he begins to play “The Tennessee Waltz.” As he tunes he says with a smile, “There’s just one string that is a little loose but I seldom ever really hit it, so it should be okay.” He plays with pride and always with a smile. As I shake Jimmy’s hand and thank him for the time spent, he reminds me “If you look good, you will feel good,” and smiles again. I left that day feeling much better about life, I felt much better about myself and very thankful for walking through that door and meeting Mr. Jimmy Reece.