Willie Rivers, a barber at the Citadel Military College in Charleston, SC for nearly 30 years is hanging up his sheers. The James L. Rampsey III barbershop housed in the Citadel sees over 20,000 cadets and community members each year, and as one of the shop’s longest running employees, Rivers has performed more haircuts than anyone. He has had a career that spanned for almost three decades, but at age 82, he feels it’s time to finally retire.
Fellow barbers at The Citadel admit that Rivers’ presence in the shop will be greatly missed. Even cadets who have suffered through “knob day” in which male cadets hair is shaved within a quarter inch of the scalp and female cadets hair is cut to 3 inches in length, are feeling the loss.
The famous buzz-cut day earned its named because cadets resemble a door knob. On “Knob day,” each resident barber sees an average of 60 students. Nolan Bradley, a senior at The Citadel says many memories are created during the intense experience of “knob day.”
Despite enjoying a long and fulfilling career at the barbershop, Rivers has decided to retire to care for his wife who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Though she has been cared for by their children in recent years, he feels it is time for him to take over as caregiver and spend more time with her.
Rivers admits he will miss the kids, saying he loves being around them and loves cutting hair. He laughs about “knob day” because the cadets have no say in the manner of the cut and have to keep quiet and just do it. Freshman Kelbey Oakes describes the custom of “knob day” as a “big rush.”
Coworkers of Rivers gave him a retirement party to send him off and many past cadets reached out to wish him well.