Today is a sad day for many residents of Lepanto as it is the last day to say “Mr. Bill’ at his aptly named Bill’s Barber Shop, where he has entertained them with his humorous stories while cutting their hair for the last five decades.
The humble son of partners Lester and Myra Tuggle, Bill Tuggle or “Mr. Bill,” as most people call him, has owned and operated Bill’s Barber Shop since July 1969. The shop is located in the back corner of the First Community Bank building, formerly Little River Bank, on Holmes Street in Lepanto.
A lot has changed over the years, but one thing has stayed the same – Mr. Bill has been in the same shop with the same loyal customers for almost 53 years.
Bill said that after retiring from the US Army, he went to Barber College in Little Rock with the GI Bill after his friend Billy Bohannan persuaded him to do so.
His wife, Francis, recalled giving Bill $10 for gas so he could go to school and come back on each of her paychecks from the local clothing factory where she worked for 31 years.
“I know that doesn’t sound like much now, but it was a lot of money back then. My paycheck was only $35 and I also take care of our kids,” laughed Francis, noting that it was all worth it and how proud she was of her husband.
“Luckily, gas was a little cheaper back then,” Bill teased, recalling that gas was only about 30 cents a gallon back then.
Mr. Bill, who is 88 years old, and Francis have lived in Lepanto for most of their lives.
In fact, Francis said she never lived anywhere but Lepanto, and that’s where they raised their three daughters, Myra Davison, Debbie Tuggle, and Cindy Tyler.
She said they were blessed with wonderful children and proud of them and their grandchildren.
“We have three grandchildren by Myra, and they are all so smart,” she boasted, noting that her grandson, Parker Davison, is a pediatrician, her granddaughter, Katherine Davison, is a registered nurse, and her other granddaughter, Julia Davison, is a speech therapist.
Then her eyes fogged up as she discussed the loss of her youngest daughter, Cindy, who died of cancer in 2001, and Cindy’s son, Jonny Tyler, who died in a car accident a few years ago; However, she said they were blessed with a great-grandson, Ethan Tyler.
While Mr. Bill has owned Bill’s Barber Shop since 1969, he began cutting hair in 1961 before buying the barber shop from the previous owner and worked in barber shops in Marked Tree and Payneway.
Now, more than 60 years later, Mr Bill’s retirement date has come earlier than he had planned.
The old bank building that has always housed him is slated for demolition to make way for a new First Community Bank building, and he couldn’t find another location, but he doesn’t let that get him down.
“I’ve known for at least six months now,” he said, “and I’ve been looking for another location, but there just aren’t any buildings available.” He sighed as he looked around his shop. “I will miss it.”
The building, itself nearly 100 years old, has provided many fond memories for Bill, his family and so many others in Lepanto over the year.
“I can still remember sitting in that exact chair and getting my hair cut when I was just 12,” he recalls, noting that the building was already a hair salon when he took over, so the barber shop itself was more than 75 years old.
“I don’t have as many kids as I used to because I cut ‘old men’ hair,” he laughed. “But I’ve always loved entertaining the kids.”
“And the kids always loved him,” his wife said, smiling playfully. “They always say that ‘Mr. Bill tells the stories and he sings to them.”
“You can’t tell how much hair I’ve cut over the years. I probably gave about five a day for over 50 years,” laughed Bill, which equates to over 60,000 haircuts in his lifetime.
He also recalled going to people’s homes to cut their hair while they were sick and couldn’t make it to the store, or the times he would go to funeral homes to have their hair cut for free Cutting families, although he admits he had to stop doing it because it was hard knowing some of the people for so long.
According to his daughter, Debbie Tuggle, if you ask anyone from Lepanto who has cut their hair, chances are they’ll smile and reply, “Mr. Invoice.”
“I have a friend who’s 66 years old,” she said, “and he told me that my dad has cut his hair for as long as he can remember.”
“He’s had some of his clients forever,” added his daughter Myra, noting his famous baseball cap collection her husband accidentally started.
“He brought him a hat and Dad put it on the wall in the store,” she laughed, “and the next thing he noticed, his customers were bringing him baseball caps for his collection that he didn’t know he had.” would have.”
Although Bill has already packed all but one of his hats, he realized he had over 100 hats hung in three rows around his shop.
“I loved teasing the kids when they came in and started counting the hats,” he chuckled. “I let them get to about 50 and then started counting from 60 and they got so angry and had to start over.”
“Thank you to all the people, all my loyal customers and the bank for letting me rent the building over the years,” said Bill. “Everyone was so wonderful.”
Debbie said his customers will miss him too, but they’ll still see him around town, noting that he loves being part of the community and that he was even made the Grand Marshall of the Terrapin Derby parade last October was appointed.
Mr Bill said his plans for the future are to relax a lot.
“Just a lot of fishing, playing around in the yard with my lawnmower and working in the garden,” laughed Bill.