Fifty years ago a young Jim McPherson walked into Athens and set up shop. The 1970 graduate of East Texas Barber College was originally from New Boston. One of 14 children he shipped off to Vietnam shortly after turning 20.
McPherson went into civil service after his tour in Vietnam but needed a change because the work ethic just didn’t sit right with him.
“Nobody ever expects you to do your best,” he said “I went home one night and said I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, but I’ll know in the morning.”
He woke up and decided to attend barber school which appears to have been a good decision 50 years later.
His first barber job was in Nacogdoches, where he had to do an 18 month apprenticeship before he could go out on his own. When an owner of The Charles Shop, a fine men’s store came in looking for a “young barber willing to move” and work his store, McPherson accepted the challenge.
“I brought mens hair styling to Athens in 1972,” McPherson said. “Started my haircuts at $3.”
The population of Athens was around 9,000 people then and the gas station had four pumps and an attendant.
Although there were many good things about Athens he misses, McPherson said the thing he misses most is knowing everybody.
“Used to, you would go out to eat and know everybody, now you go and look around to see if you know anybody. I miss that. We are too busy.” he said.
Phase II is one place the locals can still come in to slow it down. The old building has the original floors and a feeling of yesteryear.
Local men come in the shop to “exchange information” McPherson says. They get a good haircut, hangout, tell tales and have been doing so for a long time.
The barber shop is a place to lower your ears and your stress while you kick back and unwind with the guys. It is a social activity.
McPherson is working on the fourth generation of customers. He can’t count the number of first haircuts he has given and has never charged for a child’s first haircut.
Ladies can also get a new hairdo as his daughter cuts hair there as well in the beauty parlor area.
“I love what I do, I still don’t mind getting up and going to work,” McPherson said. “I work because I want to, not because I have to.”
He and his wife Judy have made great friendships over the years living and working in this community.
“We live in a world with throw away shoes, throw away marriages and everybody is in a hurry and it’s rush rush rush,” he said “My people, if I can’t get them in they don’t mind waiting a day or so, it’s just a blessing.”
He credits the Lord’s blessing on his business from humble beginnings to where it is now.
McPherson says so much has changed in Athens since he arrived. The historic homes on Highway 31 are gone now and replaced by businesses, haircuts have drastically changed, especially the last 10 years or so.
One of his favorite tales was when former Sheriff Jess Sweeten would come in. He would tell tales of Bonnie and Clyde and other tales of years gone by.
So many people from Athens have moved off but some still swing into the barber’s chair to catch up with their friend after years of adventures elsewhere.
“I get them to talking about their youth,” he said. “It’s amazing how different people grow up. That’s really neat.”
McPherson’s had his own share of adventures over the years, but none has compared to the journey he started when he became a Christian. The name Phase II came about as McPherson entered in as he found a relationship with Christ and became a new man.
Previously married with two children, McPherson isn’t proud of the man he was during Phase I, before Christ but after living and learning, he became a new man entering “Phase II,” when his relationship with God truly began.
McPherson allowed god to change him into the man he needed to be and has lived 23 happy years with his current wife Judy.
He is very active at Lake Athens Baptist church now spending a lot of time with his church family helping with the men’s breakfast and other activities.
“There’s lots of love in that church,” he said.
In spite of so many changes, some hardships and life’s ups and downs, McPherson still feels like God has blessed him and has no intention of retiring.
If you would like to take a spin in the barber chair, hear some great stories and share a few, call him to set up an appointment between 9 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to Friday or from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Call 903-675-2178.