|Thursday, February 24, 2000||
Volume 65, Issue 102
||A ‘Fantastic' man
By Brandon Moeller
A lot of people in the UH community know Bill Springer. For some of them, Springer has been cutting their hair for more than 20 years.
Springer has been working at Fantastic Sam's, located in the University Center, for more than 33 years, but he may be retiring soon.
Bill Springer polishes up UH math professor Garret Etgen's new haircut Wednesday afternoon. Springer has been cutting hair at Fantastic Sam's, located in the University Center, for more than 33 years.
"Maybe at the end of the year," Springer said. "Hopefully. But I've been saying that for a few years."
Thirty-three years is a long time, and Springer has seen the University evolve immensely during his career at UH.
"It's changed tremendously, physically," Springer said. "A lot of new buildings (have been built since I've been here) and there are a lot more plans for the future. We didn't have the Towers or Melcher, and when Hofheinz was built it was the most amazing thing. I went to see Tom Jones perform to a packed house there when it was first built."
Springer has also witnessed changes in the student body -- changes in the number of students and in their attitudes.
"Back then, the student body was not nearly as large as it is now," Springer said. "There was maybe 15,000 to 17,000 students back then."
That's not even half as many students as there are on campus now.
Springer was quoted in a ‘97 Daily Cougar article as saying that students have gone back to a more conservative style since the Vietnam war.
"People have returned to a more patriotic attitude and short hair has become a symbol of a conservative, dutiful attitude," Springer said in the article. "They even had an Ollie North haircut that sold at many salons."
Springer hopes to retire soon and move back to the area where he was born.
"I've got a little country house I enjoy working on in a little town named Rosebud, near Temple and Waco. It's where I was born and where I went to high school. I hope to move into the quiet, small town country life."
Springer has been married for 29 years and is the father of three grown children. He attends St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where his wife has been a member for 35 years and where he has been one for 15 years.
Springer is very proud of all of his children, and talked about his 27-year-old son, David Dawlearn, who has been at UH since high school.
"He now works at the chemical engineering shop where he works with grad students," Springer said.
UH alumni and Houston area professionals are among some of Springer's regular customers. Springer said it would be hard to count how many he still cuts on a regular basis.
"I've done lots of them. Some, I've been doing their hair since they were in school in the early ‘70s. Tommy Newman is one of them; he's now a band director at a Spring school. And Harry Mitchell, who's now in the printing business."
Springer was in the Air Force during the Korean War, but he did not go overseas. Soon after he got out of the Air Force, Springer began working at various jobs until he went to barber college. He moved to Houston in 1957 and he's been cutting hair here ever since.
Springer has dutifully been serving the UH community for more than three decades, and has some advice for students.
"Keep on working hard and studying hard," Springer said. "The future's bright."
What does Springer see for himself in the future? He said he has been thinking about opening up a little shop in Rosebud, after he retires from working in Houston.
"It's possible I might put in a little shop in that little town and work," Springer said. "Most of all, I look forward to having more time with my wife. I've been working most of my life from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. It does not leave you with much time."
Many barbers are considered to be on the same level as psychiatrists and priests, having intimate conversations with their clients and church members, who may be going through hard times. Springer enjoys talking with his clients about life, and is more than happy to relate his own life experiences with his regulars.
"I've had opportunities to council people due to my own experiences," Springer said. "I've lost a child and I've known people that have been through the same. Due to my experiences, I've been able to encourage and in some ways help them. You have to experience something in order to understand it completely.
"I've also experienced divorce, and time to time that comes up (with clients). You have to experience that. A lot of times people need someone to talk to and they might not want to talk about it, but due to the closeness they feel with me, they end up sharing. Sometimes people just need a listening ear."
Yet Springer admitted sometimes you can't talk to everybody -- some issues make people uneasy and people don't always want to talk about their personal life with a hair stylist.
"You don't talk when a customer doesn't want to talk," Springer added. "You don't talk just to talk, unless you're friends with them."
Springer has enjoyed the time he has spent working at UH. It'll be a sad time when he leaves, and many UH community members will have to find another person to cut their hair. But they may never find a real replacement for Springer. His work goes well beyond good hair styling -- for many regulars he has become a trusted friend.
"It's been such a great experience working here at UH," Springer said. "I've made some good friends. I'd like to thank UH for allowing me to stay here and serve them. I appreciate all the good times."
Springer's clients and regulars have good things to say about him.
"I don't know too much about him ... but he's a good barber," Dave Wells, a UH industrial engineering professor, said. "I've been going here for about a year. He does good work. The one that noticed the most was my wife -- when I changed barbers, she was really happy."
A long-time customer had praise for Springer's work as well:
"I've been coming here for 14 years," Garret Etgen, a UH math professor,
said. "Some other people got their hair cut here and told me about it,
then I started doing it. He's good."