The Man Himself
"I've been lucky. Life's been great to me."
- James Raeford
When asked about his hobbies, Raeford responds by saying, "I like to piddle." As a young boy, Raeford occasionally participated in sports such as basketball and baseball, but never seemed to enjoy them as much as the other boys. Raeford has always been a busy man full of ideas who has never been afraid to turn those ideas into action. At a young age, he thought that he would make a waterclock to tell time. He explains his invention as a wheel that had a screen on top where a container of water sat. The screen would only occasionally cause the container to pour water, but Raeford describes his invention with a shrug and comments that "it didn't really work, but we were kids." It was Raeford's love for piddling that at one point, landed Raeford in the hospital. He became so exausted and overcome by his work that he became ill. During this time of his life, Raeford was selling picture frames out of his shop behind his house, driving a "Kitchen on Wheels" delivering food, running a lawn service, and barbering all at the same time. Mr. Raeford says that eventually "it caught up to me." Although Raeford gave up the "Kitchen on Wheels" and lawn service many years ago, he has not given up his love for piddling. He still manages to make picture frames on the side. This active mentality remains with Raeford today. At age 71, Raeford's scheduled hours to work are only on Monday and Tuesday, but it is rare that he works only two days a week. He explains that he comes in on Thursday and Friday if he has nothing to do. Raeford comments on being a barber by saying "this is what I enjoy doing. I'm going to do it for as long as I can."
Raeford received a patent for an invention called the "Raeford Reel" four years ago. The reel is a rectangular metal container that houses four different sets of clippers and keeps them connected to a metal container so that after each hair cut, the wire rolls right back into the container without the chords getting tangled. Raeford talks of possibly mass producing the reels in the future.
Raeford's latest business venture is to open a carryout hamburger and hotdog restaurant on the corner of Mock Circle and Sloan Street in Davidson. He says that he already has a cook and another man to run the register for him. He only needs the cooking equipment to be shipped before he can get it started.
Thanks to the recent review of his life, Raeford has decided that writing an autobiography is also something he would like to do. He feels that his life can provide others with insight into how to overcome hardships in life. In addition to the hardships, Raeford's persona would attract attention in itself. Raeford comments on the attention his life would attract if he decides to write a book by saying, "I've had an interesting life and I think people would be interested in reading about it."
It was Raeford's father that instilled in him the economic principles he lives by today. He taught Raeford that every little bit of money saved, is a little bit of money earned. Raeford says that his father used to collect spare change from his pockets and put it in a jar. Although it seemed like very little at the time, Raeford says that after a while it would become a significant sum. Taking this small example and applying it to all fiscal matters in his life, Raeford has been able to live a financially stable life.
Raeford is a man of religious conviction and has been since he was a young child. He recalls being baptized at Grays Creek Baptist Church in a hole in the ground the people of the church referred to as a pool that Raeford says,"could have easily been filled with snakes." Snakes are one animal that he did not tend to on his grandparents' farm. Raeford admits to being terrified of snakes. Raeford attended Reeves Temple once he moved to Davidson, but has not been the past 2 and 1/2 years. Raeford feels that attending church is not the most important part of faith. He believes that "it's really what's in your heart that matters."
Aging is an aspect of life that Raeford often notices. He mentions his encounters with people today that he knew earlier in life and how they look nothing like they used to. Raeford says that he will have people come up to him now and say, "You remember me? You used to cut my hair." A lot of the time Raeford will have to take a few seconds to think about who he is speaking to. Raeford recalls Mr. Johnson seeming old when he came to Davidson and began working for him in 1957. After concluding that Mr. Johnson was 51 years old at that point in time, Raeford responds with, "He was young! I'm 71 years old and I thought he was old." He recalls being 29 inches around the waist and weighing 145 pounds when he arrived in Davidson. After pausing for a long second, Raeford puts the concept of aging into perspective by saying "I guess I look old through their eyes too."
* images courtesy of Microsoft Word clip art
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The text, video, audio, and website are the result of interviews conducted by Ronnie Shore,
Davidson College Class of 2006, in the Fall of 2005.
© 2005 Kristi S. Multhaup, Ph.D. | Davidson College | Davidson, NC 28035 | Phone: 704.894.2008
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