Interview: Jim Ryan, Legendary RMC Barber
By: 25436 OCdt Matt Telfser
While working at Panet House with Bill Oliver, I have been afforded many opportunities. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many important people and going many special places, experiences I would normally have not been able to enjoy if it were not for this job, just a few of the perks that help tip the scales to make my work more than favourable.
Recently, I was asked to interview Jim Ryan, the man who has held the longstanding position of barber at the RMC Kingston, for over 40 years. Having had my hair cut by him on multiple occasions, I was well aware of the fact that he was, to say the least, an interesting person. However, haircuts only last so long, and only so much conversation can occur. So, needless to say, I was quite pleased when I was told a good portion of my Thursday afternoon would be spent sitting and talking with a man who everyone holds in high regard.
The stories he told me, although not all present in the following, had me at all smiles for the entire conversation.
From all I could gather, he’s a wonderful man.
He’s Jim. Jimmy the Barber.
So, it goes without saying that, this was one of those fine opportunities that comes with my job.
Enjoy the read.
Jim: Well, I was born and raised in Kingston. I started at RMC in the fall of 1966.
Matt: 1966… wow.
Jim: The guy I went to barber school with…
Matt: Uh huh?
Jim: His father worked here, and he was working here. He didn’t want to cut hair anymore. He wanted to become a school teacher, so he came and asked me if I wanted to work over here.
Jim: And I’ve been here ever since.
Matt: What are some of your favourite stories and things that stick out in your mind about RMC, more specifically, have there been any good tales about things you’ve encountered while working here on the job.
Jim: Oh my, what are some of my favourite stories? The number of good people you meet here at RMC, it’s just unbelievable.
Matt: Like who?
Jim: well… Cadets!
Matt: Cadet? Every cadet?
Jim: Well not every Cadet, no, but most of them.
Matt: Most of them?
Jim: I’d say at least 95%.
Matt: So they make the job?
Jim: For sure. Their honesty is unbelievable. Like they’d come and charge a haircut, and, they wouldn’t have any money, so I’d say “Oh, come back and pay me [later]” and 99.9% would come back. Might be two weeks later, but, when he gets his next hair cut, he’d say, “Here! I didn’t pay you for the last one.”
Matt: Nice. ‘Truth. Duty. Valour.’
Jim: You gotta respect that.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. That’s officer-like qualities right there.
Jim: Oh yeah!
Matt: Do you have any favourite sports memories about RMC?
Jim: I’d have to with the hockey. *laughs reminiscently*
Matt: Any specific games or people?
Jim: Some of the things stand out. One person, (16009) Steve Molaski. We were winning this one game by a goal. The other team pulled their goaltender. What happened was, Molaski got the puck in our end, and the winger skated up to the red line eh, so Molaski shot the puck up to him.
Matt: And then he got it in?
Jim: *smirking in response* There was no one between him and the [net]. The closest guy to him was at our blue line. So he skated to their blue line, and he shot the puck. Well, the puck hit the goal post and bounced off to the corner.
Matt: No way! *laughing with Jim*
Jim: So after the game, Molaski skates over to him, and said, “You owe me two beers for that one!” That was something else. [That was] probably back in the late ‘80s.
Matt: Are there any former military staff who stick out in your mind from RMC, such as Squad Coms, Sergeant Majors, DCdts, or Commandants?
Jim: well, I got to admit, this new College Sgt Mjr…
Matt: Oh! I’ve heard about this!
Jim: He’s number one.
Matt: Number 1!?!
Jim: Oh yeah. He’s super. He really is.
Matt: Oh, okay. Umm… *laughing*
Jim: He’s got a good personality. He’s got a good sense of humour. Oh yeah. We joke around. He’s a good man. *smiling*
I’ve met a lot of good people here. Special People. Like Jim Gebhardt for one. He was here when I started, on the PERI Staff. Then he went away for a long time, but came back as the Major, in charge of the SAM Centre. He still comes to me for haircuts.
Matt: Wow. That’s pretty loyal. Cool.
Jim: Yeah, it is. A very special person. For example, other PERI staff who get older and sick and can’t get out and that, he’ll go out and pick them up for coffees with all the other PERI staff. He does a lot of things for a lot of different people. He’s a very special person.
Matt: And he’s just one example of all the good people you’ve met here.
Jim: Yeah. He’s a very special person. Just one of many.
Jim: There’s lots of stories. One girl, she came in the late ‘90s; ‘95 I think. Her name was Vicky. Her and a couple other cadets, they’d come over, take me out for supper, birthday supper, down to the Queen’s hotel, we’d chum around quite a bit, and after, they’d come over to my place watch and rent movies, have some beers, and then head back to the college. She used to put on these play things, murder mystery plays, where we’d have supper and you’d try and guess who the murderer is…
Matt: Oh! Like clue. But, for real! Err, rather, act it out I mean…
Jim: She’d put them on, invited me, they were really nice. You’ve got to like stuff like that.
Matt: Oh, yeah! Spices life up, makes it more interesting, switch it up a little. You’ve gotta change things up. Be adventurous in everyday life.
Jim: Exactly! Good quality time.
Matt: Of course. Any other tales?
Jim: Mills, Brent Mills. He’s a Major now. He looked after… he was the drill Sgt Major. Funny Story. He worked to get [the cadets] ready for the parade, worked all week long. Come the morning of the parade, it rained like a !@&$^%*
Jim: So they waited to see if it would let up, and it didn’t.
Matt: So what happened?
Jim: So they moved everything over to the Constantine Arena. They get over there, and they get all set up…
Matt: And the rain stopped after that?
Jim: Nope. *Laughs* The power went off.
Matt: No way! *laughing*
Jim: If anything could go wrong, it did. Oh my. So then they had to move everything back over here (the RMC parade square).
Matt: Then they did the parade in the pouring rain, or…?
Jim: Well yeah, but they had to shorten the parade up, because it was pretty late by then.
Matt: True. A whole week of hard work, kind of down the drain.
Jim: Yeah, well, he was kind of peeved. But he is a super person. Brent Mills.
Matt: You are an honorary graduate of RMC; what year was that in, and how do you feel about this honour?
Jim: That was in the year of 2003. For me, it’s a very special honour. To be an honorary graduate, for sure, its definitely special. *smiling*
Matt: How much longer do you plan to work at RMC, and what are your plans for after?
Jim: Well I might be retiring, pretty soon.
Matt: Like, this year?!?
Matt: No way! Really? Well, you’ll be missed then.
Jim: After graduation.
Matt: After grad? Are you going to go out with the class?
Jim: Well I don’t know about that, but I’ll be here watching the parade. *laughing*
Matt: Well I think you should, or something.
Matt: Lastly, there’s going to be a great number of Ex-cadets reading this article. If you could send them any message, what would you like to say? You can tell them anything.
Jim: To be yourself, and be right up front. And honest.