Earning respect - Carolina Country

Earning respect

by Samuel C. Newsome, M.D.

Samuel-NewsomeI was the child of a farmer. Actually my family was like many in rural North Carolina. We relied on income from my father’s factory job plus our farm income to make ends meet. Dad would work evenings in the factory and farm during the day. We all did our chores and assumed everyone lived that way.

Saturday mornings we made trips to town for weekly errands. On a monthly basis those trips included a visit to Sercey’s Barbershop. Sitting in a barbershop was about the most boring way a 6-year-old could spend a Saturday. The shop was little more than a storefront with two chairs, a row of seats and a small black-and-white TV tuned to sports. In those days there was always a swirl of cigarette smoke rising from several ashtrays. A visit to the barbershop could take all morning. Dad would discuss crops, weather and occasionally politics with the regulars. Years later, I realized that the long waits for a trim were rare opportunities for Dad to get the local news and maintain a connection to his peers. For me it was just time spent in a stuffy smoke-filled barbershop and away from cartoons.


My sister and me on Christmas 1953.

On one such trip in 1955, as the long wait for our turn had almost arrived, a tall, lanky man sauntered into the shop. Sercey brushed out the seat and waved the linen with a snap and said, “Come on in, Doc. You havin’ a busy day are ya’? You fellas don’t mind if I give Doc Jones a trim. He’s got an office full of sick‘ns across the street.”

I sure did mind, but I guess I was the only one. From the line of chairs with a dozen men rose a chorus of, “Sure, go ahead Doc.” I had yet to learn that the local barbershop and the occasional haircut were social phenomena that were more complex than grooming. The haircut was about comradeship, part of the fabric of small town life.

As mystified as I was regarding the intricacies of barbershop etiquette, I was sure of one thing: Doc was important. He was respected by a whole shop full of farmers waiting with large calloused hands. These were hard-working, good Christian men. They were men who knew the weather and the land. Yes, for someone to earn their respect was a very big deal!

I didn’t know anything about medicine, and I wasn’t sure what a doctor did except give shots, but I knew on that Saturday morning it was my calling. I must admit that I wavered several times since that morning in 1955, but I managed to stay the course and eventually become a family physician. I’ve practiced in my hometown for 36 years. For some of that time, Dr. Jones and I were colleagues.

I’m glad that before his death, I was able to share this story with Joseph Reid Jones Jr., “Dr. Bill.”

About the Author

Dr. Newsome lives in King, Stokes County, and is a member of Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative.

Comments (9)

  • i enjoyed reading this Sam. It was like reading about family...I know all of the participants...also, you look wonderful.

    Elaine S. mock |
    December 01, 2014 |

  • Thank you for this lovely story. I know of the love our community had for Dr. Jones but, I also know of the love we all have for you. May be time for another book, maybe of short stories of your experiences with doctoring and living in a small community. Love you, Dr. Sam!!!

    Lynda Allen |
    December 01, 2014 |

  • I knew him also, he was a praying man. I enjoyed reading this and am so glad I know you! You are so kind to me.

    Rev. Dan Salmon |
    December 01, 2014 |

  • Good words, Dr. Newsome! I grew up in King, and Dr. Jones was my doctor while I was growing up.... You both have my respect, and thanks for your calling to medicine.

    James Garrison |
    December 01, 2014 |

  • Not sure that you have the correct co-op...CARTERET-CRAVEN is in the Morehead City area, right?

    Marine Oil Company |
    December 01, 2014 |

  • Thanks for the story...Doc! These days it seems positive role models are becoming fewer for our younger generation. You are a true role model for the community, County of Stokes, and surrounding areas. As, far as respect you yourself have definitely earned that title as well. Thanks for all that you do! May you and yours be blessed for the next 36 years.

    Fred Lawson |
    December 02, 2014 |

  • Dr. Newsome’s practice is in Stokes County, but he has a place in Carteret County, where he is a member of Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative.

    Carolina Country |
    December 02, 2014 |

  • This was a great article. It's comforting to read about things that remind me of when life was simple and respect was appropriately placed. You have your own place in history just as Dr. Jones does. You are respected as a leader in Stokes County and we are lucky that you stayed "home" to build your practice. There are people who look at you just as you did Dr. Jones.

    Cheryl |
    December 05, 2014 |

  • May I share this article giving Country Carolina full credit for it?

    Rick Hughes |
    December 07, 2014 |

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