Hey Bill, What's With The Beard?
The Fantasticks? Really?

Following my second year of university study, I traveled to California for the San Diego State College Choral Workshop. There I met and studied with the finest choral musicians in the world: Robert Shaw, Julius Hereford, Alice Parker, John Wustman, Thomas Pyle. After Phyllis and I were married following my third year at the University of Kentucky, we once again traveled to San Diego for the second summer of training which also included Roger Wagner as a replacement for Robert Shaw. I have discussed the influence these fantastic musicians had upon my life and career. For more information click here.

Maestro Shaw had suggested that I might consider Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music as a possible institution for a graduate degree. There were outstanding musicians there with much to share. During my final year at U of K, Phyllis and I lived in Versailles (pronounced in Kentucky as Verr - sales!) where I served as the Minister of Music for the Versailles Baptist Church. When Union Seminary accepted me and awarded a scholarship, I told John Krushwitz, the Minister of the church, that we would be leaving to continue our studies in New York. He was dismayed and remarked, "You will go to New York and GROW A BEARD!" This, perhaps, was the vilest outcome he could envision. We lived in the city for four years but no beard was ever contemplated!

Although our income was severely limited in New York, we did manage to attend concerts (often paying only a fraction of the admission price because we would stand in the back of a balcony to listen and observe.) We also occasionally were able to attend theater events. Among our most cherished experiences were Once Upon A Mattress, starring the then unknown Carol Burnette, Rhinocerous, starring Zero Mostel, The Sound of Music, starring Mary Martin, and a new musical in the small Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, The Fantasticks.

During our first year as Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Utah State University, I co-directed and co-starred in The Fantasticks. My co-director was a fine singer and a handsome bearded man. Because we shared the same role, he suggested that I should also grow a beard for the performances. We debated that suggestion (as well as my suggestion that he shave his beard) but his power of suggestion was probably stronger than mine, so I began allowing the morning stubble to become more obvious as the goatee and sideburns began to make themselves apparent.

Kermit Hurd
Kermit Hurd and Carol Janes - Score Study
The Fantasticks Score Study
Esther Jane Peterson and Bill in Fantasticks
Esther Jane Peterson and Bill in rehearsal
The Fantasticks Cast

The play was a huge success and all the actors/singers were exceptional. Immediately following the closing of The Fantasticks, I removed the beard and became a beardless boy once again (OK, I was in my late 20s.)

On July 4, 1967, I attempted to repair our garage door and nearly ended it all (to read that story, click here) and was rushed to the hospital for surgery. Because I had destroyed all the bones below my right eye to my teeth, I required surgery and my head was placed in "sandbags" for stability for about a week. During that time the beard once again appeared. Since Phyllis and the children seemed to like the beard, we decided to let it become a permanent part of my face. However, when we drove from Utah to Kentucky for a visit a few weeks later, we stopped to camp in Salina, Kansas. The kids gathered around me as we once again shaved (but only half the beard - a suggestion from one of our kids.) Within the hour, however, the remainder was also removed. (It might have been too much for my parents to see me with both an eye patch AND a totally unexpected half-beard.)

Bill and Cheri beard
Cheri Looking at Daddy's Beard

Once we departed from Kentucky I began growing the beard again and it has remained until this day. After I got over the excitement of being old enough to shave (I probably was about 15 or 16 years old) I never really liked using either a straight, safety, or an electric razor. I was somewhat annoyed at a chore that needed to be done virtually every day and the amount of time spent doing that job could better be used for other things. Research has revealed that the average man spends a total of 1½ months of his life shaving (45 days or 1,092 hours, or 65,520 minutes.) If the Good Lord had wanted us to be beardless, why would he have put hair on our faces? Since I decided to keep the beard permanently, I have not so much been growing a beard but, rather, have been simply not shaving. How have I used the free 1½ months of my life? Ask Phyllis! (She says, "baking bread!")

Ramsey Boys
Like Father, Like Sons (at least on this day)

Return to Memories Index