"Thank You Much"
Several nights a week you can find Seymour Rufus*, a Kenyon legend, scooping ice cream with a smile at the Kenyon College Bookstore. When he’s not scooping ice cream, he’s behind the cash register, giving all his customers a “Thank you much” on their way out. Incidentally, Seymour has his own greeting for me on my way in to the bookstore. Every time I enter the Kenyon Bookstore during Seymour’s shift, he looks at me and says, “Oh boy, here comes Trouble!” Tonight, despite some sarcastic protests (“You’re impeding commerce”) I got him to tell me a little bit about his life.
Seymour Rufus* was born in Illinois, grew up in Texas, and moved to Ohio in 1973 to marry his wife (Their 40th Anniversary is coming up in January. Me: “Isn’t that that the Gold Anniversary?” SR: “No, that’s for Fifty Years” Me: “Then what’s the Diamond Anniversary?” SR: “Something bigger.” Me: “Like what? 100 years?”).
Before falling in love with an Ohioan, Seymour was living in Texas. In 1968, he joined the Army and from 1968 to 1970, he was stationed in Fort Dix, NJ, Fort Benning, GA, and Vietnam.
“I got two for the price of one with that one. That was the year Nixon decided to send troops to Cambodia.”
When Seymour returned from a year in Vietnam, he was stationed in Fort Knox, KY from 1970 to 1971. His brother lived in Granville, OH at the time and Seymour took many trips from Fort Knox to visit him. His future wife also lived in Granville, in an apartment building next to his brother’s house.
“She was a teacher in Granville and she walked past my brother’s house every day on her way to school. One time I was visiting him and they pointed her out and said, ‘That’s a girl you should meet!’ So I went over there later and knocked on her door.”
They dated long distance for a year and half and then in 1973, Seymour moved to Granville and they got married.
“How did you know your wife was The One?”
“My heart went pitter patter.”
“C’mon, is that your real answer or is that a joke answer?”
“That’s my answer, my heart went pitter patter. Isn’t that how everyone knows?”
“Well my heart pitter patters for a lot of things! It pitter patters for chocolate and certain romantic comedies…”
“Well then, your bar is set too low!”
Well played, Seymour, well played.
In 1974, they moved in Knox County and Seymour began teaching business and math in a high school in Danville. He taught there for twenty-six years, retired in February 2003, and began working at the Kenyon Bookstore in March 2003.
“So in 2003, you began your ice cream scooping legacy?”
“We didn’t have ice cream then. I was a cashier. Ice cream has only been here since 2005/2006.”
MIND = BLOWN. WHAT DID STUDENTS DO BEFORE BOOKSTORE ICE CREAM WAS THING?! (According to Seymour, there used to be a pretty cool castle that got taken down a while ago, so I guess we're even.)
When I asked him what the best thing about the bookstore was, he got mushy: “Taking care of the needs of the customers, who are mainly the students.”
“How do you feel about being the Ice Cream Scooping Master of Kenyon?”
“It’s wonderful! I like being the Big Dipper.”
(To which Seyless (get it!?) Rufus** replied, “Really? I thought you were more humble than that.” Seymour: “Nope.”)
It turns out that Seymour is a pretty humble guy. For my final question, I asked him what his greatest life accomplishment was and he replied:
“Having two successful children. You always want your kids to do better than you did. I think that’s universal.”
Sage wisdom from one of the funniest wisecrackers I know.
Thank you much, Seymour.
* Not his real name
** Not her real name