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Word & Image: Bill Hooker, 77 

Doorman, One Monument Ave.

Each day actually is an interesting day because people themselves are interesting. And you'll find that they may come in today and ask you to help them. Tomorrow the same people will come back and won't ask you to help them because they won't need it. Tenants are very independent here. And it doesn't give you the same blend of doormanship here that you find in your larger cities because they're Southerners and they're very independent. And that's not a derogative, that's very good. But that's an interesting thing abut this job in terms of being in the South.

I was in the United States Army infantry stationed in Germany, Italy, France, Africa. I speak German, French, Spanish and Italian. The most interesting thing I think in terms of people in Europe at that time were not so — uh, what word do I want to use? — they were not so inclined to accept blacks there. The most interesting thing was at one point one day one of the Germans came up and lifted up my coat. They had been told by Americans — whites — that blacks all had tails. They're monkeys. And that was quite an interesting thing. I sort of scoffed at it at once. And he had the audacity to come up and pull up my coat to make sure that I didn't have a tail. They saw blacks, and they began to realize that these are human beings also, and then they began to look at you more than that.

I taught U.S. history, 11th- and 12th-grade high school. I worked at Hampton University as a dean of men. I've done a lot of good, interesting things like that. And there might be still about five more years of interesting things.

I'm a time-conscious person. I'm concerned about people coming and doing what they were supposed to do. When I was teaching, I used to stand right at the door and wait for my students to come in. Look, I'm happy to see you, welcome in, come in. I want you to be here. And if I'm standing here greeting you, then it means that you ought to feel that you belong here also. Then when the day was over and the bell rang, I'd stand outside the door again — good evening, have a good day. And they would say, "Goodbye, Mr. Hooker, goodbye." — as told to Katie Gantt; photographed by Stephen Salpukas
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