“It’s still ‘broke Tuesday,’ ya’ll,” the greeter said as
he swiped the students’ cards in Johnson & Hardwick cafeteria. “Put your hand in the air if you broke. Remember,
Diamond Dollars don’t count. They don’t mean anything
On Tuesdays, students will no longer hear the familiar voice of this phrase. Even if it’s heard, it won’t be the same. The most important feature of the day has left.
The feature: Bernard James.
Everybody knows Bernard. Even many freshmen who barely had the opportunity to experience ‘broke Tuesday’ know of its founder. But now, the café will never be the same. Last week, James left J&H after accepting a new job at Drexel.
His popularity skyrocketed throughout campus during the last three years. He was listed in 2005 as one of the most important names to know on Main Campus. Students created and dedicated fi ve Facebook groups to this man.
“He made the café fun,” sophomore business major Sierra Helberg said. “Everybody enjoyed his singing.”
“He brightened up fourth meal for everybody,” sophomore science major Stuart Grady said.
“Welcome to Bernard’s, where everyday is Friday,” James often said while swiping cards at the café. He knew Friday was the day of the week that would make everyone happy, the start of the weekend. Many students may feel slighted
that James left Temple to go to Drexel, but that was not his intention. “I loved all my kids,” James said, referring to all Main Campus students, since that’s how attached he’s grown to so many students during his 11 yearsat Temple.
“If I had a better choice, if things were a little better, I would have stayed. I needed a job with benefi ts,401K, more money. I’m in my late forties. I needed more money and Temple said they couldn’t afford it. The hours weren’t stable for me. I just couldn’t live that way.”
It’s diffi cult to say if Temple will ever truly replace James.
“He brought happiness and fun to student dining,” J&H manager Saddiq Moore said. “His level of excitement
and the joy that he brings to the customers . . . that will be hard to replace.” “We can’t replace Bernard’s personality,”
J&H supervisor Paul Vance said. “He brought laughter and joy to the café. He’ll truly be missed by students and employees alike.”
Undoubtedly, every student who has stepped into the café would beg to give James more hours. That would have been a win-win situation for everyone. “He’s friendly and knows everyone,” sophomore liberal arts major Richard Zhao said. “He remembers everybody’s name. “Bernard’s a really fun guy,” seniorcommunications major Luke Vexler said. “It was always good to see him and get put in a good mood before eating.” Freshman business major Vanessa Wafula did not know James well, but she remembered one statement an older student said about him: “Your meal isn’t complete without Bernard on the side.”
As perfect as the job seemed to befor him, only three of James’s 11 years with Sodexho were spent swiping Owl
Cards. He never imagined how important he would become to students.
“My biggest thing was talking to parents,” he said. “There were parents who came in [to the café] saying ‘All I
hear about is Bernard.’
“Some parents would tell me to keep an eye on their child,” James said. “They all want someone to look out for [their kids]. It’s always been shocking . . . flattering.”
It was not only students’ lives, though, that James infl uenced.
“I’m going to miss him,” said Sarah Santiago, who has worked with James since February. “He is a very jolly person, and he made this job a little more exciting. He lightened up the place.” “He is kind, generous, outgoing, funny – everybody loved him,” worker Erica Littlejon said. “He is an all around nice guy. I love him, and I am going to miss him.”
As much as everyone will miss him, in a note to students, James said he will “visit from time to time to say ‘wassup man.’
But James said he knows it won’t be the same.
“Sometimes I went to work just to see the students smile,” James said, refl ecting on his time at Temple. “That was the best job I ever had. I’m going to miss the kids. I’m going to miss being able to sing out in the middle of the fl oor when I want to. I’m going to miss a little bit of everything.”
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at jeff.appelblatt@temple.