Peyton Manning is not the only one who is hanging up his gloves in 2016. After 31 years, this is also the last ride for JMU legend “Coop” Payne. Coop is the Wilson Hall cupola bell ringer. Every day, his job is to ring the Wilson bells every hour, on the hour. Before he rides off into the sunset, I was able to sit down with him for an interview.
How did you come across this job? I majored in music here at JMU, and the cupola ringer before me went into retirement two years after I graduated. One of my professors led me to the right people, and I got the job. I’ve been here ever since. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.
What does your typical day look like? It’s a marathon, not a sprint for me. I make my way to my office—not really an office, but that’s what I call it—around 7:30 every morning. I ring the first bells at 8am then every hour after that. I stay in my office until 8pm, which is the last required chime.
What do you do to pass the time? I’ve picked up quite a few hobbies over the past 31 years. You know… the typical stuff… a couple crossword puzzles and Sudoku’s here and there. But 5 years ago, I found a used banjo down at Glen’s Fair Price on Main Street, and I’ve played it every day since. I love that thing.
Are you the only one allowed up there? My assistant, Milly, is also allowed up there. She brings me lunch, dinner, 3 glasses of milk, and a grapefruit every day. She’s basically a runner so I don’t miss a chime, ya know? She’s a great person to work with. And she plans on sticking around for the next cupola ringer. It’s hard to say goodbye to Milly.
You have a unique birds eye view over the quad. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen from up there? I can’t think of a particular crazy thing, but seeing the ESPN GameDay setup was amazing. People aren’t kidding when they say JMU is the best college on Earth. Every day, I look down and see hundreds of smiling faces. This is why I love my job, and this view is what I will miss the most.
Read more about Coop on the JMU News site: bit.ly/JMUBellRinger
And watch clips from Coop’s interview here…