In my father's
store were five rooms. The largest of these was the showroom and
office. It had plate glass windows which faced main street. The
front was enameled metal: white, with blue and yellow trim. There
was a sign which proclaimed "Goodyear" and between the Good and
Year was a shoe with flying wings.
The showroom office had a door that opened onto the alley. I remember
that because, Mr. _____ came in one day complaining about the way
a tire had been put on his truck. His tone was threatening and abusive,
and my father just opened the door and invited him into the alley.
The man declined, even though he was bigger and younger. Pop was
a very powerful man, and nothing stopped him. Everyone in town knew
The front of the showroom had large appliances to the south, and
the smaller ones, such as televisions, toasters and radios were
to the north and west (front).
Dad's desk was behind the counter with two other desks belonging
to the bookkeepers. Harold Braun was the one I remember best, but
there were others. His predecessor was J. W. Fulps, who ended up
as a janitor at the post office, where he got a better pension.
the big shopping day in Lockhart.
The town would start filling up right after lunch as the farmers
and hands came into town to do the week's shopping.
In the store
the payment line would begin to form shortly after lunch, and an
employee stood there and accepted weekly payments for most of the
Those wanting to be "helped" [the word has now lost its meaning--served,
sold something, but with courtesy, with knowledge that the buyer,
not the seller, held the upper hand] stood away from that line and
was quickly spotted. No matter who went to them, they usually wanted
to be waited on by Dad.
Often someone from the line, or who had stood as though he was waiting
to be helped, but who bought nothing, would be escorted over to
Dad's desk, and he would burrow into the lower right-hand drawer.
Books bound with rubber bands would be produced, purple carbons
protruding, and things I could never quite see, were exchanged.
Sometimes another customer would be waiting to sit in the chair
by Dad's desk. And, they came back on a regular basis. Some on a
weekly basis, some monthly, and some not regularly. As I grew older,
my curiosity grew. I wondered what they did at the desk. I asked
Dad, but he just answered "business" or "helping them." "Helping
them" to me, at that time, meant selling them something, or talking
to them about their credit: why they hadn't paid, or why he couldn't
give them credit because they hadn't paid.
Finally, one day I asked Harold just what went on at that drawer
in the desk. Harold grumped. Harold grumped a lot. When he grumped,
he bit harder into the ever present cigar that he chewed on. "He's
going to get in trouble. I keep telling him, he's going to get in
trouble." Now I could not imagine my father in trouble. Everywhere
I went, everyone told me, "You'll never be able to live up to your
Dad," or "If you can only be half what your Daddy is...." He could
never get into trouble.
I asked for an explanation. "Hell, he keeps those people's money
for them. Keeps them in checking accounts. They can't read. They
can't write. They're just dumb and ignorant. He deposits the money,
writes their checks; he's going to get into trouble one of these
days. One of `em is going to say he stole from them. Just watch.
I tell him, he's going to get into trouble; he doesn't listen."
Harold thought my father was crazy for working so hard, for trusting
so many people, for keeping that lower drawer.
My father never got into trouble for keeping the money for those
people. Mother says the practice continued after he became County
Judge. It even expanded. He took care of everything for them, writing
wills (he was no lawyer--but he charged no fee), filing for social
security, helping on land transactions, serving as a go-between
between people and their attorneys. He helped explain things to
people. They trusted him.
(Harold, by-the-way left the store after it changed location - long
after I was gone. He subsequently died at a relatively young age,
long before Dad. He was making the trip of a lifetime to see Germany.
He died in Switzerland. -- No offense, but he did grump a lot.)
Dad's desk and oak swivel chair are now both now in my office.