This is one of the first Saturdays in nearly 40 years that my dad is in Dallas, but not at “the store.” My dad faithfully went to work, especially on Saturdays, the busiest day, with rare exceptions for buying trips or family vacations. I could be mistaken, but I believe that he at least went to “check in” on both of his kids’ wedding days.
My dad owned a fabulous men’s clothing store, Pockets, which supported our family and even employed each of us at times. It closed yesterday after almost four decades. I could begin writing about my dad, all that has happened in the last two years of his life, and what might be to come, but I’ll try to stay focused. I wanted to write a little “Ode to Pockets.”
With God’s help and guidance, my dad’s vision, creativity, good business management, and hard, hard work made Pockets a model of a small entrepreneur’s success story. My dad guided the store according to the strong Christian faith he possesses and acted in an ethical way toward his employees, vendors, and customers. His patience helped him put up with the unpleasant things along the way. My mom told us many times how proud she was of the way that Dad sacrificed in order to remain a person of integrity in his business.
My parents literally constructed the store themselves (the beginning of my mom’s electrician career?) when I was a little less than one year old with money borrowed from my granddad. I think this took so much chutzpah or guts or both. One time I asked Dad about it and he said, “We were young and we didn’t really have much to lose.” They started small, with a tiny space next to a popular barber shop. My mom did the tailoring, the accounting, and anything else that was required for the beginning of the store. Since it was 1973, there were all sorts of cool bellbottoms, denim shirts, fly away collars, and some New Mexican man jewelry along with the sharp suits.
I can remember frequently going up to the store to see Dad or take something to him, and everyone there hugging and loving on me and my brother, Talmadge. In fact, one time an employee swung Talmadge around so many times that he threw up! We made trips to Hillsboro to buy antiques and rugs for the store and Talmadge and I always got chocolate malts at the pharmacy downtown. The store was just a warm fun place for us kids.
When we got a bit older, Talmadge and I got to work at Pockets. We mostly worked in receiving, which meant opening boxes, checking the inventory against the invoices, and tagging the clothes within. I am pretty good with a box cutter and tape gun to this day, not to brag too much. It was a cluttered space with inventory and files, tailoring orders and extra supplies on tall shelves all around. There was a tall padded wooden stool that we called “Chewbacca” because it sounded exactly like him when you moved it around. We had to listen to soft rock on KVIL 103.7 the whole day. We had to go ask Carol, secretary extraordinaire, a million questions a day. Sometimes employees would come visit in the receiving room. There was usually a really cute young guy working for my dad who I would look forward to seeing. Mark Seabaugh told me all about music and we shared a love for Sting and the Police. During lunch we could get a tall, cold glass-bottle Coke from the fridge and go sit with Dad in his office and talk.
We also worked on mailings. We would put labels on thousands of postcards then stamp them all with a postage meter. I can clearly recollect and reproduce the re-enh, re-enh re-enh-re sound of the postage meter. I hope all of dad’s customers enjoyed getting them, but I suspect many of them went right into the trash. They were prepared with love (until the end of the pile).
My dad always looked sharp and handsome on his way to and from work (o.k., and everywhere else he went). Talmadge and I got to see the other side of him there. He remembered everyone’s name and face. He made friendly small talk about sports, the weather, social events, vacations, all day long. He gave people a kind listening ear and sometimes, wise advice. He was confident about what would look good on someone, what would be appropriate for different occasions, what was current. Listening to him sell, I wanted to buy what he suggested. At home he was reserved, not overly anxious to stay a long time at social events. I think he was talked out. Plus, Mom filled the air with her bright chatter. I am so thankful that I got to see my dad in both environments, that I got to appreciate what he did all day. I wish every child could work with their dad.
Thanks, Pockets, for home, clothes, food, private school, family vacations, our first jobs, and the wonderful people you brought into our family’s life. Thanks, Dad, for your faithful stewardship. All praise to God.