THEY CAN’T TAKE AWAY OUR OUTSIDER SPIRIT
So many things changed in Oak Cliff over the past decade that it feels like a totally different neighborhood. But every now and then, there’s something to remind you of how things were. From taxidermy lions to Selena shrines and hand-painted houses, Oak Cliff is more than just a bridge apart from Dallas.
LG’s 24 Hour Pawn
The first thing to note about LG’s 24 Hour Pawn is that it closes at 8 p.m. It was the only pawnshop in Texas open 24 hours a day, and the name is a throwback to the days before ATMs, when there was no way to get money if the banks were closed. The family that owns the shop fought state regulators for years to stay open through the night — they eventually lost, but the name remains.
The store’s history dates back about 45 years in Oak Cliff, when L.G. Mosley and his daughter Tammy Mosley Hollingsworth opened a pawnshop in what is now the Bishop Arts District. Later they moved to Jefferson Boulevard, first in a space across the street from Charco Broiler, then to the old Roland Ellis department store space in Jefferson Tower. LG’s moved to its current space, at 407 W. Jefferson Blvd., next to Charco Broiler, in 1979.
The second thing about LG’s is the authentic taxidermy polar bear. L.G. Mosley, a 79-year-old West Dallas native who says he could pull as much cotton as a full-grown man by the time he was 6, traded the bear and a stuffed African lion that’s also on display, plus a Learjet, for a house his son had built in North Dallas but couldn’t manage to sell.
“Later he was mad at me,” L.G. says. “He wanted to buy it back, but I wouldn’t sell it. He said, ‘I killed that bear, and I want it.’”
L.G. can tell stories ’til the cows come home. He went from picking cotton to roofing houses, running his own crew at the age
of 13. When work was slow, teenage L.G. had the ingenuity to find disaster areas as far away as Hawaii, where insurance companies would pay out for roofing jobs.
After he figured out how to undercut lumberyards by importing shakes and shingles from Canada, he went into building houses, trading horses and, like
a good ol’ self-made Texan, hitting oil. As a side hustle, he’d begun hauling saddles and electronics from Mexico to sell at flea markets. He and his wife started out carrying things across the border in their ’39 Ford and eventually had about 45 vendor spaces with truckloads of inventory at Traders Village Grand Prairie, before NAFTA put a stop to that.
He started the pawnshop for daughter Tammy, who married as a young teen and ran off to live in the country. Her dad needed a way to lure her and husband, Bill Hollingsworth Jr., back to Dallas. One day, while she was fishing at the creek with her infant son, Tammy says L.G. pulled up on the bridge above and said, “Come on, we’re starting a pawn shop. Let’s go hitch up your trailer house.”
“I don’t really like money,” L.G. says. “I just like business. I like making deals.”
He says he once restrung an old guitar and traded up and up until he got the ’39 Ford.
Now a third generation is learning the ropes. Tammy and Billy’s son Chase Hollingsworth runs most of the shop’s day-to-day business with his fiancée, Emily Marie Garcia, and his cousin, Chappell Stanzel.
Tammy says her dad taught her to work hard, be honest and drive a bargain. After 40 years on Jefferson, they’ve dealt with a lot of people living in poverty or homelessness, with addiction and mental illness, but they try to behave gracefully and help when they can.
“Everybody is treated like they’re somebody,” Tammy says. “We’ve always tried to be there when people need help. I don’t want anyone to feel less than I am, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
The family recently expanded their space, and they’re renaming it after all these years to LG’s Million Dollar Pawn and Gun.
It was originally L.G.’s Pawn and Gun, and they were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The three of them — L.G., Tammy and Billy — took turns running the shop, and they had a bedroom on the second floor. Business was so good that they had to rent the basement for inventory. L.G.’s accountant learned the pawn business there and went on to start what is now the largest pawnshop chain in America. Around 1978, L.G. traded that guy their two- story building on Jefferson and all of its inventory, including jewelry and safes, for 4,000 acres in Colorado.
His wife, Jynnifer, was fit to be tied when he sold the business without telling her. But L.G. had flown in a helicopter over the land, and had a feeling, because of the rock formations, that it had oil, and y’all, he was right. He was even once featured, wearing a platter-size gold-and-diamond belt-buckle, on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” with Robin Leach.
The mural house at 110 Bishop Ave.Juan Manual Campos started his art career as a kid growing up in Mexico, photographing wedding portraits on black-and- white film and then developing the photos and hand coloring them with acrylic paint.
It was a painstaking craft that required needlelike brushes and a high degree of skill. He moved to Dallas in 1981, and you’ve seen the little house he shares with wife, Rosa. It’s the one painted teal and orange, with portraits of Selena, John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor outside.
The Camposes bought the house in 1989. Rosa says her relatives asked at the time, “Why would you buy a house in the ghetto?”
But she opened her hair salon in the front room, and they still live happily in a few hundred square feet at the back.
Now the former hair salon is an art studio, where 83-year-old Juan Manual Campos paints every day, “almost all day,” his wife says.
Soft guitar music plays as he shows some of his work: A two-sided wood cutout of Frida Kahlo, a charcoal portrait of Emiliano Zapata, James Dean as Jett Rink in black- and-white acrylic. Jesus, head in hands, looming large over sepia-toned immigrants at the barbed- wire border.
A friend recently replaced their water heater, but Campos kept the old one, and he’s copying vintage comic book panels onto it in oil paint.
If not for his wife, he couldn’t do this, he says. She’s always tolerated him turning on the lights in the middle of the night to sketch something and then paint all night.
“I said, ‘All I want is to paint, and you can do whatever you want,’” he says. “I paint because it’s in my blood.”
He’s always made a living with wage- earning jobs and gigs such as painting murals in supermarkets and the shop windows on Jefferson Boulevard.
In the ’80s and ’90s, Campos was part of an art collective simply called Artistas, with Alfonso Estrada, Vincent Morin, Filberto Chapa, Anita Cisneros and a few others. He’s the only one still living.
In the summertime, he paints the front steps of their little house in bright colors, and he adds to or updates the weathering collection of outdoor board paintings. He has dreams of turning their adjacent vacant lot into a sculpture garden.
These days, the Camposes are solicited many times a day with offers on their coveted double-lot property in Bishop Arts, all low-ball offers, Rosa says. But they have no intention of moving, anyway.
“As long as we’re healthy, God willing,” Rosa says.
A god of thunder, lightning and fire, he is the most feared deity in the Yoruba and Santería religions. Chango represents the devastating power of nature, and he’s not to be trifled with.
If you find the larger-than-life statues of him in the window of Chango Botanica a little scary, that’s appropriate. While those uplighted figures may intimidate, inside the staff is friendly. Some of them have worked there for decades. And you can find all manner of religious accoutrement, including candles, oils, incense and the Mexican charms known as milagros. The shop is open seven days a week, and in 43 years, it has never closed for a day.
Francisco “Pancho” Diaz originally opened the store in what is now an office space at the Kessler Theater in 1977. He bought the building at 1405 W. Davis St. in 1995.
“It would be easy for me to sell it,” Diaz’s youngest son, Jorge, told the Advocate in 2014. “But what is that going to accomplish?”
Jorge Diaz has said he’ll never sell the building because his father, who died in May 2014, would’ve wanted it to stay. The botanica’s managers declined to comment for this story, but we know real estate speculators pester them because even the Advocate receives a couple of emails every year from real estate professionals asking if we can get through to them.
Maybe they should rename it Tejano Burger. The burgers and tots at Country Burger are reliably good. But the restaurant, open since the 1980s, is known for its reverence of Selena.
Everywhere you look, there is some tribute to the Queen of Tejano. Her photos are embedded in the napkin holders and framed on the walls, along with newspaper clippings and posters. There are Barbie-type Selena dolls, original artwork, and the latest piece, a sequined replica of the purple costume Selena wore for her last concert in San Antonio. It’s like the more time passes since the death of Selena on March 31, 1991, the greater the monument at Country Burger becomes.
Manager Rafael Jimenez is the Selena fan in the family. He was devastated after the singer was killed, and he put up a few pieces of memorabilia in the restaurant as a way to address his grief. After that, customers started bringing him things. He even keeps a copy of Selena’s last will and testament, a gift from a customer, in his office drawer.
Country Burger is ground zero for Oak Cliff’s annual Selena celebration, 214 Selena. This year’s party at Country Burger, which typically features a car show and Selena look-alike contest, is March 29.
The storefront on Jefferson Boulevard has a marquee sign depicting two eyes and a strangely basic name: Aaron.
Who is Aaron? Why is he watching us? What are they selling in there? The place never seems to be open. I’ve never seen anyone going in or coming out. No one answers the listed phone number. The Internet tells me nothing. The mystery was unbearable until one weekend,
while staying at a hotel in Corsicana, flipping channels, a Spanish-language call-in astrology show came on TV. At
the bottom of the screen were two Dallas phone numbers and an address: 237 W. Jefferson Blvd. “Holy cow, that’s Aaron!” I exclaimed after a quick Google. So Aaron might be an astrologist with a call-in TV show. In other words, it’s still a mystery. So be it.
If it’s October in Oak Cliff, then there is a terrifying clown on Hampton Road. The family owned Catalina 5G thrift store on Hampton at Kingston spends the entire month of August converting their shop to a Halloween superstore. At peak traffic times, they lure in shoppers using various costumes — Michael Myers, Jason, horror clowns and other creepy characters. Stay weird, Catalina 5G.
Fox Gas Station
There’s no glamour in hauling laundry to the washateria. But what if it’s a laundromat with crystal chandeliers? At Fox Gas Station, on Polk at U.S. 67, you can fill ’er up, do laundry, order some pretty good tacos and tortas, have a licuado and buy phone accessories, all while awash in the elegant light of dozens of crystal chandeliers. Oh, and it’s open 24 hours a day.
The peacocks of Beckley Club Estates
This beautiful neighborhood just east of Beckley Avenue is about 95 years old, and we’re not sure which came first, the people or the peacocks. Homeowner J.P. Hossley says he and wife, Erin, sometimes feel like their backyard is a zoo because as many as a dozen peacocks hang out around their pool every day. They rarely need to set an alarm clock as the birds land on their roof every morning at dawn, then they fly up to roost in the trees at dusk.
The ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald
Oh, Lee, you freakin’ weirdo. The presumed JFK assassin took up residence in several Oak Cliff locations. One of them, at 214 W. Neely St., was even used as a location for the Hulu show “11.22.63,” based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. What’s even weirder is Oak Cliff’s embrace of ol’ Oswald. The Texas Theatre once put his face on a T-shirt. And then a barbershop put his face on a mural in Bishop Arts. Weird, man.