By job description—barber, retailer, grocery store manager, UPS delivery man, cashier—they are ordinary people.
But these ever-present characters have a life, interests and history outside the roles for which we know them. And, oh boy, do they have stories to tell.
Here’s one thing you might not know about Harry the UPS guy: He and pal Rob Peebles are the 2010 TVP World Horseshoe Tournament champions.
“They give you a big trophy,” he says. “It’s like the Stanley Cup of horseshoes.”
Harry Scoville, 42, has been delivering UPS packages in Lakewood for about 10 years. He started working for UPS about 23 years ago as a part-timer, while he was in school at the University of North Texas. After graduation, he decided to stay on as a driver.
“I didn’t want to work inside my whole life,” Scoville says. “I love to be outside.”
UPS trucks don’t have air conditioning, but that doesn’t bother Scoville.Watch Harry describe for us last year how he detained a thief attempting to seal his packages.
“I don’t mind the heat at all. If it could be 105 degrees every day, I would take that,” he says. “People think I’m crazy for it, but I don’t like the cold at all.”
Occasionally, he’s been known to thwart the efforts of thieves in our neighborhood. Last year, he caught a guy stealing UPS packages from doorsteps on Gaston Avenue. He ran after the thief and held him until police came.
Scoville’s Lakewood and Old East Dallas route is tame compared to his previous route in South Dallas.
“I used to see all kinds of stuff,” he says. “I’ve seen prostitutes stark naked in the middle of the street who don’t know where they are. All kinds of stuff. But I think South Dallas gets a bad rap. It’s not as bad as people think.”
Scoville lives in Lakewood Heights with his wife, Julie, and their kids, 11-year-old Peyton Rylee and 5-year-old Brady Coogan.
He likes to fish and hunt, and he collects guns: “I’ve probably got 60 or 70 firearms.” He’s into old cars, and he owns a 1969 Dodge Coronet that a neighbor is restoring for him: “It’s more of a hot rod.” And he has plans to buy a fully restored ’69 Coronet this summer.
Most days, he drives an ’89 Chevy pickup that’s been stolen twice and broken into at least three times. The locks don’t even work any more.
“I just keep driving that,” he says. “I like to have something fun to drive on the weekend.”
In a market favoring beauty parlors and unisex styling salons, there is a place in Casa Linda Plaza that still bears a candy-striped barber’s pole.
Inside is a row of five chairs in front of mirrors and sinks, nothing fancy.
Most of the time, there are men in these chairs. They come for high-top fades, buzz cuts or just a little off the sides. Drop-in customers might sit in chairs belonging to one of two young guys, including Michael Applebee, who bought A&A Barber Shop five years ago. But if they’re lucky, they’ll find themselves sitting before 80-year-old Jerry Hearn.
Hearn has been cutting hair for more than 50 years, most of those in our neighborhood. In the ’50s and ’60s, he became the preferred barber of many businessmen, including Joseph Campisi and Gene Goss, a car dealer known as “Goss on Ross.” He also barbered Floyd Hamilton, who was affiliated with the Clyde Barrow gang. A few of Hearn’s clients had connections to organized crime, gambling and prostitution.
Hearn heard many an eyebrow-raising story in those days, but he says, the men knew they could talk freely in his chair.
“I sure didn’t bother them and their business,” Hearn says. “I kept my mouth shut. That’s the best thing to do.”
Hearn became a barber in 1954, while in the U.S. Navy. He heard an announcement on the intercom saying anyone interested in barbering should report to a certain office, so he did. The rest is hair-story. Hearn cut hair “underwater and on the water,” and traveled all over the world, including Japan and the Philippines. He visited Hiroshima about 10 years after it was bombed.
After the Navy, he moved to Dallas and worked for almost 10 years at Ross and Fitzhugh. Back then, it cost about $1.25 for a flat top. The same haircut now costs $14.
“I went to beauty school for a while, but I didn’t like it,” he says. “I decided I didn’t want to do women’s hair.”
Hearn has worked in several shops, including one in the Lakewood Shopping Center, where he worked for 17 years. For more than 16 years, he owned his own shop where the Dallas Arts District is now.
Hearn lives in Mesquite with his wife Nancy now, and he works only three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. But he remains a popular neighborhood barber, and he is an inspiration to his young colleagues at A&A Barbershop.
“He has so many stories, and he always has good advice,” Applebee says. “We always ask ourselves, ‘What would Jerry do?’ ”
There is an employee at the Medallion Center Target who looks like Santa Claus.
“He’s my brother,” Azari says.
Azari, 66, has worked at that Target store for 25 years.
“I have good relationships with my customers,” he says. “I get along very well with the kids.”
Azari was born in Iran and moved to Texas 31 years ago from Sussex, England, where he grew up.
As much as he appreciates his job at Target, Azari’s passion is music. In the early ’60s, Azari was a singer in a rock-n-roll band called Peter and the Wolves.
“Everyone wanted to be in a band then,” he says.
Back when the Beatles were still the Quarrymen, Azari and his band played any stage they could find, touring around England and Germany.
“We were bums,” he recalls. “We played for nothing. We played for our dinner.”
He still plays guitar and sings any chance he gets, often jamming with friends at parties. Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger are among his favorites, but Azari says he enjoys artists from Chuck Berry to Led Zeppelin and more recent bands.
“Music is what sustains me throughout life,” he says.
Aside from meeting customers at Target, Azari also enjoys getting to know his fellow employees. They’re an international group, and they come from all walks of life, he says.
Azari has worked at Target so long that he knows generations of families.
Neighbors who grew up shopping at that Target now bring their own kids. Most of them know the proper introduction, telling their kids, “This is Santa’s brother.”
Every day, when Carrie Johnson pulls into the parking lot of Tom Thumb at Mockingbird and Abrams, she says a little prayer.
And every day, when she walks inside, she knows she’s exactly where she wants to be.
Johnson has worked for Tom Thumb for 35 years, and she started at this store 20 years ago.
Why so long with Tom Thumb?
Part of it is this: “I love this job. I love what I do,” she says.
It’s a convincing answer. Johnson is so friendly and outgoing that her kids make fun of her for it. She loves being around people, but that’s not the whole story.
Johnson was a single mother of four in 1992 when her oldest child, Larry, was shot in the head in a random incident. He was taken to Parkland Hospital, and he wasn’t expected to survive the night.
Hospital employees assumed he had insurance through his mom’s employer, but he had just aged out of Johnson’s insurance plan. Since he wasn’t insured, the hospital wanted to move Johnson’s son from the sixth floor, which was VIP at the time, to the fourth floor, which was reserved for indigent care.
She didn’t know what to do, so she called her store director. He called Jack Evans Sr., the former Dallas mayor who was president and CEO of Tom Thumb at the time. Evans called Parkland and told them not to move Johnson’s son.
Now Larry is 40. He lost his vision in the shooting, but other than that, he is healthy and independent.
“To this day, I have never seen a hospital bill,” Johnson says. “I’ve never seen a bill, but they tell me it was over $150,000.”
That’s not something a person forgets, she says. It made her forever loyal to the company.
Johnson’s title is customer service supervisor, and she has had many offers to move up the management ranks of Tom Thumb, but she doesn’t take them.
“I don’t want to be a store manager,” she says. “I enjoy what I do.”
Johnson’s first job was as a checker at Piggly Wiggly in her hometown of Waco, and she has worked in the grocery business since then.
Johnson lives in Mesquite, but she is such a popular figure in the neighborhood, she says, she can’t go anywhere without running into customers.
“I’ll be over at Luby’s eating liver and onions, because that’s my favorite thing at Luby’s, and someone will say ‘Miss Johnson, my reward card doesn’t work,’ ” she says.
But that’s OK. She doesn’t mind doing a little customer service, even on her lunch break.
“I love, love, love my customers,” she says.
“Hello, pretty lady! How are you today?”
Betty Parker’s voice — pure Dolly Parton — and her hair — deep, bold red piled high on her head — belong in Nashville rather than behind the drug store counter. But she’s perfectly content at her post at CVS on Mockingbird.
“I tell you, all these wonderful people I meet where I work, the majority of them are my neighbors, and I just love ’em all to pieces. I look forward to them coming in. When they come in to say ‘hi,’ I want to say ‘hi’ back in such a way that it lightens up their life a little bit and brightens up the rest of their day.”
After all, she has had her days in the Nashville limelight, where she lived and traveled as a country music singer, imitating Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. She left that life when she met and married a “super guy.” The lifestyle was exciting, she says, but “my husband was more exciting.”
She still sings at church, but life as a songstress is history.
“Them days are long gone, but remembered fondly.”
Somewhere in the range of 70 years old now, the neighborhood resident has worked at Safeway at Mockingbird and Skillman, ME Moses at Abrams and Mockingbird, and Drug Emporium in the same center. Each of those places closed, leaving Parker to wonder if she might be “a jinx,” she says.
But it wasn’t long before she heard about the new CVS opening; she was, of course, a shoo-in.
Says Danny Maywald, who hired her, “I knew that if I could find someone that had the job skills that Betty brought, who would get along with the customers and call them by name and have that one-on-one relationship with them … well, that’s what I was looking for.”
Though the stores have changed, she says, many of the customers have been a constant.
For her chronically cheery disposition, Parker credits “The Man Upstairs,” as well as her current managers and customers.
CVS managers Moses Beruman and Jason Hunt are super guys, she says.
“When I am working with Moses, I know it is going to be a good day,” she says.
And as for Hunt, she says she couldn’t ask for a better leader.
“Some bosses are pushy; not my boss! He is just so wonderful I can’t even explain it.”
And though her stations have changed, many of the customers remain in her life. She says her relationships with people she met at work helped her get through tough times over the years, including the death of her husband.
“The people are still just the beautiful, wonderful people they’ve always been,” Parker says.
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