Junction City pawn shop celebrates 60 years of business in the community

From the Junction City Daily Union, by Michael J. Sellman. Edited for accuracy and clarity. 

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In 1958, a father and son opened a pawn shop in Junction City. That pawn shop is still open for business 60 years later, and is the oldest pawn shop in the state.

In 1947, P.H. “Jack” Gooldy, who was manager of the Coca-Cola plant in Independence, Kansas, came to Junction City.

He wanted to relocate his family to a town where he could provide a better living for them. 

His daughter, Mary Beth Clark, recalls that her father, Jack Gooldy, and her brother, Richard "Dick" Gooldy, bought the Pla-Mor Bowling Alley from the Studebaker-Packard dealer, Gar Mundy, which at the time was located at the corner of Ninth Street and Jefferson Street.

Jack also added a liquor store and a bar, called the Uptown Club, to the bowling alley. 

“I believe one of the bouncers at the Uptown Club back then was Bill Levinson,” Clark said. “Gary Devin and many other local young people set pins for Dad, although Gary always said he could make more money selling Mrs. Kurtze’s popcorn balls to the soldiers.”

Nevertheless, Jack’s wife always made sure the pin setters had a hamburger and a glass of milk so they didn’t have to set up the bowling pins on an empty stomach.

“When they first opened Pla-Mor Bowling Alley, (bowling) was not a family sport,” Clark said. 

She remembers walking into the bowling alley as a young child, seeing the pool table in the front, amidst the dark, dingy atmosphere full of cigarette smoke. 

As bowling soon became more of a family sport, the pool table was taken out, and a small diner on the west side of the building went in. 

“The high school kids came in on their lunch hour to eat their lunch and dance to the new jukebox,” she said. “League bowling took up much of the eight lanes and it became a place for families to enjoy bowling together.”

Jack, who also managed the bowling alley on Fort Riley, decided to sell the Pla-Mor to a couple named Earl and Helen Grey in 1957. 

That’s when they looked into operating a new business.

Having good business sense, according to Clark, and gaining familiarity with Junction City, Jack could see the potential a pawn shop would have in the community. 

In that same year, he opened a small store on 17th Street and Yuma Street in Manhattan. 

And then in 1958, he and his son, Richard “Dick” Gooldy, opened a pawn shop on the corner of 15th Street and Washington Street in Junction City.

Jack and Dick’s Pawn Shop is still at that location, with their names still visible on a sign high above their store, 60 years later. Since its opening, it has been expanded twice.

Clark recalls her dad as an “astute businessman and a very hard worker.” 

He even drove all over Kansas in a Ford station wagon to search for used merchandise to buy for the pawn shop’s grand opening.

“The thing I enjoyed most was interacting with all the people who came into the store and enjoying what they brought in to pawn or sell,” Clark said. 

She remembers her dad coming home to dinner one evening with a teacup Chihuahua someone brought in.

And most Christmas, birthday, and wedding gifts were items people had pawned and not picked up. 

Soldiers often rode buses into town from Fort Riley throughout the day. According to the pawn shop’s owner, Chris Mathis, who started working there in 1991, the bus would stop in front of Jack and Dick’s, and the soldiers would line up in front of the store to do business while the bus driver waited for them.   

“Always interesting. Never dull,” Clark said. 

60 years of employees

Employees became family at the pawn shop. 

Back in the “old days,” as Mathis put it, Jack would test his crew by placing money or a diamond ring on the floor to see if it would disappear. 

If an employee found a $20 bill anywhere hidden in the store, they knew not to touch it. 

In addition to the founders, Mathis said there were many good pawnbrokers that contributed much to the success of this business.  Charlene Gooldy, Jerry Mathis, Mary Beth Clark, Jay Gooldy, Jeff Lueker, Travis Darnell, Ollie Thomas, Gerald Ponton, Aubrey A.W. Sterling, Butch Henry, Thomas Henderson, John Payne, Ben Debeneadto, Charlie Irwin, Manuela Mathis and Raymond Madison to name some of the best. 

“I want to say that I am very grateful to my cousin Jacky Gooldy. Jacky taught me everything I know about being a good pawnbroker,” Mathis said.

60 years of stories

“A customer came in and complained that he had lost his wallet somewhere and needed to pawn his coat,” Mathis said. “The customer returned later in the day and asked to see the coat. When handed the coat the customer looked through the pockets, found his wallet, and redeemed the coat.”

Mathis said there are many other stories to tell about the store. 

“Some can be shared, and some cannot,” he said. 

One story that stands out to Mathis is the time Jack (his grandfather) narrowly escaped being accidentally shot. 

A customer brought a gun into the store. When employee Jock Rausch picked it up to look at it, the gun discharged. 

“The bullet passed through grandpa’s coattail, and slammed into the wall behind where he was sitting,” Mathis said. “Needless to say, this didn’t make grandpa very happy.”

Willie Proutt was a trusted friend of the family, and an employee for approximately 30 years.

On another occasion, this time during the 1970s, a customer brought in a car stereo deck to pawn. Proutt told the customer he had one just like it, and noted the one the customer had was a “good one.” 

He purchased it for resale. 

At the close of the day, Proutt  went out to his car and discovered someone had broken into it. He also saw that his car stereo had been stolen. 

“The customer broke into Willie’s car, and then came in and sold Willie his own car stereo,” Mathis said. 

Mathis remembers a particular customer who came in around the time he began working in the pawn shop.

She was crying because she claimed she had no money for her newborn baby’s formula. 

“She wanted to pawn a gnome statue — the kind you see in people’s yards,” he recalls. “I explained to her that we don’t generally pawn gnome statues, and maybe she could bring us something else to pawn.”

The customer continued crying, and Mathis said he felt bad for her. 

Against store policy, he loaned her $25 from his own pocket. 

She stopped crying, thanked him, and left. 

At the end of the day, he stepped into a local bar, and saw the same customer “drinking” the money he loaned her. 

“I learned a valuable lesson that day,” he said. 

Mathis has fond memories working with Jack. Sometime in 1992, a customer came in wanting to play the electric guitars for sale.

"The playing was so loud and horrible that other customers were complaining," Mathis said.

After about an hour of suffering, Jack went to the back and threw the breaker switch, came out front and announced:

"It looks like Grandpa forgot to pay the electric bill again! Chris, break out the kerosene lamps."

 Other unusual and interesting items that have passed through the doors of Jack and Dick’s include a pet skunk, an aquarium with live fish, a 1957 Chevy, a glass eye, African war paraphernalia, a five-carat diamond ring, a prosthetic leg, a fake George Washington autograph on a baseball, a coffin, a prostate warmer, frozen meat, a 1953 Fender Telecaster, lingerie, and a stuffed armadillo. 

One frequent customer stands out in the pawn shop’s history — Levi Nelson.

This 96 year old gentleman has not only been a loyal customer but a friend of the staff since 1958. 

“Grandpa liked Levi a lot,” Mathis said. “Levi is always interested in old silver dollars and .45 long colt cowboy revolvers.”

According to Mathis, Levi remembers the old days, and still comes in to say “hello.”

“I remember this pawn shop when I was stationed here in 1962. I used to pawn my watch here for gas money,” Levi said. 

Mathis said the shop sees a lot of old Fort Riley veterans who stop in from out-of-state when they're traveling along I-70. They're always happy to know that Jack & Dick's is still going strong. 

60 year anniversary

The pawn shop has been in the family for three generations. 

The shop staff are planning a drawing for a special prize to be announced at a later date.Mathis said the anniversary celebration is going to last all year. 

Clark believes respect for people is one aspect that has made Jack and Dick’s stand out in the community. 

“Word of mouth for treating people right passes from one customer to another, one unit to another, one division to another,” she said. “That is a good part of why the store has passed on to three generations, and has been a big part of the history of Junction City.”

Even after all these years, the employees of Jack and Dick’s still never know what sort of items are going to pass through the door. Everyday is still different. 

Compassion and understanding have been exemplified as he has been successful in returning a majority of savings bonds to owners which were left in the pawnshop when he had started. 

There were originally about 70 of them.

The last one to be returned made national news in December.

The name on the bond was “Woodrow Wilson, Jr.” It had fully matured, and was valued at more than $3,000.

Mathis searched for Wilson, who turned out to be an Army veteran.

It was believed Wilson was living on the streets of Chicago. Mathis hired a private investigator, who found Wilson, 58, who was in fact homeless.

Just in time for Christmas, Mathis had the bond returned to Wilson, as he believed he needed the money more than the pawn shop. Wilson had signed the bond over to the pawn shop 37 years ago for $100. By the time the bonds were returned to him last year, they were worth more than $3,000. 

Mathis gets a kick out of returning such items. 

“Who wouldn’t want to receive a phone call that your savings bonds are now fully mature and ready to cash in?” he said. “Who wouldn’t want their great, great grandparent’s wedding ring that you didn’t even know existed? Who wouldn’t want their long lost class ring returned? It’s fun to hear the shock in their voice when they get that call. ‘You have what? Really’?” 

There’s a story about a ring from 1892, with a couple’s initials and wedding date engraved on it, that was returned to the family.

PH “Jack” Gooldy passed away in 1987. Richard “Dick” Gooldy passed in 2001.

Aside from the hard work of the founders, and employees, Mathis is grateful to the customers now and throughout the shop’s 60 years. 

He believes the company owes a very special thanks to the customers for their loyal friendship.

“Thank you from Jack and Dick Gooldy, and all of us here at the oldest pawn shop in Kansas,” Mathis said. “We are Junction City’s most generous loan company and strongest gold buyer since 1958.”