Have you ever been stopped dead in your tracks and warped back in time with a flash of a memory that takes you by surprise? Well it happened to me this morning. Today, San Antonians were greeted by damp cold winds, 39° temperatures, with wind gusts that put the wind chill temperature at about 30° . . . cold enough to have one bundle up with coats, scarves, and gloves, maybe even a hat. My Dad collected a number of things on any given day, week, month, year . . . cars, watches, shoes, pens, rare coins and hats. Today, I grabbed his hat to keep my head warm. When I got to my office and took the hat off, the label on the inside of the brim shouted out to me “J & O MEN’S WEAR, Brownsville, Texas” and with that I was jetted back to Elizabeth Street on a cold, winter’s day. The street bustling with folks doing last minute shopping before Christmas and Hanukah, the street decorated with greenery and lights on every light post, drivers honking and jockeying for parallel parking, people speaking in English, many in Spanish, even more in Spanglish . . . days before Amigoland Mall opened up. Our annual holiday stops often included Aziz Brothers, Mac’s Toy Store, Vogue, JC Penny’s (with the elevator), Sears (with the escalator) and J & O Men’s Wear Shop. J & O was different. It was dark, plush, the scent of Aramis cologne and leather engulfed you as soon as you walked in, they monogrammed shirts, tailored clothes and suits and they catered to my Dad’s every eccentric desire. The mannequins were perfectly dressed and detailed, the floor salesmen were impeccably dressed and polite, each cufflink, each belt was precisely displayed, the lighting was soft and inviting. Mom and we knew a gift from J & O for my Dad was a gift that would always be a hit with him. His gifts over the years included monogrammed shirts, embossed wallets, and leather garment bags. So, every year we made the annual trek down to J & O to get something super special for Dad. To date, I have not been unable to find any other shop like it anywhere, no matter where I have traveled. The only shop that even comes close to J & O’s selection and service is Penner’s here in San Antonio, but they are still a far cry from J & O back home. In today’s commercialized retail, outlet mall, online shopping environment, quality and customer service the likes that J & O offered its clientele, are extinct. But with the memory of J & O today also came the warm, fuzzy feelings of hometown friends, Brownsville tamales, nachos at the Vermillion, whiskey sours at Garcia’s, trips to the beach the day after Christmas, sweater weather keg parties and all those things that make Brownsville as unique a place to live and grow up in as the J & O shopping experience. I sigh and long for those days of yore. I smile at the thought that I was blessed with such a wonderful life . . . and, a great hat from my Daddy. Happiest of Holidays to you and yours, and may 2019 bring love, joy and happiness to all.
About The Author
Born and bred in Brownsville, Texas, Gonzalez has lived in San Antonio for over 30 years. She attended St. Mary’s University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and later her law degree. Gonzalez has a family law practice and is a graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. She has a long established history of coordinating campaigns and consulting for women candidates.
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