FISCHETTI: The past comes alive in a pawn shop

By Peter Frischetti | Columnists

I picked up the car keys, kissed my wife, and told her I was driving over to the pawn shop.

“You’re going WHERE?”

“To the pawn shop on Front Beach Road. Thought I’d write a column about it.”

So many memories in 1,000 square feet of pawn shop

“There’s no way you’re going to write about a porn shop.”

Huh? Oh. She thought I said something else. “No, not that, I’m going to the pawn shop. P-A-W-N.”

I’ve always been fascinated by pawn shops, and on my visit the other day I discovered why.

On the back wall of Panama Pawn and Jewelry were a dozen or so guitars. Musical instruments are one of the staples of pawn shops, and the least expensive one, a Yahama priced at $69, reminded me of the guitar I played in New York in the eighth grade with my best friend, Joe. We took lessons at a studio, and were so bad that the teacher ultimately complained of gastric pains and moved to Las Vegas. My claim to fame was playing “Frére Jacques” in two languages.

Over in the corner were boxes of hand tools, piled in no particular order. How similar it looked to the tool room in my parents’ home, where boxes of tools piled on top of each other made it difficult to find the light switch, much less a tool. And I knew nothing about tools. One day my father was screwing some cabinets together and said he needed a Phillips. Stupid me. I brought him milk of magnesia.

A pawn shop wouldn’t be a pawn shop without rifles, but the owner, John Malko, explained his inventory was way down, like it is everywhere, due to the political climate (or whatever you want to call it). It’s been five years since I pulled a trigger, and before that my weapon was an M-16 at Fort Hood. My drill sergeant observed my shooting skills and gave me a medal he probably found in a Wheaties box for completing my rounds without killing anyone.

And there were vinyl records I still have, videos I’ve watched, a jukebox just like the one at my favorite Long Island diner with the greasy hamburgers. And much more. That fascination I have for pawn shops, I figure, stems from the memories that those old and discarded items stir in my mind. So many memories in just about a thousand square feet.

Peter Fischetti is a retired journalist from Southern California, which he hopes you won’t hold against him. He lives in Panama City Beach.