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Dick Bardon Pawn Shop

Larry Kilgore has two passions: Horses and Dick Bardon Pawn Shop. The pawn shop was in Larry’s family since 1906. He closed its doors in 1986, 80 years later.

Larry Kilgore

Larry’s uncle, Dick Bardon, came from St. Louis to Tulsa in 1904 driving a covered wagon that he won with gambling money. When gambling became illegal, he opened the doors to a pawn shop. Bardon was well known for his philanthropy, handing an $80,000 check to the struggling Board of Education and saying, “I have no intention of living in a town that can’t pay its teachers.”

Larry took over the pawn shop in 1967, leaving the cash registers from his Uncle Dick’s ownership on display.

A typical day at Dick Bardon Pawn Shop began with phone calls from people who had been robbed. Larry had a clever way of determining whether goods had been stolen. He imitates his strategy: “Gollee, this is a nice camera. Show me how you work with this.” He would stall the thief. And then the policeman would arrive with the person who reported the robbery. Busted.

At Dick Bardon’s, popular pawned items included TVs, record players, sewing machines and power saws. There were also the more long-term artifacts. “One thing I shy away from are sliding trombones,” Larry says, “We had one for darned near 20 years.”

Many customers would also use the pawnshop as storage space for seasonal items: Lawnmowers and fans. Larry puts emphasis on one of Dick Bardon’s multiple mottos: “We’ll loan on anything of value.”

Lawnmowers

“The taxi drivers liked us,” Larry says, ” ‘Cause we had an alley entrance. The gambler took a taxi and pawned his diamond or hat or suit. Sometimes his shoes. He’d hire a taxi driver to take him down to Bardon’s while he gambled.”

In 1980, there was a hold-up at the pawnshop. Larry remembers when two men walked in with pistols. Larry and his two employees came out of the situation unharmed, but the hold-up continued to affect him. He was awake into the early morning sometimes, worrying about vandalism and the potential for robbery. Tulsa was changing. “Could I shoot somebody?” Larry remembers asking himself. “Under the right circumstances I could. Did I want to? No I did not want to.” Larry closed his doors in 1986.

Owner of Dick Bardon's
There was an auction on the evening of October 15, 1986. Over 100 dedicated Dick Bardon Pawn Shop customers attended. Guns, jewelry and tools were up for grabs. The original aluminum pawn shop balls from Dick Bardon’s downtown Tulsa location were also on the block. A brochure from the auction reads: “Cash only. No checks accepted. Established customers excluded.”

“I could call almost every customer in the store by name. It was a wonderful business and it killed me to have to sell it. But then I got to really and truly spend the rest of my time being a cowboy,” Larry says. Therapy Hill, his 20-acre farm east of Tulsa, was Larry’s retreat.



19 Responses to “Dick Bardon Pawn Shop”

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  • I am so proud to be Larry’s granddaughter. This story was incredible. Although I don’t remember the pawn shop, (I was too young to remember) I do remember my Grandpa’s office and all of the stamps and papers that he would let my cousins and I play with. My cousins and I would pretend that we had a pawn shop just like Grandpa’s. I am blessed with the most phenomanal grandparents anyone could ever ask for. I had the pleasure of growing up out at Therapy Hill and it is absolutely breathtaking (even after the ice storm!) It is definetly a retreat for our family. It is so peaceful.

    Comment from Sara Anderson on December 7, 2008 at 10:54 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Great read! Just like Grandpa would have told the stories! Thanks Story Corps!

    Comment from Justin Anderson on December 2, 2008 at 5:14 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Many of my happiest childhood memories involve time spent with my grandfather and Uncle Larry at Dick Bardon’s and at the Kilgore’s house. Both places were filled with affection, compassion, and the belief that most folks will do right when given the opportunity. The store was filled with both old and new things; my favorites were the saddles upstairs. They were beautiful, and the leather smelled so good. I’m a horse lover too, and that’s probably a result of Larry and his kids who were always so nice to spend time riding with me when my branch of the family came back to Tulsa. A lesson from the store was, “Never engrave your jewelry; it lowers the pawn value.” A lesson from Therapy Hill was to slow down and listen to quiet. An especially treasured time was when Larry was putting out feed for the horses and told a friend and me, “Listen…All you can hear is the sound of birds singing and the horses eating.” It was true, but we hadn’t noticed. The soothing sounds have stayed with me across the years.

    Comment from susan holt on November 30, 2008 at 10:18 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This is a great tribute to Larry. A personal friend for many years. I had the privilege to rope with him on many occasions. We also dealt in horses together. Neil M.

    Comment from Neil Moore on November 28, 2008 at 8:35 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Five couples rode through life together and knew each other as well as, or better, than family. Three of the men in this group passed away in one year (2008); one a few years before, and Larry is the remaining member of the quintet. These guys
    were the standard bearers of what a friend should be. Always there for each other; one did something a little extra and the others were there for him. Anniversaries, birthdays, events brought them together. From pre-college, through college, through marriage, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nothing deterred the
    time for friends. ‘Rare’ is not a good enough word to describe what life has meant
    through friendship with Larry, Patsy, Turner, Patty, Leo, Jimmie, Harold, Marylou,
    and my life partner, Clem. Great story..and there’s so much more to tell…….Donna Mc…..

    Comment from Donna M. on November 18, 2008 at 1:02 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • November l2, 2008
    It has been my pleasure to know Larry Kilgore almost 70 years since we first met in 7th grade at Horace Mann Junior High School in Tulsa. He is one of my dearest friends and I have known Larry at church. I adore this whole family. My children grew up with the Kilgore girls. I met Patsy at Central High School. What a great family. I love you guys. I enjoyed hearing more about Dick Bardon and the pawn shop although I had never been there. Larry was always so generous to share his animals with young people and my daughter is a wonderful horsewoman now largely because of her association with Larry Kilgore.

    Comment from Doris Kuntz on November 12, 2008 at 7:18 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I think Jack Burch would have said, “Larry was a good man. I was proud to know him. And, he was a pretty good rodeo cowboy, for a kid.”

    Way to go Larry.

    Comment from Jeff Burch on November 11, 2008 at 8:20 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • When I was in grade school, my Uncle Larry had a wonderful horse, Prince. When they would circle the arena after a rodeo, sometimes Larry would put me on the saddle for a “victory lap”. And those blue eyes have not changed! I remember going to Bardon’s to buy my first saddle, my first pocket knife and a new straw hat in the springtime.

    Larry is one of my favorite Wise Men too.

    Comment from Sarah B. on November 11, 2008 at 4:29 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I had the good fortune to have Larry as a neighbor on Therapy Hill, and while not having the time to visit as much as I wanted to, I loved to hear his stories. Dick Bardon Pawn Shop is just the tip of the iceberg to this man

    Comment from Donn B. on November 11, 2008 at 11:24 am - Reply to this Comment
  • What wonderful memories and pictures! Thank you, Larry, for sharing another part of your life and stories with the world. It was my privilege to interview Larry this year for the Oklahoma State University Library to learn of his OSU experience as a founding member of the OSU Rodeo Team. Reading the comments from your family is great, too! Thank you!

    Comment from Karen N. on November 8, 2008 at 7:52 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I can personally say with much pride I know the Kilgore family. Wow!!! What great memories – thanks so much for sharing. Therapy Hill is everything you can imagine.

    Comment from Karon on November 7, 2008 at 10:01 am - Reply to this Comment
  • That’s my dad also! The memories of going to work with daddy on Saturday is only the beginning of just about every lesson I ever learned. The one I remember first is going to Bishops (I think it was) for lunch with a friend that daddy let come to town with us. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we did not know how to add well enough to know how much we spent. Well the cashier knew daddy from the pawnshop, she willingly took all of our money and later went to the store to get the rest of what she needed to pay for our lunch. I think I got to go to lunch with daddy from then on instead of being sent off by ourselves. Oh and watching Christmas Parades from the 3rd floor windows. Watching the seamstress sew names on shirts. And listening to conversations, now that was the best! KM

    Comment from Kathleen on November 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • That is my wonderful Uncle Larry and I too remember childhood visits to the pawn shop and loving the smells of old items, the faces of the people working and “shopping” there…My husband ‘s wedding ring is a pawned ring…too bad we don’t know the history,but it has been good for 37 years so far… Thanks for the stories on Story Corps.. MJ

    Comment from MaryJo on November 6, 2008 at 1:17 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • What a remarkable face! I love that photograph and the story behind it.

    Comment from Jalylah on November 6, 2008 at 12:40 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Great story and photos. Sounds like a place full of treasures.

    Comment from Chaela on November 6, 2008 at 12:39 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Could you imagine pawning your shoes to gamble? What if you lose? Actually, what if you win big? You could buy a new and improved pair of shoes – fancy ones – shoes that make people take notice and say, “That guy must be doin’ okay.”

    But if you do in fact lose your shoes in a bet, it’s probably pretty hard to get to work or find a job, so I’d call that rock bottom…being shoeless and therefore unemployable.

    I guess the moral is that the highest stakes bet you could make is to bet your shoes.

    Comment from Scott on November 6, 2008 at 11:47 am - Reply to this Comment
  • What a great story of family history!

    Comment from Jill Ridenour on November 6, 2008 at 11:02 am - Reply to this Comment
  • That’s my Dad! I have so many fond childhood memories of spending time at Dick Bardon Pawn Shop. My grandpa would always give me a piece of penny gum from the gumball machine. My son, Brent, was eight years old at the time of the store robbery and he was in the store! And Therapy Hill is all that you imagine it is.

    Comment from Judy Priebe on November 6, 2008 at 8:22 am - Reply to this Comment
  • What a great story! I want to go to Therapy Hill and be a cowboy!

    Comment from Jeremy on November 6, 2008 at 7:59 am - Reply to this Comment

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