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TG&Y exhibit in Kingfisher a reminder of variety store chain's golden era

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
“Well over 1,000 former employees have come through the exhibit,” Lynn told Red Dirt Report. “And the common thread was that all of them loved working for TG&Y.”
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KINGFISHER, Okla. – Walking into the Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher on a recent afternoon, this reporter was greeted by the cheery sounds of The Monkees’ 1967 hit “I’m A Believer.” And at the same time, it felt as if we were going back in time to an era when the Oklahoma City-based chain TG&Y was in the midst of its golden era.

To match those classic sounds were the displays from decades-worth of TG&Y merchandise and branded items from the chain variety store that actually had its first 5-and-10 store in Kingfisher in 1927 and its first TG&Y store in Norman in 1936.

Talking to Adam Lynn, the director of the Chisholm Trail Museum, it is clear that this exhibit, which shares space with memorabilia from the Chisholm Trail’s pioneering years and history about Kingfisher County, is very popular.

“Last month (March) we had an average of 50 people come through each day wanting to view the TG&Y exhibit,” Lynn said. “It’s taken a life of its own.”

Most visitors come from within Oklahoma, but others have come from Texas and Kansas. And when TG&Y was at its height (and later purchased by McCrory), it had a presence in 29 states, with 900 stores and at one point, $1 billion in sales.

Added Lynn: “I had no idea it would transform into this.”

Indeed. Lynn explained that the exhibit, which opened in January, was scheduled to end in mid-April. However, due to the overwhelming popularity of the exhibit, Lynn said a decision was made to extend it until August 2, 2014. There is talk some of it will part of a permanent display at the Chisholm Trail Museum.

“Well over 1,000 former employees have come through the exhibit,” Lynn told Red Dirt Report. “And the common thread was that all of them loved working for TG&Y.”

He noted that the former employees told him that had TG&Y remained open and viable; they would have loved to have spent their working lives with the chain and ultimately retired with the beloved chain variety store.

Named after its founders Rawdon Tomlinson, Enoch Gosselin and Raymond “R.A.” Young, TG&Y became an icon forever linked with its humble, friendly Oklahoma roots.

The various glass cases feature everything from a turn-of-the-20th-century bottle from the original store to a TG&Y aluminum cola can. And there were plenty of newspaper clippings, company and industry magazines and pictures of the founders. Tomlinson died in 1948, Gosselin in 1977 and Young in 2002.

There was even a TG&Y-brand lawnmower on display. It was a little worse for wear, but appeared as if it could tackle a spring lawn just as it probably was doing three decades ago.

And TG&Y obviously sold its own color TV’s, as evidenced by the two displayed in the museum, one of which was showing 1980’s-era TG&Y TV commercials.

A former TG&Y employee, Meredith Long, donated her collection of TG&Y merchandise and employee tchotchkes from pins, stationery and even a toy football – branded, naturally, with the ever-recognizable TG&Y logo.

Lynn said members of Young’s family have come out to Kingfisher to the TG&Y exhibit, as has Gosselin’s granddaughter.

“Kingfisher has huge mercantile ties,” said Lynn, a native of Eufaula. He noted not only TG&Y’s roots in this prairie town, but it is also the birthplace of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

For more information on the TG&Y exhibit and more things going on at the Chisholm Trail Museum at 605 Zellers Ave. in Kingfisher, go to www.ctokmuseum.org or call 405-375-5176.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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