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Great State: Wal-Mart and T G and Y Share Some Beginnings in Oklahoma Wheat Belt Town

KINGFISHER, OKLAHOMA — Just to set the record straight, TG and Y stood for the first letters in the last names of the store chain founders.

Rawdon Tomlinson, Les Gosselin, and Ray Young were small department store owners who pooled their resources, then merged to for an Oklahoma five-and-dime empire.

Historian Adam Lynn adds, “what we want to do is bring back those memories for people.”

Lynn gathered as much T G and Y history as he could over several months to open an exhibit at the Chisholm Trail Museum.

A surprising amount survived, much of it saved by former employees and loyal customers too.

“It’s not every day you get to see this,” says Lynn. “It probably hasn’t been displayed in about 30 years.”

R. A. Young opened his first store in the late 1920’s.

The building still stands on Main Street.

The name changed to T G and Y after the merger in 1936.

Current owner Dennis Muggenburg has a store called Designs by Dennis now, but a lot of older customers still remember it as the T G and Y.

“This floor has seen a lot of customers,” remarks a visitor.

“It has seen a lot,” responds Muggenburg.

“The cash registers were here. The toys were over their and the fish were on the back wall.”

The retail map has changed, even in the past 30 years, but peel back the layers and you’ll find a lot of history at the corner of Admire and Main in downtown Kingfisher.

In the 20’s and 30’s R. A. Young’s neighboring business was a drug store owned by a certain J. Earl Walton.

He had a nephew named Sam Walton, born in Kingfisher, who would hang around his uncle’s store from time to time.

That Sam Walton was the same Walton who built Wal-Mart into an even bigger retail empire.

T G and Y eventually went the way of dozens of smaller discount chains, replaced by that other chain that can trace some of its beginnings to this, small, wheat belt town.

Historian Adam Lynn adds, “That Kingfisher has such rich history related to the mercantile business is incredible.”

Throw in one more early mercantilist trader by the name of Jesse Chisholm and it’s little wonder why the Chisholm Trail Museum plays host to this exhibit.

The ‘trail’ of retail history runs right through Kingfisher’s heart, from Walton, to Young, to Chisholm himself.

You can buy it all here.

For more information on the Chisholm Trail Museum exhibit go to http://www.okhistory.org/sites/chisholmtrail

For more information on T G and Y history go to digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/T/TG001.html

or http://www.facebook.com/pages/TG-Y/199867541092