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The “T.G.&Y.: An Original Oklahoma Icon” is among the exhibits at the Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher.

T.G. & Y. exhibit opens in Kingfisher

Some places just invoke good memories of childhood or adolescence. That's especially true of our most "seasoned" readers, but people of any generation can appreciate something special and unique to Oklahoma.

The T.G.&Y. variety store is fondly remembered by local Okies, some of whom remember making up their own irreverent versions of what the initials stood for, including "Turtles, Girdles & Yo-yos." 

The historical value of these memories is the focal point of a new exhibit at the Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum, 605 Zellers Ave. The display, "'T.G.&.Y: An Original Oklahoma Icon," takes the viewpoint mostly of its youngest owner and Kingfisher native Raymond A. Young (the Y of T.G.&.Y.). He opened his very first store in Kingfisher in 1927. At a trade show he met Rawdon E. Tomlinson and Enoch "Les" Gosselin, who owned similar stores in other places, and they decided to pool their resources and formed Central Merchandise Corporation to build a warehouse in Oklahoma City.

The move gave them more buying power and resources to offer a bigger store. And in 1936 the first store opened using the initials of their last names, placed in order of their age.

The exhibit features items and artifacts from the T.G.&.Y. era, including personal items on loan from the original T.G.&.Y. store in Kingfisher. Through photographs and artifacts, the exhibit reveals the history of the stores from single stores to a large chain. It navigated through the trying years of the Great Depression and World War II, emerging as one of the most successful chain variety stores in the nation, and the first Oklahoma-based store to reach over $1 billion in sales with more than 900 stores across the United States by the end of the 20th century.

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