Jan and Eley Eggar
Eley wrote this text; but the stories at the bottom of the page were added by watonga.com after visiting with Eley and Jan about their store and life in Watonga.
I, Eley Eggar, was born in 1934 to Hattie and Eley Eggar in Snowmac, Oklahoma. I was the fifth child of seven and the only boy. My father worked in the oil fields and my mother worked at home taking care of the children.
I grew up in Snowmac, but the town was so small there wasn't a school. So I attended school in the nearby town of Wolf.
I graduated from Wolf High School in 1951 and worked at Auto Light Battery Company until that fall when I enrolled in the University of Oklahoma. While attending the university, I worked as a house boy in a sorority.
I then moved to Oklahoma City and started in the grocery business working for Humpty Dumpty. It was there I met Janice Butler. We married in 1953.
I served two years in the military. I was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and assigned to the 246 missile battalion. By this time Jan and I had two daughters, Jackie and Jeanne.
After my time in the service, I went back to what I knew best, the grocery business. I worked for several grocery stores moving from Dallas to Tulsa until buying into Smith Grider Grocery and moving my family to Moore, Oklahoma. By that time our family had increased by two, Eley Jr. and Paul.
In 1964, right before the birth of our fifth child, David, I bought Harry Kouri's Grocery Store in Watonga. I was looking for an opportunity to own my own business and to raise my family in a small town.
As my business grew, I expanded by building a new store and calling it, Eley's Red Bud. Watonga became our home. We started attending The First Baptist Church. I joined Lion's Club and Watonga Chamber of Commerce, where I was a member and served a term as the head of the Chamber. I also served on the Watonga Hospital Board. All of our children graduated from Watonga High School. One by one our children married and started raising families of their own.
I ran Eley's Red Bud until the early 1980's when I developed heart problems. I eventually had to have by-pass surgery, so I kept the building and sold the store.
I rented the building to several businesses the last being Dollar General, which still rents from me today.
Since that time, I have bought grocery stores in Holdenville, Blanchard, and Oklahoma City, but have continued to live in Watonga.
Jan and I now have six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Two of my children and their families still live in Watonga, Eley Jr., who owns Eley's Service Station. He and his wife, Sherrie, have two children, Savannah and Ethan. Jeanne Karns, who is the principal of Thomas-Fay-Custer Elementary and husband, Brett also live in Watonga. Their son, Javis, lives in Allen, Texas. My daughter, Jackie Strack, and her husband, Mark, live in Geary where she teaches 6th grade at Geary Elementary. Their daughter, Tabbitha, and her husband, Randal, and their two children, Gabe and Kameron, also live in Geary. My two youngest sons live and work in the Oklahoma City area. Paul is the manager of Hobby Lobby on Interstate 40. He and his wife, Shelly, have one son, Brent. David is buying and managing Eley's Bestyet on May Avenue. He has one son, Chad.
Jan and I started out buying a business in Watonga in 1964. We have watched our children grow, graduate and marry here. We have grown from a family of seven to twenty. We are thankful that we chose to make Watonga our home!
Eley told watonga.com that he bought Harry Kouri's store in January; but did not tell Jan until she was in the hospital delivering David in March. So, days later, they all pile in the car and drive to Watonga to see this new purchase. Eley pulled up in front of the building and Jan, being used to the big store in Oklahoma City where Eley worked, began to cry. This started a chain reaction. One by one all the children started crying. Eley did not get the reaction that he wanted then; but he says now you couldn't pull Jan away from Watonga.
Eley lived at the Noble Hotel for six months before he found a house for his family on Market Street. Some years later, they built a house on Park.
Eley said that the lots he purchased had to be cleared so that he could build his new store. One lot had a cement filing station that Jim Pierce's dad ran, and the other lot had a warehouse that Mahue's Hardware (located on Main Street) had used for storage. They must have stored real heavy equipment because the floor was thick with good 1x12's which they eventually were able to use in their new house.
Jan tells that when they moved from the old store (located where Body Works used to be) to the new store (where Dollar General is located now) they worked all night Saturday night, all day Sunday and all night Sunday night so that they would be ready to open again on Monday morning after just being closed for a day. She said that they made hundreds of trips back and forth across the street with the shopping carts.
Jan also tells that because she worked at the store, that David was at the store with her since he was too young for school. In order to keep him occupied she would give him the glass cleaner and paper towels to clean the front of the meat case. He would not only do a good job cleaning the glass; but he would stand there and guard the glass and make sure no one touched it. He was just three years old.
I just found your story on www.watonga.com
Great story...Sure tied into the "Business of the Week".
I enjoyed reading it...your picture is great...
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