On the top shelf of my laundry room hiding behind some pots and pans is an antique of sorts that I have always treasured. That turkey platter has even more meaning now since the building from which it came is now part of Denison’s history.
Many of us who have been around town a few years are well aware of K Wolens Department Store that graced downtown for many years at 317 West Main Street. Last week that building, now the home of Luxor Nails and Spa burned to the ground in a spectacular fire that also damaged or destroyed several other buildings, including loft apartments where several families were made homeless.
I remember K Wolens very well with its piece goods (sewing material) downstairs, its men’s department and shoes downstairs and the ladies’ wear on the balcony that it shared with the office. I don’t remember what the machine was called, but sales were totaled in a rare way by sending sale slips to the office from the point of sales to the office in an overhead electric bucket, where clerks noted the receipt and sent it back the same way to the sales person.
But what I remember most about K Wolens was their gold stamps. I’ve found on Internet any number of gold stamps with different names. I don’t remember if ours had a special name, but like Green Stamps came to be known, you could get some really nice gifts by saving those little stamps and pasting them in a booklet. That’s where my turkey platter came from probably 60 years or more ago.
My mother sewed a lot of garments and we purchased children’s clothing from K Wolens so we acquired books of gold stamps pretty often. The gifts were displayed on the stairway to what now was the loft. I remember always having something picked out that I saved stamps to “purchase.” Like the other stamps that became so popular, I suspect that Gold Stamps probably were the first to catch on with homemakers.
I thought my turkey platter had been lost or broken for several years until I accidentally spied it hiding behind the pots and pans. The last few years it didn’t have the meaning to me that it does today, but you can be sure that it will grace our Thanksgiving dinner table this year.
While looking for information on K. Wolens, I’m sure several other people were doing the same thing. My friend Jim Sears, former Denisonian who now lives in Indiana, shared a clipping he found taken from The Denison Press, on Friday, Jan. 22, 1960. Jim found the article along with a picture on the Portal to Texas History and according to the information, the article was written by LeRoy M. Anderson.
Unfortunately, the print was pretty faded so my tired eyes had a hard time reading it but the headline reads “Renfrow starts sixth year as manager Wolens”. That person I remember well as Roscoe Renfrow who came to the Denison store after his service during World War II,
Jay Marvin Wolens graduated from Texas A&M after his release from the Navy during World War II and began working for his family’s Texas retail chain, the K Wolens Department Stores. They stores that eventually numbered 50 in small towns around Texas, were founded in 1898 by Jay’s grandfather Kalman Wolens.
“Mr. K,” as he was fondly known, had immigrated to Corsicana from Poland, via Chicago, with his wife, Ida, and four children. After borrowing money from a local Jewish family, he opened a small clothing store, which all of his sons, including Jay’s father, Max, eventually helped expand.
The stores were sold in 1976 and I’m not certain when the business closed. I do remember the four sided mirrored from a shade of blue glass and the name K Wolens in the tile of the sidewalk at the entrance to the store.
Luxor remodeled and opened the very attractive store several months ago and the balcony became at least one loft apartment.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.