Americana on the Corner – Kinnear Store

    The store is still there, but the rest of the little town of Kinnear has changed dramatically over the last six decades.

    N.B. Kinnear founded the little town before undergoing foreclosure in 1930, as banks called notes after the stock market crash the year before.

    Kinnear had a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church on the Northwest corner for many years, and a motel across the highway to the south.

    An oasis on the way west from Riverton – the Kinnear Store – h/t Randy Tucker

    On the opposite corner, Clarence “Speed” Hartbank had an automotive shop and spent many long days repairing cars and trucks for people from Shoshoni to Dubois.

    Farmer’s Packing, started by Floyd and Eleanor Westlake, and later owned by his son Bruce and daughter-in-law Evelyn opened on September 25, 1954.

    The Morton-Kinnear Fire Department, the first rural volunteer fire department in Wyoming was on the final corner.

    The only two remaining are the Morton-Kinner Fire Department, now in a much larger, more modern building, and the Kinnear Store, remodeled but still in the same building.

    The Kinnear Store, selling Conoco Gasoline in the early 1940s – h/t Marilyn Lund

    The Kinnear Store began business in the 1930s, started by a man named Cardwell, but it became synonymous with the Lund family, and long-time owner Oscar Lund.

    Between the Cardwell’s building the store and Oscar taking ownership, Earl and Stella Gardner owned it.

    The Gardner’s were more noted for opening Gardner’s Market two-and-a-half miles west of Kinnear in 1947, but they first purchased the Kinnear store.

    They ran the store from 1944 when they bought it from Cardwell until 1947 when they moved west, and Oscar purchased the store.

    The store came with the Kinnear Post Office.

    Oscar and a friend at the Post Office window – h/t Marilyn Lund

    The Post Office is a separate building now but was located in the rear of the store for decades.

    Oscar was a keen businessman, who knew his clientele well and an avid outdoorsman. With those two interests, he made the store more than just a place to buy gas and a few groceries but a stop for hunters and fishermen headed west towards the Wind River Mountains.

    Oscar’s daughter-in-law, Marilyn, wife of the late Gary Lund managed the store and served as postmaster for a long time.

    The couple raised four children, Vance, Verlin, Vonnie, and Vickie as Marilyn worked at the store and post office and Gary taught elementary school in Pavillion.

    “Earl Gardner built up the store,” Marilyn said. “Oscar bought it from Gardner’s, then they went up country to Gardner’s Market. I just managed it for Oscar at the store, he had the post office at that time too.”

    A young customer enters the store in the 1950s – h/t Marilyn Lund

    Gary and Marilyn were close friends with Floyd and Eleanor as active members of the Sunnyside Church of the Nazarene just two miles east of Kinnear.

    It was the Nazarene Church that brought Gary and Marilyn together.

    Gary was an active teenager at Morton High School and well known across the county. Marilyn was from St. Paul, Minnesota.

    The flyer advertising the grand opening of Farmers Packing in 1954 – h/t Marilyn Lund

    “I met Gary at Northwest Nazarene College in Idaho, which was one of the furthest states served by Northwest Nazarene,” Marilyn said. “As a kid, my father worked on the railroad. Every time I would go back and forth to school the train would always stop in Cheyenne, they had a nice depot. I was 17 years old and thought to myself I think I like Wyoming, I think I’ll live here someday. They stopped going to Cheyenne, and they moved the train depot to Rock Springs.”

    Marilyn came to Wyoming in 1959 after marrying Gary.

    Oscar and his wife Naomi came to Kinnear in 1941 from Ansley, Nebraska.

    Phillips 66 Pumps at the Kinnear Store circa 1955 – h/t Marilyn Lund

    The couple had four children, Gayle, Allene, Marva, and Gary. America was pulling out of the Great Depression with the start of World War II, but Wyoming’s economy is always slower than the rest of the nation and Oscar was looking for a business with a steady income to raise his family. He found it in 1947 at Kinnear.

    Gasoline pumps, Conoco for a few years, Phillips for a while, and Texaco as well, cold storage, a meat counter, produce, and locally processed milk from Riverton highlighted his inventory.

    Until the 1980s, the Kinnear area was home to many dairy farms, most of them within five miles of Kinnear, but the raw milk had to be shipped to Riverton to be homogenized and have the cream separated.

    Oscar has regular milk, butter, and cheese delivered to the store from the Riverton Creamery.

    He sold Sweetheart Bread as well, a slightly different offering than his friendly rivals down the road at Gardner’s market offered in Bunny Bread.

    The Kinnear Store didn’t process meat, but they sold it, especially bacon.

    The Kinnear Store and adjacent motel in the 1950s after a snowstorm – h/t Marilyn Lund

    “We bought bacon in big slabs, whole sides,” Marilyn said. “Our Native American customers wanted it whole, unsliced. When they ordered bacon, Oscar would pull out a big, sharp knife and ask them how much they wanted. He’d slice it to size, weigh it, wrap it, and hand it to them.”

    Oscar ran the store on a cash-and-carry basis as many rural stores did from the 1940s to the 1970s.

    Since he had the post office located inside the store, customers often went inside just to get their mail and stopped to buy a few groceries while they were there.

    “When the allotment checks came out they were mailed. Many of Oscar’s Native American customers picked up their mail with us since there wasn’t much rural delivery in those days,” Marilyn said. “He would cash their checks for them, deduct what they owed on account, and everyone was happy with the arrangement.”

    Many of the farmers kept accounts until the harvest with Oscar carrying them for several months before they paid up on their accounts.

    The Kinnear Store when it was Z’s Country Corner – h/t Marilyn Lund

    Carrying quality produce is a challenge for any grocery store, no matter the size, but it is especially challenging for small rural stores. Produce can spoil in just a few days and lost inventory can break a business.

    Oscar managed to carry popular varieties of good quality produce, and customers appreciated the effort, picking up most of it while it was still fresh.

    Oscar was an avid outdoorsman, especially when it came to fishing. If you needed advice on where the fish were biting, and what they were hitting on, Oscar was your man.

    He carried Pflueger reels, a variety of one and two-piece rods, and an assortment of hooks, lures, sinkers, and creels. The Kinnear Store was the only place to buy hunting and fishing licenses from Shoshoni and Riverton to Crowheart. The sale of licenses with the inventory of angling supplies made the store a very popular place during summer fishing and fall hunting seasons.

    The store was a bus stop for children and teenagers after the Wind River District was created in 1969. The west bus, driven by Les Saunders would rendezvous with the east bus driven by Elmer Portlock, and exchange kids at the store. Elmer’s bus always arrived 10 minutes early and Marilyn was always kind and happy to see the kids. Often the older kids would wait outside on warm days, but everyone was inside the store during the winter months.

    An aerial view of the Kinnear Store in 1959 – h/t Marilyn Lund

    The elementary students loaded on Elmer’s bus to go to the K-8 school at Pavillion and the high school kids loaded with Les for the five-mile ride to Wind River High School at Morton.

    One warm spring day in early May, Marilyn was running the store and Oscar pulled up excitedly outside. He told the boys standing outside to come to his car and yelled inside the store in case he missed anyone.

    He opened the trunk and there was a huge lake trout, stretching from wheel well to wheel well across the trunk. He’d caught it early that morning at Bull Lake and was making all the stops on the way home to show off his prize catch.

    Marilyn ran the post office during the week but had the weekends off and was often still at the store on Saturdays.

    I did work on Saturdays,” Marilyn said. “Oscar was granted a clerk for Saturday, then I worked in the store for a little.”

    One of Marilyn’s last acts as Kinnear’s postmaster was to contact the state postmaster general and request a new post office.

    The Kinnear Store has changed dramatically over the last 75 years – h/t Randy Tucker

    “I thought we were due for a new one,” Marilyn said. “and they agreed.”

    The new post office is just a few feet west of the store with a shared restroom between the two buildings.

    Restrooms were another service that Oscar offered at the Kinnear Store. You didn’t have to be a paying customer to use the restrooms. Gary and Marilyn were surprised one day to discover that not all stores were so obliging.

    “When Byrce (Westlake) was five years old, we stopped with Floyd and Eleanor and went for a ride one Sunday afternoon,” Marilyn said. “We stopped at the Waltman Store, and they charged Floyd and Eleanor 50 cents to use the bathroom.”

    There were several owners after Oscar sold the store, and presently Lori and Andy Davidson own and operate it.

    The store is once again up for sale.

    “I’m tired of being owned by the store,” Lori said of the tremendous time requirement running a store requires.

    The store still sells groceries, ice cream, and gasoline and has a dining area inside where locals frequently meet. They added a liquor store a few years ago as well.

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