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Imagine the 1800s, as you lean on a hitching post tucked between the Nutt Brothers’ General Store and other small town establishments. Imagine horse-drawn wagons and carriages pulling into and out of the wagon yard in a cloud of dust. A driver calls, “Gee!” and “Haw!” Families, with kids in tow, jump down, ready to explore the delights of town, as the sights and sounds of country folks coming into town paint a picture of yesteryear. Through the years the building has also been a feed store, a restaurant and a photography studio.
In the 1930s Ray King was growing up in Aledo. His mom had died when he was six, but over the years Ray’s family became friends with a family at church. They lived in Millsap and had a cute young daughter, Modena. At the age of twelve, Modena lost her father. When Ray and Modena were grown, his dad and her mom married. A year later Ray and Modena married.
“He’s my husband and my step-brother.” Modena explained. I was from a big, close family and Ray worked in a business with his brothers.” Ray and Modena King, bound together by faith, hope and love, created a family—five boys and three girls. She shared her memories with us, “Ray always loved antiques. He’s always been a salesman, selling Jewel T products, furniture and antiques. When we moved to Iowa in 1969, Ray began collecting them. He had barns full and finally opened an antique store in Aplington, Iowa. Our kids have always worked with us in our businesses. Dianne King Amyett and Phillip King, our two oldest, began helping in high school. We’re a close family.” Modena spent her days as a stay-at-home mom.
Over the years the King family changed just as the Granbury old wagon yard structure and landscape changed. By the 1950s the original structure had expanded to nearly 9,000 square feet. In 1976, when Modena and Ray moved back to Texas, Ray secured the wagon yard building to house the antiques and collectibles he had transported from Aplington. Since that time, Ray and family developed the business from an antique store to a conglomeration of merchandise to delight shoppers and meet the needs of businesses and individuals throughout the country.
Today the historic site is a business called the Wagon Yard, owned by all eight children of Ray and Modena King. It’s operated by three of Ray’s sons, and several family members are on staff. Sam King remembers:
“I was in my last year of high school when dad opened the store, so I mostly helped by picking up merchandise and hanging things,” Sam shared. “Then I worked building apartments, and could only help out part time.” Now Sam is general manager at the Wagon Yard. “It’s a special, unique place,” Sam added. “Jon manages the lighting department and Aaron manages the financial part of the business.”
Over the years Elisabeth King Clem, Sarah King Stewart and Stephen King all shared in the work, love and imagination that has created the store most people call their favorite.
“I remember running the halls as a toddler and growing up with the many different employees over the years.” Aaron, the baby of the family recalls. “For many of us in the family, we have watched the property evolve over the years. The property is a major part of my life and heritage.”
Ray loved the downtown events. “The Fourth of July was his favorite,” Aaron recalled. “He would arrange for music bands to perform on the parking lot of the Wagon Yard. He enjoyed all the planning and preparations, whether it was hooking up the horse and buggy and riding it in the parade or driving his restored 1931 Ford Model A. Many times he would be seen around the Square wearing his black suspenders and black bow-tie, and often he shared his music at different venues.” Even after suffering a severe health setback, Ray shared his music with many patients in his healthcare facility, reviving their memories.
In the late 1970s, Ray’s love for music took form in a music room. Big Band era music filled the room and spilled out into the other nooks and crannies, earning a reputation for the music room as a place to find recordings and sheet music for specific artists and different eras. For most customers, and those who just can’t resist looking around, Ray’s music room is most memorable.
“Having the opportunity to work with family and friends and being a part of history-rich downtown Granbury community is rewarding.” Aaron explained. “I have the flexibility to be part of our children’s everyday life and special events.” The Wagon Yard store is continually changing, just as the site did in the last two centuries. For Ray, Modena and their children, the Wagon Yard is part of the family. “The thing that never changes,” Aaron says, “is the family-oriented, hometown friendliness that people feel when they walk through the Wagon Yard.”
A new King generation is on the horizon. Corbin appreciates the merchandise up-dates already, and he’s only eleven-years-old. “I like going through the rooms and seeing what is new,” he said. The youngest member of the King family, two-year old Cashion says, “I like to play with the cowboy guns.” “Family is important…” Ray King shared, searching for more words before he continued in a slower, softer voice, “…and Christ.”
The wagon yard continues to thrive into another century. The original stone building and wood floors never looked so good. Unique, historic and yet it provides an ambiance of gracious living. The King family offers memories of yesterday, while providing the style of today on a historic plot of land called the “wagon yard”.