This small town store has been known to many Oklahomans and become an “attraction” to those traveling along Highway 152 through Cogar, Oklahoma. Until 2020, the building remained untouched and still had everything in it from the day it closed in 1980. Price tags on unsold sunglasses, refreshments in the refrigerator, and records dating all the way back to the fifties. For many years Carl Lehman lived in the family house directly behind the store since his family first moved there in ’58 until 2012 when the upkeep became too much. Carl still lives nearby and continued to dream about one day saving this little piece of history he grew up with.
That’s where we got the idea to start our History Rescue Program through The Abandoned Atlas Foundation. We started working with Carl to gather materials, volunteers and a plan of what needed to be done. Over the course of three months we gathered a hundred volunteers. Many of them were interested in the century-old W.S. Kelly Store.
Our first volunteer day was in March 2020 starting with much-needed lawn care and some cleanup outside. One of the more important things done that day was scouring the property out back for the old Lehman Store signs which took a total of two hours to dig out of the ground.
Our next few volunteer days focused on cleaning up debris on the inside and in the alleyway beside the building. Plywood, trees, metal, and troughs were pulled out and hauled off. Inside years of dust and debris had piled on the floors, barrels were filled with the debris and nonimportant items and loaded onto a truck to be disposed of. Windows and display cases were windexed while a forgotten about cellar was discovered in the back! The biggest project was repainting the faded sign on the front of the building. You could still make out the heavily faded words of W.S. Kelly General Merchandise but we wanted to bring new life to it by repainting it.