The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 31, 2013

Businessman George Waken dies

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — George Waken, an Enid business leader, recently died at age 86.

The funeral service will be 1 p.m. today at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, with the Rev. Rajesh Mankena officiating. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery under the direction of Anderson-Burris Funeral Home.

Waken was born June 6, 1926, in Creston, Iowa, and died March 25. He grew up in Enid and attended St. Joseph’s School, and graduated from St. Joseph’s Military Academy in Hays, Kan. He served in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor during World War II. After the war, he attended Oklahoma A&M, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, then returned to Enid and opened Boys Market with his two brothers. He worked there until retirement in 2003.

Nephew Brad Waken said he first worked with his uncle and grew up with him at the Boys Market. George Waken was an avid car collector and owned a Cord, plus about 14 other pre-war vintage autos. He started the collection in the 1950s, Brad Waken said.

“He also collected Model A, Model T, Packards — he liked the pre-war cars. He liked the 1930-1940-era car styles,” Brad Waken said.

George Waken worked on the cars himself and drove them. He later began bringing Brad along and teaching him how to work on them. The last 25 years, he drove the Cord to car shows across the United States.

He drove the two-seat vehicle, which he purchased in the 1960s, about 90,000 miles around the country. Waken said George covered the entire U.S., going to car shows from California to the northern U.S. and back to southern Texas. Along the way, he met with friends and family and stopped to visit.

On the business side, his father, Charley, owned a grocery store called Charley’s Grocery at Maine and Grand. After George’s Navy discharge, he spent some time in California with a brother, then returned to Enid, where he and brothers Charles II and Bill started the Boys Market in the 300 block of East Maine.

They grew the stores into a chain of four stores, operating them until George retired in 2003. Waken said his uncle learned all parts of the grocery business when growing up, trading with farmers and ranchers.

“In those days, when they brought the chickens in, they were still clucking, (and) today’s (are) pre-packaged and ready to go,” Waken said. They went from writing orders in pencil and paper to cash registers, then to computers.

During the 1930s, there were more than 30 grocery stores downtown. One sold produce, another was a butcher, and others sold other groceries. Today, grocers are a one-stop business: Everything the customer wants is in one place.

The grocery stores went from 2,500 square feet to an 8,000-square-foot store on East Maine. The southside store grew to 23,000 square feet.

George was a member of Oklahoma Independent Grocers Association and National Grocers Association. At 86 years old, he had outlived most of his friends, Brad Waken said.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, V.F.W. and American Legion. He also was a member of the  Auburn Cord Dusenberg Club for 50 years.

He is survived by his brother William “Bill” Waken and wife Emily of Enid, sister Gloria Waken Morrison of Austin, Texas, and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Anne Waken, and brothers Harvard and Charles.

Memorials may be made to Our Daily Bread or Cimarron Council Boy Scouts.