I Remember Ned Stewart’s Grocery

In this day of credit checks, and background checks, and people who won’t take your personal checks, young people would never believe that once there lived a place like Ned Stewart’s Grocery, would they? And yes, I used the word lived purposely because that is the way it was once upon a time in Comanche, Texas. Ned’s (as we called it) was a living, breathing part of the community, maybe even its heartbeat and its pulse as well, and I know that many of you remember exactly what I mean, don’t you?

Yes, visiting Ned’s was like visiting Mayberry, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t love the experience and who didn’t leave feeling better about life than he did when he entered the little store?

I’ve actually been thinking about Ned’s quite a lot these days, and it finally dawned on me that the story of Ned’s Grocery is one that needs to be saved so…I picked up the phone, called Wayne, and set up an interview with both him and Sibyl…and just as happened when I left the store, I left feeling just a little bit better about life once again!

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Ned Stewart was the oldest son of Luke and Dolly Williford Stewart, and when he returned from the service in 1945 0r ’46, he and wife, Lorene (McNutt), bought an old service station. The couple then expanded the station so that they could add groceries. Thus was the beginning of Ned’s Grocery, the place where every kid in town (or  so it seemed) was allowed to come in, grab a treat, and sign a ticket for it!

The store was open seven days a week, and by the late 1950s or early ’60s, Ned and Lorene were tired. They actually sold the store to Fred Hall, who owned it for about a year before a rested Ned bought it back. He had to buy it; the old store was just meant to be owned by a Stewart, plain and simple.

This time, Ned and Lorene kept the store until 1968 when they sold it to Buddy Hicks. Buddy owned it for a month or two and realized that it was way too confining for him, and he sold it to Wayne and Nell and Bill and Sibyl, all Stewarts, brothers and sisters-in-law, to be exact, and they like Ned before them understood the old store and its role in the community.

The only thing the foursome changed was that they decided to open six days a week instead of seven. In fact, it was Bill who said that if they couldn’t make a living in six days, they’d quit. However, they did not quit so I assume the six days must have worked just fine!

According to Wayne, at one time there were six family members working there: brothers Wayne, Bill, Paul, brother-in-law Ollie, wives Nell and Sibyl.

Sibyl continued to work at the bank, but she did her share of the work at the store as well, working weekends and closing every other night with Bill.

“I never minded it. It was our living, and it was fun! Every old woman in town came in there just to aggravate the ‘boys.’ People just enjoyed coming in.”

(When Sibyl said the “boys,” I knew exactly what she meant since I still call my brothers “the boys.”)

Wayne chimed in, “What we enjoyed most was seeing the people.  We had people who came every day and some twice a day just to visit. We got the news of the whole county every day from those who stopped there. Plus, back then, we knew all of the kids in town. Today, I go to basketball games, and I realize that I don’t know the kids anymore.”

Bill and Sibyl retired from the store in 1982, but Bill continued to come everyday to take care of the car wash they had built by then.  Wayne and Nell carried the torch until they also retired in 1995.

I suppose it would be almost impossible for a store like Ned’s to compete in today’s economy; however, I also know that every little town needs a Ned’s. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have had that place in our lives are much richer because of it, aren’t we?

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 I have so many memories of Ned’s Grocery that it is impossible for me to list them in any order. I hope you will list yours in the comment boxes below.

1. The old wooden floors were seasoned from decades of use. I can still see them perfectly in my mind.

2. Remember the coke box where you could reach in and pick your drink? I may be wrong about calling it a coke box, but that is what I see in my mind.

3. Everyone was jolly at Ned’s. It did not matter who was working; it was always fun. Remember Paul? Laughing, laughing, Paul was always laughing as he pumped my gas or washed my windshield.

4. Of course, I remember signing a ticket. I suppose every kid around thought he was as cool as I did when I signed my own ticket!

5. After we moved to junior high, we could walk up to Ned’s at lunch time and buy a sandwich or a hot dog. That was such a nice break from school! I’m sure closed campuses are necessary, but it is such a shame that today’s kids will never know the fun of leaving school at lunch time.

6. Ollie worked in the meat market. I can remember standing in front of the old glass case and watching him slice my meat into just the right thickness.

7. At Ned’s there was a back door. Why I thought I could slip in the backdoor and shop when I didn’t look like coming in the front door, I’m not quite sure!

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About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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33 Responses to I Remember Ned Stewart’s Grocery

  1. Justin B says:

    Enjoyed this one Fredda. Wayne and & Nell always had a cold Dr Pepper for me after a day at elementary school. Hadn’t thought about Ned’s in years, glad you reminded me.

    • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

      Justin, I had no idea that Ned’s was established in the 40s until I did the interview! When I was in junior high (which was your intermediate building) we walked to Ned’s every day for lunch. It was such a nice break from school!!

  2. Vickie Harvick says:

    I miss the small town grocery stores! For that matter, I miss the small town everything! I have great childhood memories of Saturday shopping in the 50’s – 60’s. Would walk to town with my Grandmother Cotney (because she never saw the need to drive) umbrella in hand to provide shade, with the intent of meeting up with her friends Mrs Minnie Cox, Mrs Gamblin, Mrs Lamb and possibly others that I just can not recall at the moment. That was before the four lane highway! They would meet in the lounge of Perry Bros. 5 and 10. What precious memories! I also remember shopping with my girl friend Vicki Livingston Tackett at the 5 and 10 when we were teenagers. Life was so simple for us children back then.

  3. Dana McDougal says:

    Ahhh….those really were the good ole days! I loved going there. I too remember the wood floors and I always just felt at home there. I loved getting a super cold coke and a bag of peanuts and of course, put the peanuts in the coke. What a treat! Oh, and signing the ticket was way cool.

  4. Travis Huckaby says:

    Every day after school, mom would take us there for candy and she would do most of her grocery shopping. I remember that old wooden floor and how you could see through most it. I drove through Comanche for the first time in over ten years not too long ago and caught myself looking to see if Ned’s was there anymore….good times!

  5. Traci says:

    My brother and I would walk up to Ned’s after school. Wow, what memories!

  6. H.R. Jefferies says:

    As my boys charged a candy bar or a drink on the way home it was my duty to go down and pay once or twice a month for their charges. Even I bought the good fried chicken that they sold. The meat counter was the best in town.

  7. bonnie huett says:

    I think Wayne Stewart could cut up a whole fryer the best of anyone I ever knew. I miss that the most as I would go home and fry it. After they closed I tried so hard to remember how he did it but I never did get it mastered. I remember when someone passed away they would call Ned’s and order batches of fried chicken to take to people’s home and Wayne always had it ready. It is definitely a Comanche icon gone but not forgotten by those who got to enjoy the custom service.

  8. Joyce Moss says:

    Thank you, Fredda, for such a wonderful story about my family’s store. It’s also so nice to see people’s comments about their memories of the store. I love reading all these things and remembering all the good times at the store. Thank you.

  9. Polly Reed says:

    My mother bought meals DAILY at Stewards…she did until her death in 1988. It was often her outing for the day, and yes, the meat was the best in town. What a blessing that store was for her! I loved the quick stops there though and also having someone pump my gas! I also loved getting finished with art classes for the day and the luxury of eating with them sometime!

  10. sandy blackwood says:

    Ahhh, Ned’s. How well I remember either riding my horse or my bike to Ned’s to pick up something for Mother. A-n-d the BEST part of that trip, was putting my hand in one or both candy jars by the coke box and withdrawing those little peanut butter bars and/or a handful of bubble gun or whatever was in the opposite jar. Great Memories!!!!!!

  11. Sherry walker says:

    Yes, that store was the coolest. Of course it was because it belonged to two cool people, my grandparents! I have so many memories of the store as well… The ice cream was perfection… And of course when we had to go home, granny always packed us a small brown bag full of candy. The best is pawpaws fried chicken… He still makes it for us if we hound him enough!!! This was a treat. Thank you for this!!!

    • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

      Thank you so much for sharing memories!

    • Norm Carmack says:

      Hi Sherry,
      Are the ‘Grandparents’ you speak of, Lorene McNutt and Ned Stewart? If so, Lorene’s parents were Bob and Ruby McNutt. Bob was my Grandmother’s brother (Lena McNutt).

      Do you have any history, photos, material on the McNutts, perhaps.? If so, I’d love to communicate with you and perhaps share some info…

      Love,

      Norm Carmack
      Austin, TX

      • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

        Norm, I thought I’d jump in here and tell you that we have a family history section at the Comanche Historical Museum, and if you two get together and share info we would love a chance to build a notebook on these lines of your family. Thanks so much! Fredda

  12. Jesse Grimmer says:

    Ned’s was one of the places where I learned the art of kindness. I wonder if Wayne realizes how many young people learned how to treat people with kindness and dignity by watching him run the store. It did not matter who you were, where you lived, or what ethnicity you might have been born with…when you walked in you were greeted, served, and thanked. If you spent more than five minutes at Ned’s then you must have seen the soft smile on Nell’s face as she watched somebody sign a ticket. I realize now that in some cases that smile was designed to make that person feel at ease because they both new there wasn’t going to be payment for those items any time soon, if ever. That person walked out knowing he/she had been granted an act of kindness while allowing all dignity to remain fully intact. Those of us fortunate enough to witness these moments learned what unconditional kindness is. One might say that a trip to Ned’s was like going to Sunday School, because I learned more about what being “Christ-like” means there than I ever did at Church.

  13. Lavonne Stone says:

    Thought that I would add this little bit of info. My dad Fred Hall and his brother John Hall bought Ned’s Grocery at one point. I was just a young girl so I don’t really know the details, but they sold it back to Ned, and I believe that it was because Ned wanted it back. That’s not written in stone of course, I just know that my dad and Uncle John owned it for a short time.

  14. Rebeckyjohnson@yahoo.com says:

    We lived close enough that we either rode our bikes or walked to the store. I remember turning in empty coke bottles. We would then spend our hard earned money on Candy. Lol!!! We would also sell squash, carrots, and cucumbers to them out of our garden. James Atchley and I thought we were so big doing that. It was a lot of fun. Most of all I remember how safe it was and how much they each cared for every child that walked through that door. Wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Jodi says:

    I still give directions to my house as “turn at Ned’s” most everyone from around here know exactly where I am talking about! The one’s that don’t certainly missed knowing about a great place! My grandparents picked me up from school every day, they would frequently take me by Neds to “pick out something good” Great story, thanks for sharing!

  16. Josh Thompson says:

    Great article! Still remember riding my bicycle up to the store. There were usually three or four of us boys together. Most often Chad Elrod, Randy Buchanan, and myself because we all lived pretty close. Yes Fredda I do remember that coke box! There was not much like coming in on a hot day after we had circled the town several times on our bikes and being able to pull out an ice cold Dr. Pepper or an RC! I do find it a little depressing that our children will never have an opportunity to experience life as we did growing up in Comanche. I miss that small town family atmosphere!

  17. Chad Elrod says:

    I often think of Ned’s as it was “our” grocery store! I treated many friends to snacks by signing the ticket and thought I was hot stuff! I remember that Bill, Wayne, Sybl & Nell would let me know when I went a little overboard and would make me put a few things back. Our “bike gang” would end up at Ned’s a couple times a day in the summer. Sometimes Wayne would give us a soda pop on the house and that was so nice of him.

    I was infatuated with the meat freezer where they hung the sides of beef. As a youngster I would ask to go in there every time I went. Bill used to tell me if I stayed in there too long the Abominable Snowman would appear and keep me in there for ever! After Bill stepped away from the store Wayne continued the teasing threat but I believed it.

    Right after they polished the wood floor I would take off my shoes and run and slide from the start of the isle all the way to the end … it was the isle opposite of the meat market side of the store.

    I would beg Mom and Dad to get Ned’s fried chicken at least once per week. When he was frying a chicken I would always ask for the pieces of fried crunchy awesomeness of batter that fell off. You could smell the fried chicken cooking all the way from our house on North Mary street I swear!

    The best thing about Ned’s was indeed the family atmosphere and the humble yet quaint homely aura of the place. Ned’s played a huge role in my young life and I am so very thankful to the Stewart Family for all the amazing service, quality products (especially the Chic-O-Sticks) and life lessons I learned from them.

    Thank you to Josh Thompson for sending this article to me and what an AMAZING piece by Mrs. Jones to remind us all how lucky we were to not only grow up in Comanche but be a part of our own Americana there! Comanche will always be home to me!

  18. Kathleen Daniel says:

    I remember this store a lot of my friends and I walked there all the time to get snacks and here some cool stories I miss the old store wonderful times..

  19. JR Suniga says:

    Thanks for sharing. Ned’s I can still smell the aroma of the store! Wished kids now days could have the opportunity to see life as it was before all this technology comps,games,cell phones etc. If only we could turn back the hands of time I would definately make a stop by Ned’s just to here the little bell when the door opened and get me some of the cool kids goodies they had to to offer. Good times. Sure do miss those days!

  20. Teleisha says:

    I worked there the summer I graduated.. Kent and Lyn Easley ran it then. It was so fun. I loved how the customers could come in, by something and just sign the ticket.. You can’t hardly do that anywhere now days. One of my favorite places I worked.

  21. nesilen says:

    Ned, Wayne and Bill are my uncles. Love all of them. As a child loved going to “the store” Ned and Lorene always gave my brother, George, and I candy or ice cream or something delicious. I speak about the store often. Such a great memory.

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