Getting to know longtime PK Resident, Shawn Humphries

A man with many hats…

Story by Michelle Ince | Photos by Erika CarterA collage of men in a garage

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Shawn Humphries wears many hats. Not only is he a local business owner and justice of the peace, he’s also a founding member of the Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce and was part of a group that helped revitalize Possum Kingdom Lake at one of its lowest points.

He got to the lake in a roundabout way, though. His father was from Jack County and traveled due to his work for Texaco. While in West Texas, he met his wife, and the couple originally lived in the West Texas town of Crosbyton.

They didn’t settle there for long, though. The elder Humphries had a family farm north of Graford that he and his wife would visit on days off to work on, and it was during this time that they had a chance encounter with a local man named Cedar Shewmake. That led to the couple purchasing a service station in Graford in 1964.

Humphries said it had been his dad’s dream to own his own business, and the service station was the perfect fit. The original location was behind the old cowboy church in Graford, and Humphries recalled that “it was a two-pump Texaco station that looked like something out of a Normal Rockwell painting.”

It was during this time that Humphries’ mother rented a spot in the local barber shop and fixed hair for a short while. He said his dad eventually bought a small portable building and put it next to the service station from 1965 to 1966, and his mother moved her business into it.

Humphries said his mother opened her own shop to help young girls get established, including Helen Warren, Mindy Denton and Teresa Cason.

In 1968 the family set up shop where The Cafe now is located. Humphries said his family lived in the back.

“When I go in there with my family and look at the beer coolers, I think there’s where my bedroom used to be,” he said.

Shewmake had gone on to work for Southern Airways in the meantime, but by 1974 the airline had gone out of business, so Shewmake bought the station back.

It was during this time that there was a small oil boom in Graford, which led Humphries and his dad to find work in the oilfield. By 1978, Shewmake was ready to sell the service station again, so the Humphries decided to buy it again.

“We never owned the building,” he said.

Eventually the building did sell, and Humphries’ dad decided to take his family and head out to the lake to start another service station, where PK One Stop is now.

As they were starting the new business, his father had a heart attack, so Humphries took over setting up and running the station in 1983.

It was also about this time that Humphries met his wife, Ann, who was going through cosmetology school after having spent time in the corporate world. As Humphries became the official owner of the lake station, his wife opened her salon in 1987.

Shortly after they both became business owners, Humphries said, the bottom fell out at the lake. Financial security was hard to come by, and the couple took on extra work to make ends meet.

“Everyone tried to sell their houses,” Humphries said as he recalled the mass exodus from the lake.

With no people, there was no money, but the newlyweds were committed to staying afloat.

“We did everything we could for three years,” Humphries said.

Whether it was helping remodel homes or building retaining walls, the full-time business owner found side jobs to pay the bills, while his wife also worked at the station when she wasn’t toiling at her own business. That meant working nights, weekends and holidays.

The lake was suffering more every year, too, as the water level was forcibly kept low while the Brazos River Authority made needed repairs on the Morris Sheppard Dam, but once repairs were completed and the lake level came back up, the lake economy didn’t.

It also was around this time that the lake received some bad press, so PK local Lon Williams decided to start a newspaper called the Lake Country Sun. Williams, along with Humphries and other business owners at the time, decided it was necessary to band together to reestablish the reputation of Possum Kingdom Lake. They formed the Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce to get the word out about the area – and hopefully save the lake themselves.

The chamber’s board was formed in December 1988. Humphries served on the board, and his wife was with him every step of the way, too. In fact, she served twice as its president.

Humphries said the chamber began modestly, with $2,000 in the bank and a $20,000 budget.

“We sat down and hand-drew a map of the lake and made flyers,” he said. “We went to every trade show, every boat show, anything within a hundred-mile drive, promoting Possum Kingdom.”

The Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce sold caps and T-shirts, and it soon began taking on local projects, too.

“We inherited the fireworks show,” he said adding that the chamber also “did the kids’ Christmas shop because we were an entity.”

The problem was the chamber didn’t have any money, and holding these events without funding was nearly impossible, so the board held fundraisers, including haunted houses for Halloween, in an effort to bring in as much revenue as possible. Humphries said the brochures got better as time went on, and he reflected on how amazing it has been to see how far the chamber has come, too.

The economy slowly began to rebound, too, so in 2003 he decided to sell his station by The Trading Post.

His local customers, however, weren’t ready to let Humphries’ mechanics business go. He needed a new location to build his shop, so Humphries said it made sense to put it behind his wife’s business, explaining that they already owned the land.

He jokingly added that it wasn’t exactly the backyard pool she wanted, but “it just made fiscal sense to put all our eggs in one basket.”

In addition to being a business owner, Humphries also is a justice of the peace, a position he considered taking for many years after watching his predecessor, Edgar Laney.

“Judge Laney had always been fair and done a good job,” he said. “I told him if he ever retired, I was going to run.”

Humphries, who was elected to the position in 2006, said there’s a lot more to it than he originally thought. He described the criminal side of it as easy, but added that serving as a magistrate includes attending classes and continuous training.

Being a business owner and a justice of the peace may seem like a lot to take on – but, as Humphries explained, he and his wife “try to give back to those who gave to us.”

“We never had a lot of money, but we do what we can,” he said. “We have a lot of friends, not a lot of customers.”