Texas History

Do You Like to Helpy-Selfy? Well, They Sure Did In Dallas Back in the 1920s and '30s.

It's too late to bid on the photo above -- it's a couple days past closing time. But good news for those of who don't tire of these detours into Dallas's ancient history: No one bought this picture (going for a lousy $24.99) of a grocery I'd never heard of till Friend of Unfair Park PeterK sent it my way -- the Helpy-Selfy, otherwise known as Best Grocery Store Name Ever. Perhaps the seller's willing to make a deal.

The Google Machine reveals this much about the grocer: The name and logo (which I'm having put on a T-shirt as speak) was patented in 1920, and the self-serve store was considered an imitator of Piggly Wiggly, which opened a few years earlier. (The name Helpy-Selfy Stores Company of Dallas wasn't incorporated till April 25, 1927.) Says here that Helpy-Selfy owned and operated by a man named Daniel Weedon "until he went broke during the depression."

There were at least two locations locally: one along Knox Street near the Park Cities (close to the Clarence Saunders Store, so named for the Piggly Wiggly founder) and another in Oak Cliff, which caught fire in Septeber 1930 after a blaze at a nearby lumberyard on Cumberland and Jefferson.

The Oak Cliff store was designed by Clyde H. Griesenbeck, the architect best known for "several of his Tudor Revival residences, as well as designing large projects for Buckner Orphanage and the Terrill Hospital," according to the Dallas Public Library's archives. And according to the University of North Texas archives, there were other Helpy-Selfys across Texas, like this one in Childress County, which doesn't have the neato logo. An obit for a man named Arthur Lee "Art" Fletcher recalls one in Gainesville as well. And here's a research paper that found one in Austin in 1924.

More close-ups here. Mmmm, rabbit and oysters. Help yourself.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky