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Texas Bodega: 1939

Texas Bodega: 1939

March 1939. "Small Mexican grocery store. San Antonio, Texas." Medium format acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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A-B Syrup

The photo was taken some five years after Prohibition ended. Perhaps it was one of the products made by the brewer to get by until the Volstead Act was abolished.

That product might have been on the shelf for five years?

[A-B Syrup was being sold well into the 1940s. Branding notwithstanding, it was a product of the Southern Syrup Co. of New Orleans. - Dave]

Dippin' Snuff

Seeing those tins of Garrett's Snuff on the shelf in front of the match boxes reminds me of an old fellow who ran a small engine repair shop in my East Texas hometown. He fixed lawnmowers and tillers and chainsaws and such out of a barn behind his house on the outskirts of town, just a couple miles from the Red River bottoms north of Texarkana.

I cannot recall the gentleman's name, but he had to be nearing 80 years in the 1970s. He dipped that Garrett snuff and would stand at his workbench while sharpening a mower blade and kept a Coke bottle at his feet and would spit a long string of brown tobacco juice right into the bottle without any spittle running down the outside of it. Every time. He never missed. It was pure poetry. He'd stop mid-sentence and "ssspt" into the bottle and resume his soliloquy without missing a beat.

He kept little screws and washers and nuts and carburetor parts in those snuff tins up on a shelf above his workbench. I don't think I've seen one of those snuff tins since, but this photo took me right back there in that old man's barn.

Goober Pea

Quite a selection

Lots of beans, lots of crackers. What surprised me is the mentholated tobacco. Kool's ancestor?

Must be a Texas thing.

Anybody know what "Kiltie Pops" are? It seems that the box has been up there for awhile.

A.R. Lee's Special Sauer Kraut

For TTerrace, here is an actual label, that would have been on the can.
Sure enough, one had sold on eBay!

Almost eponymous

It was my desire to devise a clever jape over the possibility that Mr. Russell Lee had purchased a can of R. Lee's Special Sauer Kraut at this emporium, but alas, after downloading the full-size tiff from the LOC, I found my hope dashed by a vagrant reflection.

Calling all artists

This is just *screaming* for colorizing. Any takers?

If you please

I will have a Derby Sugar Shaker Jar and one of those unmarked brown paper packages tied up with string. Then I will offer to, free of charge, organize all of the cans and boxes so that nothing is upside down. Drives me crazy. Right the Rinso already!

Anything and everything in a can

Except lettuce.

Texas Girl

What a fantastic catalogue of extraordinary words contained within the array of products on these shelves: Chuck Wagon, Ole Reliable, Saxet, Our Mother’s, Argo, Aunt Jemima, Popeye the Sailor, Apex, Mary Jane, Brer Rabbit, Jefferson Island, Excelo, Teddy Bear, Lamo Lye, Rinso, Lux. My favorite is Texas Girl.

Product Design

My eye was immediately drawn to the glass jars, each shaped beautifully in their own way.

Post Toasties Corn Reverse!

On the top shelf, it appears the Corn Flakes boxes were turned around, with the back showing the awesome crafts and giveaways, being promoted by Walt Disney!

What would be

... inside those small tied up packages on the bottom shelf?

Old Anheuser-Busch product

I love looking at pics of old stores like this. I noted the A-B Table Syrup 4th shelf all the way to the right. I wonder when that item stopped being marketed.

[It was advertised in newspapers as late as 1945. - Dave]

Mr. Monk would not approve

There are many things in this photo that bother the OCD in me.

Is this store in Mexico or Texas, or is this before the Alamo?

How is this a "Mexican grocery store?" The products are US products and the labeling is in English.

[It's in the Mexican section of San Antonio and is owned by a Mexican. - Dave]

Responding to a comment. Yes, the clerk and the clients may know all the prices, but we wouldn't put up with such a limited selection. We may have too many choices now, but I'm not ready to go back to beans, rice and white bread.

Couldn't find out why the name "Pet." Wikipedia and the Pet website provided no explanation.

[In 1923, the Helvetia Milk Condensing Company was renamed the Pet Milk Company after its signature product, "Our Pet" Evaporated Cream. - Dave]


Aunt Jemima's makeovers didn't take, so she was retired (image, name, and brand) in 2021. The Argo corn starch maiden has been diminished and her American Indian identity downplayed. The Quaker, looking a bit smug, no longer greets us with open arms. Brer Rabbit has been pushing syrup since 1907, but competitors Teddy and Mary Jane have given up. The Pet milk cow continues to peek out of her can. Our Mother is enjoying retirement, though she worries about what Texas Girl gets up to.

So cows are now pets?

The cans of milk in the upper right corner of the shelf might make one think so.

Don't make me come over that counter

I don't see price stickers on anything and remember the days when a cashier simply knew the price of most items. Customers would let them know if a price seemed out of line. On each vertical divider is a paper clip, each holding a different type of paper. One looks like a receipt. Does anyone know what those were for?

I give this cashier a B+ on stacking merchandise. But it offends my anal retentive sensibilities that the cans of PET Milk are not all facing forward, and the one can of K C 5 Baking Powder turned backwards is driving me crazy. Don't even get me started on the salt.

The more things change --

What strikes me most about this photo is how little many brands and labels have changed over 82+ years!


I'll have one of everything, por favor.

Let me have one of those cans of Chuck Wagon

… a ballpoint pen, and one of those Kiltie Pops there, a pint of Old Harper, a couple of flashlight batteries and some beef jerky.


As every Texan knows, that's Texas spelled backwards. Best known today as the name of a never-ending gun show, and don't you dare call it "dainty". (I mean, personally I don't mind if you call it dainty, but other people might.)

Staples, not convenience foods, but noteworthy also the number of kerosene lamp chimneys. Granted, these items are easily broken, but San Antonio was and is a major city, and major cities had electricity long before 1939. An ill-served non-electrified enclave? Emergency lighting? Or just dead stock?

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