Reader Steven Swinnea spotted some contradictions in an H-E-B promotional piece, material taken from the the grocery chain’s website, that ran in the American-Statesman earlier this summer. The image in the piece shows a streamlined supermarket, but the clues in the caption and in the markings on the photographic print do not match.
“The writing purports it to be ‘Austin #1, 18th & Austin,” Swinnea writes. “Where is 18th and Austin? Where would a supermarket fit on 18th — unless it was in the pre-Interstate-35 days?”
He also wonders how the pictured market could be “Austin No. 1,” since the accompanying text says that the earliest H-E-B’s here were elsewhere in town, including at least one on East Sixth Street.
In fact, H-E-B’s homepage reports that the company, founded in Kerrville, then based in Corpus Christi before it settled in San Antonio, purchased three Austin markets in 1938. Based on the car models in this image, the photo, also incorrectly identified on the H-E-B site, was taken in the late 1950s.
Also, several Texas cities do come with Austin streets, some named after the colonist, others after the road toward the state capital.
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We posted the mystery on three Facebook pages. Two readers solved the puzzle almost immediately, using different methods.
Sam Sargent located the surviving building at 18th and Austin in Waco. How did he find out?
“Googling ‘HEB Food Stores’ and ‘Austin’ to see what came up,” Sargent writes. “I just knew we didn’t have a building like that … in Austin.”
On another page, Donald Spradlin picked the same location.
“I worked through a Google Image Search and TinEye (a reverse image search tool) to get to old images of a close-up of the tower,” he writes, “and went backwards from there.”
Reader Gentry McLean found a KXXV.com article that says the Waco building opened in 1949. It’s now a Sedberry Furniture store.
Next week, we follow the subsequent online discussion about where those first three H-E-B’s, reportedly purchased from the Piggly Wiggly chain, were in Austin.