Before a fledgling family-run retail chain flourished into what it is today, there was a simple and sweet love story.
On Valentine’s Day in 1943, after serving a year of active duty in the Army, Sam Walton married his wife, Helen, in her hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma.
In his book, “Sam Walton: Made in America,” Sam says on an April night in a bowling alley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he noticed Helen Robson – his future bride – who just happened to be on a date with another fellow.
After she took her turn and rolled her ball down the alley, she saw Sam with his leg up over the armrest of an old chair, with a smile on his face. She recalls Sam’s greeting as being rather “corny.”
Helen said Sam asked if he had met her somewhere before. It turns out Sam had dated a girl Helen knew in college. Instead of asking for Helen’s number, Sam initially asked Helen for the other young woman’s number. However, according to Helen, soon after that encounter, Helen and Sam started dating.
Both Helen and Sam have said they instantly fell in love with each other. Sam said Helen was “pretty and smart, and educated, ambitious and opinionated and strong-willed – with ideas and plans of her own.” After dating for a little while, by the time Sam was called up by the Army for active duty, he said two things were very clear to him: He knew who he wanted to marry Helen, and knew he wanted to go into retail.
From there, the rest of their story went down in the retail history books. “I always told my mother and dad that I was going to marry someone who had that special energy and drive, that desire to be a success,” Helen said. “I certainly found what I was looking for, but now I laugh sometimes and say maybe I overshot a little.”
To commemorate their anniversary, The Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, honors their love every Valentine’s Day with a special flower display.