History is in the Details
Mike Brown - Editor
Rockdale Reporter - 2016-03-03
Signs, engravings ‘hide in plain sight’
Rockdale residents pass by a lot of “clues to the past” every day and many of us don’t
even realize it?
For instance, not many towns still have on display a former business sign inviting
customers to call a two-digit telephone number.
But the former Henry Garage — corner of Bell and Main — does. “Ph. 71 above its unique
corner driveway is faded but still visible.
PETRIFIED — Most Rockdale residents know about the Chamber of Commerce’s “Rock House”
headquarters at 1203 West Cameron (US 79), constructed in 1937.
Many also use the petrified wood kiosks at Fair Park.
But did you know Rockdale, and Milam County, were once rich with petrified wood
outcroppings, many in the yards of homes.
Four years ago the man who built the Chamber’s rock house returned for a visit.
“Back then (the 1930s) there was petrified wood all over the place in Rockdale,” Robert
Cummings recalled. “You could just go around and pick it up.”
OOPS — Even older are the curbside engravings in Rockdale’s oldest residential area
denoting street names. They date from the 1920s.
Either somebody didn’t get the word or, much more likely, the Rockdale street grid
pattern was changed at a later date.
By the 1950s, pattern was that “streets” ran north and south, while “avenues’ are east
Look below, Rice is actually a north and south thoroughfare, while Bell and Davilla take
an east-west route.
Top left: In the 1950s this neon sign advertised DuPont paint. Where is it? In between
the old City Cemetery and the former Coffield Lumber Company on South Main.
Top Right: Certainly there’s only one place in 10-digit 2016 where a sign displays the
old 2-digit telephone number. Henry Garage, Bell at Main, was a fixture for over 60
Above: Curb-level signs for
‘original Rockdale’ streets
were part of the city’s first
big street paving project in
the 1920s. What’s wrong with
them? See story above.
Above: Petrified wood pillars hold aluminum posts
which denote the main entranCe to Fair Park.
Rockdale used to have numerous petrified wood