Rainbow now part of history
300 Gather for Marker Unveiling
By BILL COOKE
Rockdale Reporter - 2016-09-29
A community’s admiration for Rainbow Courts Motel — Joan and Dan Ratliff’s classic labor
of love — was in full evidence Saturday when more than 300 people turned out for the
dedication of a Texas Historical Marker in the business’ scenic courtyard, signifying 100
years of continuous operation.
“Still Making History, a Real Place with a Real Story” was the theme for the dedication.
The business was established in 1916 as Rainbow Tourists Camp and Courts, and is still
owned and operated by the third generation of the same family.
Geri Burnett, chair of the Milam County Historical Commission, welcomed the crowd
Saturday and introduced visiting dignitaries and special guests.
Members of VFW Post 6525 of Rockdale posted the colors and Emma Grace Glaser and Lily
Janis led the pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags.
Music, including the national anthem and other patriotic songs, plus marches and show
tunes, was performed by the Communities in Concert Band.
Rockdale native Brian Ballard, now of Tyler, gave the invocation and Joan Ratliff
presented a history of the business from its initial era as a “tourist camp,” paying
tribute to its founders and other family owners/ operators through the past century.
The Ratliffs then unveiled the marker, and Joan Ratliff’s sister, former Rockdale
resident Susan McFarland of Tyler, read the inscription.
Dan Ratliff, in a surprise to his wife, spoke on Joan Ratliff’s dedication to the
business, and to her more than 20 years of researching its history and family ownership,
a tribute that drew a huge ovation.
The historical marker’s inscription is as follows:
“In the first decades of the Twentieth Century, affordable roadside accommodations began
with campsites equipped with amenities.
“These eventually developed into cottage style courts in the 1920s. Nathan Monroe (N.M.)
Bullock, a member of the State Mining Board, opened Rainbow Tourist Camp near his
Rockdale home in 1918. By the 1920s, Bullock and his wife, Lenora, added cottages to the
“A fire destroyed Bullock’s house in 1930, but he rebuilt it with an attached motel
office and constructed additional cottages.
“In 1936, when U. S. Highway 79 was built through town, business boomed and Bullock
called in his brother, (I.B) to assist in running the courts.
“After N. M. Bullock died in 1945, his brother purchased the tourist court. He purchased
additional space, added more rooms and renovated much of the facilities.
I. B. Bullock died in 1970 and in 1975, his wife, Algia Mae Bullock, sold Rainbow Courts
to their daughter and husband.
“Many of the cottages present are the original structures from the 1920s.
“Although renovated, the cottages were originally constructed as wood frame with pier and
“The cottages were built to include carports within an inline power-sharing design. The
Mission Revival style cottages’ parapets and flat roofs have been covered with gabled
“The motel office was remodeled with an Austin Stone veneer in the 1950s. The layout of
the motel cottages is still a classic ‘U’ shape. Iris plants, first planted by Lenora
Bullock, still bloom on the property.
Rainbow Courts had a significant impact on the evolution of travel and tourism in
Rockdale and the State of Texas.”