Milam County Historical Commission - Milam County, TX
Statue of Ben Milam at Milam County, TX Courthouse
Old Junior High School Building, Rockdale, TX
Milam County Courthouse - Cameron, TX
Preserve America
Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
All credit for this article goes to
Bill Cooke
and the
Rockdale Reporter
                       Century ago, local news was a bit different
                                   Bill Cooke _ Editor
                             Rockdale Reporter - 2016-11-17

Hope you folks enjoy reading The Reporter’s 10-20-40-100-years-ago column each week. Editor Mike Brown devotes a few hours each Wednesday to researching it.

Thanks to microfilm, he was able to add the 100-year-ago section, when John Esten Cooke, who purchased this paper in 1911, was editor/publisher. Mr. Cooke (my grandfather) was a very literate, disciplined writer, but not above having fun with his craft.

Wife Peg and I recently scanned a year or so of the 100-year-ago stuff and came up with this collection of his musings:

• “The Reporter purchased 40 pounds of sudan grass seed, with a packet to be given to each new 12-month subscriber.”

• About the WWI stalemate in France in 1915, before the U.S. had entered the fray: “One side or the other has to get someone whipped before peace can be restored.”

• “Basketball is a fine game, the equal of football, but why do the young men wear such extreme negligee costumes?”

• Prediction: “Taylor will become a suburb of Thrall.” He wrote this after an oil well gusher was brought in at Thrall, stirring hopes for a boom.

• From an election story: “There was such a low voter turnout at the city election that Judge Harry Perry and clerk Ike Pepper had to pinch each other at intervals to stay awake.”

• You couldn’t write this in a wedding story today: “The marriage of Elizabeth Baxter of Rockdale and Charles Van Oren of Kansas City came as a complete surprise, proving that some women, at least, can keep a secret.”

• Early mention of Rockdale’s famous author-to-be: “Five-year-old George Session Perry and friends celebrated his birthday with a trip to the Dixie Theater to see Bronco Billy.”

• Rockdale Women’s Club members, irritated their library was very under-used, said: “Picture Shows and automobiles are monopolizing the lives of too many people.”

• Ribbing: “My friend A. Longmire went fishing at Reed Lake in Bell County and fell out of the boat. When they pulled him back in the boat, he had 13 fish in his pockets.”

• In a story about a revival at the Methodist Church: “So far, the preaching of Rev. W.D. May has been ‘digging about’ in the religious condition of his listeners.”

• Prohibition election: Rockdale voted for prohibition, Thorndale voted heavily against it, and Cameron voted against it. John Esten quoted a Cameron Herald story that noted a daily paper ran a photo of a man looking longingly at a bottle of whiskey. The Cameron editor opined: “He must be from Rockdale. No Cameronite would content himself with merely taking a look.”

• Urged the city to drill an oil well at Fair Park. “If it only gets water, that will be okay too.”

• John Esten was tickled when the city council passed a resolution labeling him and Mayor H.C. Meyer as “goats, because they’ve been butting into the council’s business.” (Both had advocated the council buy a motorized fire vehicle.)

• Front page headline: “Rockdale defeats Cameron in spelling matches and basketball.”

• New standing headline for country correspondents: “Gossip by our correspondents that may or may not interest you.”

• On a slow news week, the front page was filled with the country correspondents’ offerings, plus one story that was headlined: “San Gabriel farmers impatient with long spell of bad weather.”

• A movement to support Texas agriculture held a rally at the Milam County courthouse. The Reporter’s headline: “Cameron folks have awakened; movement brings our county capitol out of its long nap.”

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