Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
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Happy 1917, even if I know what it brings
Editor's Corner - Mike Brown
Rockdale Reporter - 2016-12-29
Iíd like to go back in time but thatís impossible. Even so I get to do the next best thing and Iím having a lot of fun with it.
Probably should explain.
For the past seven years Iíve written a ď100 years agoĒ section for the history column you find on this page.
It was previously called ď10-20-40Ē but about 2010 or so The Reporterís back files become more-or-less continuous. There were substantial gaps before 1910.
I really enjoy doing it. Ironically the 100-year-ago stuff is all new to me. I wrote most of the things in the 10 and 20 and 40(!) year ago paper.
What you need to know about the 100-year-ago experience is that I donít cheat. By that I mean I donít skip ahead in the Reporter files to find out what happens to stories that are playing out in the ďcurrentĒ week.
I didnít start out to do this. But I soon realized by reading the paper weekby- week as they read it in those long-ago years, I was almost experiencing the lives of Rockdale folks back then in real time.
Is that crazy? Probably, but I think itís crazy and cool.
I get to live with them week-to-week. If I encounter a name and wonder ďdidnít he or she die in 1933?Ē or something, I donít look it up. Inside the moment, we donít get to do that. Iím very much enjoying being in the moment where the cotton prices are big front-page news and the (silent) Dixie Theatre is donating part of its proceeds from an eight-reeler to the Womenís Club.
But Iím worried about my town as 1916 turns into 1917. You see, I know something they donít.
But soon will.
I know that the global war, which has been nothing but background noise in The Reporter for two and a half years is about to reach out and impact our/my placid little town.
In the year we are ďentering,Ē a president who campaigned on keeping America out of war will lead us into one. That would be Woodrow Wilson. World War I will provide both his greatest moment and his ultimate downfall.
World War I will change us profoundly and permanently. I donít have to cheat and look ahead to know that.
By the end of ďthis yearĒ there will be a news photo in The Reporter of the first draft call of Rockdale area boys. Yeah, I know theyíll come back men but those faces who lined up on the front porch of Mayor H. E. Meyerís Bell Street mansion were boys. Trust me.
I drive by that porch almost every day. I think about those faces.
I know a city council meeting in 1917 will break up because word is received that a Rockdale man, Cpl. Rudolph Fiesler, has been killed in France. He wonít be the last.
I know that two brothers who used to be sprawled out on the cotton in the back of a wagon on the way to be ginned here will die within days of each other in the waning moments of the war.
Hicks and James Carlyle. Rockdaleís American Legion Post will be named for them.
There will be good times again in Rockdale. But this is the start of the bad stuff.