Society

‘Back to the 50s’

By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

‘Call on the memories
here in the dark...
We’ll let the music
take us away....
Lost in the 50s tonight.
—Ronnie Milsap

Recognize the location of Rockdale’s biggest outdoor ‘sculpture’ display? Brick depictions of lion and elephant decorate the entrance to the main part of Rockdale Elementary School, constructed in 1952. Reporter/Mike Brown Recognize the location of Rockdale’s biggest outdoor ‘sculpture’ display? Brick depictions of lion and elephant decorate the entrance to the main part of Rockdale Elementary School, constructed in 1952. Reporter/Mike Brown In Rockdale the 50s are really never very far away.

The town changed forever in those Alcoa boom years and, while it kept on changing, there are still a few relics of that hectic time if you just know where to look.

Hundreds of students and parents file past the brick raised relief lion and elephant at the entrance to Rockdale Elementary School every day.

“I don’t know how many people actually notice them any more,” Elementar y Principal Robin Faulkner laughed. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t see them until they’re pointed out.”

Above, Westwood residents were so proud of mercury vapor lights like this one on Calhoun, in the 1950s they held ‘light parties’ to watch them come on automatically at dusk. Above, Westwood residents were so proud of mercury vapor lights like this one on Calhoun, in the 1950s they held ‘light parties’ to watch them come on automatically at dusk. The sculpted wall was one of the first parts completed on the then brand-new elementary school in 1952.

The school was built in phases with the office-west classroom w ing-lunchroom completed first.

Art deco

One year previously Alcoa bean hiring its Rockdale work force using an office upstairs over the old Prewitt Drug Store.

First metal wouldn’t be poured until November, 1952.

Even though Alcoa’s smelter has closed there’s still a few employees at “Building 80,” another relic of the 1950s

Alcoa’s first hiring office was upstairs over old Prewitt Drug Store downtown. Everyone hired in those early days walked up 26 steps and made two right turns. The room is still there. Alcoa’s first hiring office was upstairs over old Prewitt Drug Store downtown. Everyone hired in those early days walked up 26 steps and made two right turns. The room is still there. “That entrance hasn’t changed much over the years,” Alcoa’s Aloma Clayton said.

“New tile has been put down in the foyer and we changed the outside lettering for Alcoa’s 50th anniversary in 2004,” she said.

“That’s about it. I think the aluminum trim is still the original material from 1951,” she said.

Subdivisions

Here’s a word you haven’t heard in a while.

Westwood.

Alcoa immediately built two subdivisions in the early 1950s, just about doubling Rockdale’s size.

Westwood homes targeted salaried workers and the Coffield Addition for hourly workers.

First Christian Church, built on three levels on most of a downtown block, was a showpiece in 1958. It still is and the outside appearance has changed very little. First Christian Church, built on three levels on most of a downtown block, was a showpiece in 1958. It still is and the outside appearance has changed very little. Until the gap between the old town and the new subdivisions closed residents were likely to hear “I’m going to visit a friend in Westwood,” as if it were a different community, as separate as Cameron or Taylor.

The 50s is gone and much of the evidence of that decade’s impact on Rockdale is gone too.

But if you know where to look....
It’s rusted and weatherworn but 1950s neon still clings to this DuPont paint sign on South Main. It’s rusted and weatherworn but 1950s neon still clings to this DuPont paint sign on South Main.


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