rare they were front page news, stores closed so customers could go to baseball games and a doctor didn’t charge you if he couldn’t cure you.
Welcome to Rockdale in the 1910s.
A new “100 years ago” column is making its long-awaited debut on The Reporter’s first editorial page. It’s “long-awaited” because we had to wait several years before the newspaper’s back files became continuous.
There are sporadic Reporter files available back into the 1890s, some of them covering entire years.
That means Reporter files are almost continuous from April 1910, through the paper you hold in your hand.
It was indeed a different world and a much different newspaper where the weather and crop conditions were often the top story and “hard news” was scarce.
In 1910 the publisher/editor was R. W. H. Kennon. He sold The Reporter to John Esten Cooke, the next year.
Kennon had several passions and wasn’t shy about expounding on them.
One was politics. The Reporter was proudly proclaimed as the official organ of the Milam County Farmers Union, an organization with its roots in the 19th Century Populist Party.
Others were baseball and dogs. Kennon liked one and despised the other.
Kennon, like previous publisher C. L. Tanner, didn’t have much use for dogs of any kind.
It was Tanner who wrote a notorious 1903 editorial suggesting a “civic project.”
“(In Rockdale) There are pug dogs, cur dogs and hound dogs, fire dogs and bulldogs, he dogs and she dogs, nine tenths of which should be speedily converted into dead dogs and hot tamales.”
Seven years later Kennon wrote favorably about a Temple ordinance which pretty much authorized what Tanner had suggested, noting that unmuzzled dogs in that city were being shot on sight.
One hundred years ago this week The Reporter’s lead story was a warning from Mayor H. C. Meyer:
“Owners of all dogs over the age of three months must pay a one dollar, per year tax, per dog.”
Meyer also cited a city ordinance stating “in case of hydrophobia, the mayor is authorized to confine or destroy all dogs.”
Kennon loved baseball in an era when the national pastime was really that.
Baseball games were a major source of entertainment and Rockdale businesses often simply closed up shop on days when games were scheduled.
These weren’t school teams. In fact the town team often played a schoolboy squad assembled just for that purpose.
The spring, 1910, game was won by the town team, or as Kennon reported in the flowery prose of the day: “...the town team had the melonized end of a saffron-tinged score of 13 to 7.”
Kennon kept agitating for a stadium in which a fully-realized Rockdale town team could take on all comers.
One-hundred years ago this week he even picked the men he wanted on the team:
Harley Perry at catcher, Demon Vogel at first, Graves, Clark and Atchison in the infield and Sprot, Bob Hale and Theodore Ryan in the outfield.
Kennon’s pitchers were right handers McCawley and Vance with “larboard slant artists Arnold and Stribling.”
That means lefties.
Fats vs. Leans
The sporting event of the year in Rockdale was the annual Fats vs. Leans baseball game and the team names pretty much define what kind of an event it was.
Kennon’s report included this:
“Some (of the players) had never seen the green sward as a diamond hero since their youth...”
“Little Eddie Phillips, in his own patented style, ran the bases with much eclat, style and precision, while the batting of Artie Wise was easily the laugh of the afternoon.”
(“Eclat” means “splendor.” Yes, we had to look it up.)
One hundred years ago there were 10 cars in Rockdale.
How do we know? Easy. They were such a novelty, Kennon was keeping a running total in April, 1910, often giving his opinion on whose was better.
One hundred years ago, C. R. Ramsell and J. E. Coffield got cars and Kennon added “several are contemplating buying the machines.”
What a deal
Sometimes the ads in The Reporter of 100 years ago, were as entertaining as the stories.
Here’s an ad for The Eagle Tavern, proprietor E. A. Green, which was on the front page 100 years ago:
“We don’t sell whiskey because we take a fiendish delight in seeing our fellow man get wobbly on his pins and proceed to make a copper-riveted, 6-cylinder fool of himself.
“We sell it because we need the money, that’s all.”
The political battle of the era was over prohibition—which would become law at decade’s end—and it’s not hard to figure out why.
Ads for hard liquor, many on the front page, were in every Reporter. In previous years the Anti-Prohibition faction purchased full-page ads in the newspaper.
Here’s a deal it would be hard to duplicate in 2010.
Dr. Gordon Adams, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, announced he would begin a practice in Rockdale with an office in the Wolf Hotel.
The ad praised the doctor’s abilities and ended: “And if he cannot cure you, he will frankly tell you and you are out no money.”
It was the heyday of the country correspondent, with more than a dozen communities sending news and more than a little comment.
Many used pseudonyms. “Sea Shell” reported the news from Sand Grove, “Old Schneider” checked in from Buschdale—with a “c”—and Union Ridge’s correspondent was “Vox.”
It was Vox who penned this interesting, if somewhat unclear, sentence 100 yea rs ago t his week:
“The trustee election came off last Saturday afternoon, but not very quietly in consequence of the rule or ruin clovenfoot appearing on the scene.”
(“Clovenfoot” was often used in that era to refer to Satan. Whatever happened in that election, Vox didn’t like it. )