SPOILIN’ THE BROTH
That lovely redhead at the right (far right, I’m absolutely lovely but not redheaded) w ill be your parade marshal Saturday at Rockdale’s annual Christmas parade.
She is Eugenia “Genie” Newton, a virtual treasure to a lot of people, including the news staff of this weekly supplier of news, advertising, fish wrap and bird cage floor covering.
Genie, you see, just turned 90 years young, has a memory like a steel trap, and is still active on the civic front. She’s a faithful volunteer employee at the local senior center and is an active in the Rockdale Historical Society.
And she’s a walking encyclopedia of local history.
Born here Nov. 10, 1920, to Eugene Russell Wolf and Lottie Alford Wolf, she grew up here and graduated from Rockdale High School in 1938.
From RHS she attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State) at San Marcos. She married Tommy Newton of Waco in Rockdale in 1941. After a brief stint as a math and science teacher, he went to work in management with a division of Central Freight Lines. As he progressed through his career, they lived in Waco, Dallas, Corpus Christi and San Antonio.
Along the way they raised a son, Tom Newton who, like Genie, lives in Rockdale.
Author Thomas Wolf ’s best known work of fiction was the epic You Can’t Go Home Again. But Genie says she is one Wolf who could go home again, did just that and is very glad she did.
Her husband died in 1963 in San Antonio and in 1967 she moved back to Rockdale “permanently.”
“I say ‘permanently’ because I had always kept up close ties to Rockdale and family and friends,” she said. “I love Rockdale, always did, always will, and I just feel like there’s no place like it, and I’ve lived in a lot of neat places.”
Genie, along w ith Clif ford Sims, are The Reporter’s news sources for Rockdale history. I sincerely hope someone at some point sits down with both of them with a tape recorder and allows them to provide an oral history of this community like no others can provide.
For instance, during a brief telephone interview this writer had with Genie last Wednesday, she managed to inform me of different homes in Rockdale where my grandfather, John Esten Cooke, had resided. He bought this paper in 1911 and moved here from Brady. I knew where he lived on Ackerman Street when he died in 1940 at age 68, and I had a vague idea about one other home where he had lived, on Texas Street. Genie vividly described two more.
When we needed histories on the eight homes that will be featured on the Rockdale Downtown Association’s annual Christmas Tour of Homes on Dec. 11, we turned to Genie.
Here’s just one example of what she provided off the top of her head. I asked her about the Wendie Upson home, 417 East Bell. I remembered only that, during my childhood, it was the home of Rockdale State Bank president T.B. “Ted” Ryan and wife Helen. I had no idea if they were the original owners.
“Oh yes they were,” Genie recalled. “The lot and the construction of the home were wedding gifts from Helen Ryan’s father, Dr. H.T. Coulter of Rockdale, and his brother, Walter Coulter of Bryan. The home was built in 1933.”
See what I mean about a walking encyclopedia? She then proceeded to provide a brief history of the other homes that will be featured on the tour.
And speaking of that event, you don’t want to miss the Nov. 11 tour. Tickets are on sale ($10 each) at Dyess Insurance Agency, 134 North Main Street, and Finley Art Works, 229 North Main Street (the restored P.H. Perry Building). Tickets may also be purchased the day of the tour at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
Genie can probably tell you the history of that church too.