Rockdale history book photos, time for reflection

I ’ve now spent a fair amount of time looking through Dr. Lucile Estell’s book “Images of America: Rockdale,” which was released at the end of July.

I originally planned to list a series of comments about a number of individual photos from the past, some serious, some (hopefully) entertaining.

But I’m not going to do that. After looking through the book for about the sixth time, I arrived at a profound overall conclusion, one which I will now share with you.

Man, stuff was different back then!

And by “back then” I include the part of Rockdale’s history I can remember, the part that begins in the mid-50s. (1950s, and shame on you for thinking what you’re thinking!)

When you’re living inside that history, things change so gradually you don’t really notice them.

But when you sit down and look at a lot of photos from the past at one time, close the back cover and look up to realize you are staring at, and working on, a TV-screen thingy that is connected, instantaneously, to much of the world’s knowledge, it makes you think things like...well these:

• Whatever happened to hats?

I don’t mean caps with sports logos on them, I mean, brim-allthe way-around, Tom Landry hats.

When most of the men, and some of the women, in the historic photos wanted to get dressed up, they always put on hats.

There were hat shops in the big cities and you could even get your hat blocked, which sounds like something Tom Landry could have taught you to do.

One of my favorite photos in the book shows physician Dr. Dunc Wallis in Minerva and standing next to his car is a tiny, adorable little boy, who is wearing a tiny, adorable little hat.

Well, I hope it’s a hat, because if it’s not, it’s a bedpan.

• Almost all the men are skinny. This is not the case in 2012 and I’ve got my hand up, too.

This is something I’ve noticed, especially in Depression Era photos, and it’s not hard to explain.

Back then, their problem was too little food available. Ours is too much.

In the book’s, oh, pre-1950s photos, I counted one hefty man. He was a mine owner. In other words, a rich guy.

Back then, being overweight meant you were probably rich.

• Rockdale wouldn’t have existed without the trains.

There’s a stunning photo from the air that shows how much of the town spread out from the two railroads (I&GN, SA&AP), which met in Rockdale.

There’s another of the Texas Eagle passenger train zipping out of town in 1962.

I wonder if I was on it. My family used to ride it to Kansas City every summer.

• It was dark inside the stores.

Many photos of Rockdale businesses in the early days show them lit as they really were and that’s not very well.

We’ve gotten an idea from decades of movie and television westerns that the insides of Miss Kitty’s saloon or John Wayne’s cavalry office were bright as daylight. Those were shot in some studio under huge klieg lights.

The real interiors look like the photo of Coffield Hardware on page 52 of Dr. Estell’s book. (All four men in that photo are wearing hats by the way.)

• Words have certainly changed. There’s a photo of a Rockdale “drill team” from 1901, working out on Burleson Street.

It’s a bunch of men, wearing what could only be described as one-piece swimsuits.

I don’t know what they’re doing but, whatever it is, they are doing it all in unison.

The Golden Girls, they ain’t!

• What a task it must have been to be a farm woman a century ago. The women in those photos look, well, worn out.

Imagine the sheer amount of work they put in every day doing tasks we take for granted.

Do you realize what it took to even wash clothes a century ago?

Talk about your American heroes!

• But the overwhelming feeling I get from the photos is one of the passage of time. For instance.

There’s a tiny boy on page 20 standing by a man I take to be his father. That tiny boy is certainly gone now and I can’t help but wonder.

What was his name?

How long did he live?

Did I know him as an old man?

I think I hear something ticking.

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2012-08-02 digital edition

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