Rockdale was a different place in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Streets were dirt, indoor plumbing hadn’t yet arrived and there was still a frontier feel to a place which, after all, was only a quarter century old.
Exactly 110 years ago this week the new town decided it was going to be here for a long time and threw itself the largest party it had yet seen.
It was in observance of May Day, which once was a very big celebration in the U. S.
Thousands of people lined Rockdale’s dirt streets for the longest parade ever, up to that time, featuring floats, bands and lots of politicians. There was a baseball double header as Rockdale’s town team played both Caldwell and Cameron, winning both games by scores of 8-1 and 6-2.
Rockdale’s pitcher—yes the team only had one—was the ironarmed R. L. Lankford. Covering Rockdale’s big day was Rockdale Reporter publisher editor C. L. Tanner.
In those almost frontier days newspaper men were expected to be characters and Tanner certainly filled the bill.
He wasn’t above mixing editorial comment with straight news stories. Here’s a not-too-subtle headline from 1902, and this is a news story, not an editorial:
“Will You Vote Yourselves Slavery? Then Vote for Swann and McInally”
Tanner could also be not quite so obvious. In 1903 he wrote a headline for the opening of a Texas Legislature session that many editors have wanted to write down through the decades:
“Bills Introducted in House and Senate; Some of Them Important”
But Tanner outdid himself on March 26, 1903.
Rockdale residents were grappling with the problem of stray dogs and Tanner offered an, uh, unique solution:
“Rockdale has more dogs and cows to the square inch than any town in Texas. Let us have a dog killing.
“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.”