Commentary

EDITOR’S CORNER

East is east and west is west, or maybe south
Mike Brown

I ’m standing on the corner of Main and Milam looking puzzled.

Now, it’s true, this isn’t unusual for me but I came here to find Rockdale’s “Ground Zero” and found a little more than I anticipated.

That corner is where Rockdale’s street numbering system begins, both directions.

The north-south line of demarcation is not actually Milam Street, it’s the railroad tracks. That makes everything north of the tracks “North Something Lane” and everything to the south “South Something Drive.”

Main Street performs the same function for streets that run the other way. In fact that’s even more apparent. You can drive up Main and see a couple of streets literally change their names before your eyes.

Slow down before the Little River Medical Clinic and you’ll see the “West San Andres” sign on one side and “East San Andres” on the other.


Art by Ashtyn Simank, a senior at Rockdale High School. Art by Ashtyn Simank, a senior at Rockdale High School. (By the way, that’s probably Rockdale’s most mispronounced street name. You hear a lot of “San Ann-Dray-Us” like the famous fault line in California. Our street doesn’t have the extra “A” in San Andreas.)

The truth is that Rockdale’s “north or south, east or west” streets had their origins back in a time when that’s just the way things were done and there’s not really much need for such designations now.

There just aren’t that many Rockdale streets that cross either Main Street or the tracks.

Let’s see, crossing the tracks are Pear, Plum, Main, Wilcox, Travis and Cypress (or Cypress Trail, unsure if those are different streets or the same one.)

Crossing Main are Mill, Milam, Cameron, Bell, Davilla, Belton and San Whatever-you-want-tocall it.

Until the 1950s the east-westnorth south designations made sense. Rockdale was a compact little city and if you went to the 200 block of East Bell instead of the 200 block of West Bell, well, they were only four blocks apart.

But everything changed in those 1950s boom years. The town basically tripled in size, lots of new streets were added and since they didn’t cross either the tracks or Main, there wasn’t any need to designate them “east” or “west.”

Longest of those streets was 1.1- mile Murray. Just “Murray,” not east or west, although I’m pretty certain I’ve seen at least one street sign that says “W. Murray,” That’s not necessary since there can be no “E. Murray.”

Actually, if you see a sign anywhere that has an N, S, E or W in front of the name, it’s one of the older signs.

Our street numbering system also starts at that corner, mostly. Higher the number, whichever direction you travel, the further away from the Main-Milam corner you are.

I say “mostly” because there are some numbers out West Cameron (US 79) that start over in an area which was annexed within the last decade.

That brings us back to the corner where we started. Did you realize there’s hardly a South Main at all? No kidding, Rockdale Building Center is 108 South Main. By the Mill Street corner a half-block away, Main has turned into Oak Street.

The street, which is FM 908, changes its name again, to Roberts, as it curves to the east.

On the other side of the tracks there’s one very small block between the tracks and Milam. It contains two buildings, the I&GN Depot Museum and the Coffield Building.

But there’s not actually any street sign that says “South Main.” The sign at Main and Milam is one of the newer ones and just says “Main.”


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