Centennial sign brings back happy, zany, times
Mike Brown

didn’t expect a trip back into the past, not 40 years of it anyway, when I walked into the Hogan- Hall Building at the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday morning.

Occasion was an open house showcasing the recently renovated rock building.

There, against one wall, was a huge sign. It read “Rockdale Centennial Headquarters.” Past Chamber President Mike Walko had found it in a storage building behind Citizens National Bank.

I was asked if I recognized it. Did I recognize it!

For a month it designated the old Prewitt Drug Store, one of the buildings that didn’t fall down on the north side of the 100 block of East Cameron (US 79), as headquarters for Rockdale’s centennial, which was held the first week in June, 1974.

It was also the week I was hired full-time by The Rockdale Reporter.

I spent lots of time in that headquarters. The “brain trust” of that event were people who worked hard, very long hours, were able to adapt on the spot and, occasionally, but infrequently, get some rest.

Art by Selina Sappington, a senior at Rockdale High School. Art by Selina Sappington, a senior at Rockdale High School. One more thing. We had a lot of fun. In fact, we almost got to be like a big family.

Our leader was an affable Irishman from El Paso named Pat Haggerty—sure, that’s what we all think of when you say “El Paso,” the Irish—and he did an unbelievably great job directing an event that was kind of a cross between a Super Bowl, a Broadway play, a revival meeting and a riot.

Others who frequented the headquarters included event chairman John Ballard, volunteers Roberta Pounders, Sharon Hodges, Kay Fisher, Billie Roe and several more.

What was headquarters like? The week after the place shut down, this cub reporter described it as “designed by a committee composed of Albert Einstein and Jerry Lewis.”

I don’t mean to trivialize it. Well, actually I do.

Pat was a trivia buff, he found a kindred spirit in me and every day he would show up to ask me the question from Final Jeopardy he’d seen the previous day.

How he had time to watch television during that week I don’t know. I once observed him catching a quick nap on the (outdoor) stage of our huge Centennial Pageant at Tiger Field about 20 minutes before showtime one evening.

This is how it would go at headquarters:

Me: “Morning Pat.”

Pat: “What was the fifth largest city in the United States in 1790?”

Me: “Uhhhhh, Thorndale?”

Pat: “Wrong! Charleston, South Carolina. Now, did we ever locate that delivery truck with the rocking chairs for the marathon at the library?”

When I said we were like a family I meant it.

One day Roberta showed up with a sack of string peas to shell for supper. All of us, who were extremely busy, dropped whatever we were doing, pitched in and shelled peas until the task was done.

We had what were called Kangaroo Kourts, zany, slapstick style “trials” played for laughs.

One day all the water pistols used at a Kangaroo Kourt got left behind at the headquarters.

You’re ahead of me, aren’t you? I didn’t get totally dried out until 1987.

There’s an entry in my notebook from that zany week that said Pat walked around headquarters all of one day with a chair on his head. It didn’t say why.

That’s surprising. No, not that Pat did that, but that anybody noticed.

The Centennial ended, of course, and we all went our separate ways.

Pat got elected to the Texas Legislature several times.

Virtually all the people who worked in that headquarters are still here in Rockdale.

Funny how so much of it comes back 40 years later.

That sign is going to be hung on the wall at the Hogan-Hall Building.

I’m sure glad.

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2014-02-27 digital edition

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