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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1997 :: Homecoming's Deep Roots

Rockdale Reporter, Thursday, June 5, 1997. Homecoming's Deep Roots Traced to '33-'34 Gatherings

Rockdale's annual homecoming . . . has some mighty deep roots. Franklin D. Roosevelt had been in office less than three months and not too many people outside Germany had even heard of a fellow named Hitler when the Rockdale Home Coming (that's the way it was chartered) Association was formed on a sunny Sunday in 1933. . . .

Rockdale's annual homecomings are the brainchild of Ira Perry, a rancher and former Rockdale resident who settled in the Pipe Creek area of Bandera County but never lost contact with Milam County. Under Perry's guidance, a small group gathered at Fair Park in June 1933, for the first homecoming.

They elected officers and planned a 'full-fledged' homecoming the next year. That's the meeting where it was decided to hold the annual homecoming on the second Sunday of June. Marion Burck Smith of Austin was named the first association president with Mrs. C.M. Sessions of Rockdale vice-president, Perry as secretary, and Mrs. D.H. Sanford of Rockdale and Mrs. W.A. Morrison of Cameron as historians.

The Rockdale Reporter termed the 1933 gathering "a rather impromptu affair" but had praise for Perry. "The fact that he was named to the key position of the organization is a guarantee that the next annual meeting will be largely attended," John Esten Cooke, Reporter editor, wrote.

FIRST TRAIN. Rockdale roots don't come much deeper than those of Mrs. Smith, first homecoming association president. She was the daughter of A.A. Burck, Rockdale's first mayor. Burck brought his family to Rockdale on the first International & Great Northern (I&GN) train that chugged into the new town in 1874. Rockdale's official founding is traced to that year, when the bustling new community was the railroad's western terminus.

Mayor E.A. Camp called the first homecoming to order and delivered a speech. "An hour or two was then spent in general conversation and the relating of reminiscences of the 'good old days.' Miss Polly Smith of Austin, the attractive daughter of the president, and an expert photographer, took several pictures of the group." In addition to Rockdale, Cameron, Austin and Pipe Creek, the first homecoming drew participants from Dallas, Rocksprings, Taylor, Palestine, San Antonio, Bastrop and Houston.

MOMENTUM. Perry began the next day to seek addresses of "all former Rockdale citizens" for the next event. Having decided to hold each reunion on the second Sunday in June, the new association used an interesting 1934 calendar and scheduled the next homecoming for June 3.

Nevertheless, over 60 persons participated including E.H. and W.A. Richardson of Dallas, sons of Rockdale's first lumber dealer, and C.G. Green of Hamlin, Rockdale school superintendent for almost two decades. City Secretary Branch Lewis, R.L. Orr and Mayor Camp helped organize the meeting. 

Names of those attending form almost a litany of Rockdale history and include Marrs, Isaacs, Sessions, Baxter, Phillips, Bullock, Williams, Baggerly, Mundine, Porter, Henry, York, Wallace and, as the Reporter noted, "probably others who failed to register."

The 1933 and 1934 meetings provided the momentum for all future homecomings. . . .

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