Additional businesses began to sprout up near downtown Rowlett in the early 1920s. The southwest corner of Main and Commerce housed a filling station and a store. Herman Buhler, J. E. Coyle, Jr., and Charlie Thompson ran the business at various times. Albert Henning then added a garage. Behind these businesses were three tourist cabins. These were very small oneroom cottage type buildings that visitors could rent for a night’s sleep. Rowlett was fortunate to have these, as they were not common in many communities.
Jim Parker opened a grocery in 1921, and Haywood Buhler established a grocery, dry good, and general merchandise store at the building at 3805 Main. At the corner of Skyline and Main, directly across from the Municipal Building, Jim Lewis had a cafe. He was very well known for selling great hamburgers and chili. Chili was fifteen cents a bowl, hamburgers were a dime, and drinks were a nickel. Vernon Schrade recalls Mr. Lewis always saying that he would never run Out of chili as long as he had water. Next to the cafe was an icehouse, where ice could be purchased by the pound. Just west of the cafe was their filling station.
Continuing west, businesses that could be found were Ben Duke’s filling station. August (Sz. Emma Lee Sperling ran a meat market located where the current Farmer’s Market stand is located. Coleman Anderson also had a filling station on the south side of main, near the corner of the library and the old firehouse.
Not only did Rowlett merchants purchase goods, they also spent a little money on entertainment. The Green Brothers would come to town by truck, pulling a trailer with a projector on it. They would set up a screen between two temporary poles, and erect the “chicken roost” — planks for seating auditorium style. For a shiny dime, patrons could watch silent movies. Another dime would get them a bag of popcorn. Most often, the movies were shown at the lot at 3825 Main. Sometimes they would be shown across the street on the lot just east of the Kimbrell House. Back on the other side, at 3829 Main, boxing matches would also take place.
Locals like Bully Polly and Spot Perkins, who later became a famous boxer, would get in the ring to duke it out. If they were providing an entertaining match, the patrons would throw coins onto the mat for the boxers to share as pay.
Residents also enjoyed evenings down at the Shady Grove Nickelodeon, located under the trees at the west end of Shipp Road (near the intersection of Shipp Road and Highway 66) on the J.H. Herbert homestead. A planked platform allowed for dancing and a nickel could get some music playing on the nickelodeon, or dick organ, as it was sometimes called. Some nights, local talent would perform live music.There were also three tourists cabins and a filling station just east of the platform. The filling station was known for being a local stop for a little bootleg.
Will Perry would become a type of legacy as the veteran mail carrier.His route would cover 30 miles and include over 500 stops. The story is told of how when he once moved, he had a large barrel full of shoes that he had worn out while walking his route.
As evidenced by the continuous addition of buildings, businesses, and access to the town, Rowlett grew immensely in the first three decades of the twentieth century — a trend that would continue to current day. We are grateful for those who came before us and laid the foundation for a wonderful and prosperous city of Rowlett.
A few miles east of town (now included) was the C. H. Axe Place. This combination grocery store and filling station was located at the corner of Chiesa Road and the Bankhead Highway. The Bankhead was later known as Highway 66 and then Highway 67. Carl Henry Axe (1890-1940). Frank and Nora Pelton Sperling later owned the store and it was known as Dalrock Grocery.
Courtesy A History of Rowlett by the Rowlett Historical Society. In this 1937 photo, Will Blake (left) is standing next to Steve Smolka. Smolka was killed in World War II. Additional information on Carl Axe.