This morning eagle-eyed local attorney Steven Grubbs sent me a link to a house for sale at 2206 Eclipse St., near the corner of Pinemont and T.C. Jester, right outside of Oak Forest and Candle Light Place and not all the way up in Acres Homes.

So yeah, it's kind of in no man's land, neighborhood nomenclature-wise, which is borne out by the fact that its listing assigns it to no subdivision. Grubbs pointed out that it does have a legal designation though, and that is Tract 22, Block 18, Deroloc, which is "colored" spelled backward.

It's easy to assume that racism lurks behind the designation, that whites in then-Dixified Houston gave the area this name as a sort of smirking in-joke. Digging in to the history books tells a different story.

In 1899, backward spelling was something of a citywide mania. Modeled on Mardi Gras, Houston's biggest annual citywde celebration launched that year and was called Notsuoh, and it was presided over by King Nottoc, a deity whose approval had to be maintained to keep the Magnolia City's economy humming. Though they picked almost all of it and loaded almost all of the bales on to the ships at Allen's Landing, African Americans were barred from participating in Notsuoh, so in 1901, black civic leaders launced a festival of their own.

Its name: DeRoLoc. It's disturbing to note that the master of DeRoLoc was known as King La-Yol-E-Civ-Res.   

The other Notsuoh, pictured.

In 1913 the DeRoLoc Theatre opened at 609 San Felipe (now West Dallas) in Freedmen's Town. By 1919 the theatre had changed its name to the American and both Notsuoh and DeRoLoc had been shut down, casualties to World War I and/or moralizing editorialists scandalized by the drunken shenanigans. 

The name Deroloc lived on in Mexia, Texas, where in 1919 it was the headquarters of Deroloc Oil, described in Robert Dannin's Black Pilgrimage to Islam as "a legendary group of African Americans who pioneered drilling in East Texas...the men of Deroloc possessed exceptional knowledge of the local terrain and knew almost instinctively where to look for oil. They had memorized almost every inch of soil and landmark where they played as boys. Participating in the exciting oil boom was the realization of a world beyond the cotton fields. These black oil men were a new breed, full of promise, serious and poised, stylishly dressed and urbane."  

If that's the source of the name, what could have been prouder or more glamorous for its time?

Filed under
Show Comments