Elizabeth Rockwell


Interview with Elizabeth Rockwell, Class of 1932

Mrs. Elizabeth Rockwell is one of the first graduates of River Oaks Elementary. It was called River Oaks School then. She is a graduate of River Oaks, Lanier and Lamar High School. She is well known in the Houston community as a generous philanthropist and community leader. She was the 75th Anniversary Honorary Chair in 2003. She is a fourth generation Texan.

What years did you attend River Oaks School?

“I began in 1928 and finished in May of 1932. I started in 3rd grade, the first year the school was open. Before that I attended private kindergarten at Mrs. Dangerfield’s. Kindergarten was not required. We were taught ethics and we had animals and gardens. We went on field trips to the museums and city hall. I went to Kinkaid for 1st and 2nd grades. It was the only private school around.”

What is your most outstanding memory from your school years?

“May Fete was a May Day celebration. We wore costumes; ours were like the Renaissance period. The younger children stayed on the Avalon side of the school. The kindergarten was in the corner where the teacher’s lounge is now. The older children stayed on the San Felipe side of the school.”

Has the school changed much over the years since you were there?

“It is very identifiable but it is larger. The cafeteria and kitchen are in the same place. We could bring in our own lunches. I do not remember the school having a library. We had a temporary building for crafts, woodwork, art and naps. School began in early September and ended in June. We had cross ventilation with the windows open. We had no air conditioning and knew nothing else except fans and open windows. ”

Where did your family live when you attended the school and how did you get there?

“In the beginning, we lived on Sleepy hollow Court. I was driven to school. Later we moved to Garrett, and I carpooled. Few walked to school and there was no crossing guard.”

What was Houston like back then? River Oaks?

“Westheimer and Kirby were not paved. They had large ditches on either side. There were no homes on Avalon; my friend’s parents built the first home on that street. River Oaks was known for its beautiful homes and trees. It was home.”

What do you remember about the first principal, first teachers?

“Our principal was Miss Eva Margaret Davis. She was a little woman, stooped over with sandy red hair. She was very loving. She was picked by the School Superintendent and advisory committee which included Miss Ima Hogg. There was an option to have a private or a public school on the 15 acres set aside by the Potters and Mr. Hogg. Because Miss Davis agreed to be the principal, they created a public school. In the 1970s, Miss Davis drove from San Antonio to the HISD 50th Anniversary at 92 years of age and saw her former students at the school. Most of the teachers were not married and many were Rice University graduates.”

Where has your life and career taken you since River Oaks School?

“Even though I did not realize it, while still attending River Oaks, my future in the business world was rockwell1beginning to take shape. Before River Oaks opened, I attended Kinkaid. At home I was using a typewriter and helping my mother address envelopes for a non profit organization.

My career began with typing class at Lanier. We did not have any business classes so that was as close we came to it. We could take different classes

I attended Rice for one year and then went to the University of Houston. I took accounting. I worked for my grandfather at his insurance office. I did not know that women did not become accountants in those days

After I married, I moved to different cities in the North East and found out that women were not hired for accounting positions up there. Houston had been much more progressive about hiring women. I returned to Houston and began my career at Heights Savings and Loan. I was the computer coordinator for the first system south of Chicago. I became very familiar with a new savings plans called Keogh Plans and advertised them locally. I opened 30 in one day and was invited to testify before the Congressional Ways and Mean Committee. My presentation was printed in the Congressional Record. This information was helpful in the development of legislation that would soon be the Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Later I supplied the Congressional Sub Committee with information as to “how” the proposed regulation would work. This opportunity demonstrated my thirst for knowledge and how I enjoy providing it to the community in a language the public understands – not in legalese.

I joined Oppenheimer with 2 partners and entered the brokerage business and was a financial planner. I retired some years ago.”

Mrs. Rockwell has a thirst for knowledge and enjoys providing it to the community in a language the public understands – not in legalese.