Tyler roses not as easy to find as they once were
Tyler is known for its roses, but today it's a lot harder to find them than it once was.
At the height of the rose growing industry, stands with cut roses for sale could be found around town and in front of rose growers' houses on numerous roads out of town, according to local residents and business owners.
Mark Chamblee, owner and president of Chamblee's Rose Nursery, said the cut roses were just a byproduct of the field, taken before the bushes were harvested in the fall. So the companies would sell them.
Starting price in the early days was 25 cents a dozen, but that gradually increased to about $2 a dozen at the time Chamblee's stopped selling them, he said.
At one time, the company sold the roses at 20 East Texas businesses. And they weren't alone. Other rose growers did the same.
Chamblee said they used self-serve booths inside convenience stores and also had one at the nursery along U.S. Highway 69 North.
The setup operated on the honor system and Chamblee said "people were generally pretty honest."
A heavy-duty steel moneybox that locked from underneath served as the collection container for Chamblee's rose booths.
A bucket with water in it held the wrapped roses and employees restocked it daily, Chamblee said.
"It was a big operation, the cut flower business was," Chamblee said. He said they sold Tyler roses in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, among other locations. Another company sold in Shreveport and Texarkana, he said.
Sam Kidd, Smith County Historical Society treasurer, said he remembers in the early 1950s the rose stands on street corners around town.
Kidd, whose parents and grandparents were rose growers, said not much changed over the decades they were sold as cut flowers except the price.
Local historian Mary Jane McNamara said as she recalls the stands began popping up about the time the Texas Rose Festival began, which was in 1933.
She said she remembers heading out U.S. 271 to Gladewater, there used to be stands in front of the rose growers' houses. Travelers would stop, drop their money in a can and pick up some roses.
The roses, fastened together with wax paper and rubber bands sat in water. She said stands also existed along Texas Highway 64 west.
"Of course, any place they thought people were leaving town, the growers would have their own little stand out there," she said.
Now the only "stand" of sorts that remains, or the most noticeable one, is the van parked in the Brookshire's lot at the corner of Rice Road and South Broadway Avenue.
Nix Roses out of Whitehouse sells those roses and Cary Nix, whose family owns the company, said he remembers the roses being sold around town through the early 1980s.
He said his business quit doing it because it became unprofitable. He said other rose growers passed away, which also contributed to the decline, he said.
"We used to do that all the time," he said. "People stole so many of them. It wasn't worth doing it."
Ms. McNamara said in the days when rose fields surrounded Tyler, visiting them was a big part of the Rose Festival celebration. And cuts of roses were available in front of the properties.
"It was a great, great time," she said. "Life was very simple and people worked terribly hard, but it just seemed like we were the richest people on Earth in flowers."