I have a little story that’s possibly relevant this week, and should rightly be deleted after that. For it’s an old tale; an old recollection and I’m using 1948 as the year, Rodeo Week which back then was also the week of the Fourth of July. The Harolds Club mural (pictured) which now graces the fairgrounds would not go up on the building for another year, and note, no apostrophe as Pappy Smith who owned Harolds Club didn’t like apostrophes and that’s good enough for us.
Back in those rowdy post-WWII days we had a great honor conferred annually during Reno week, which was known ‘round the globe as the Silver Spurs, not to be confused with the White Hats, who rode matching Palomino horses in the Fourth of July Parade. (Wearing white hats…) The Silver Spurs award given by the Reno Chamber of Commerce went to the silver-screen cowboy of the year – think Gregory Peck, Cary Cooper, Glenn Ford twice, John Wayne twice, James Arness, Hoss and Little Joe and Jimmy Stewart. And others I can’t think of at the moment. In this year of 1948 I’m thinkin’ it was the Duke, Pilgrim… for Red River…
The tale has to include two of Reno’s bygone fixtures – the Black Mariah paddy wagon and the Kangaroo Kourt. The fact is that if you worked in Reno, you probably went downtown every day. Including Rodeo Week. That said, I now invite the Junior Chamber of Commerce into this yarn – the “JayCees,” sometimes seen as the “20-30 Club” – local guys aged, but not wisely nor necessarily maturely this week, between 20 and 30.
These cowpokes decreed that in their town, pardner, you’ll wear your western duds lest you wind up being transported in the Black Mariah, a 1934 Ford flatbed truck converted to a paddy wagon by none other than Fred Cutler Sr. who later invented the Sani-Hut. And, without your duds, be they a Stetson or a snap-button shirt or a bandana or some fine manly footwear, or a belt buckle from Wade’s or Bools & Butler’s apparel and tack store, you’d be transported to the Kangaroo Kourt, basically an open-air barred jail cell, where, to secure your freedom you’d sing a song for the crowd, preferably cowboy, or shell out a cartwheel silver dollar to get back onto Virginia Street at Second.
And they were relentless, no man nor woman eluded the JayCees and their wagon. And, we learned, (as children, in my case) that some folks my parents’ age could sing!
The Fourth of July in Reno, and the Reno Rodeo, was a heck of a good week that the townsfolk embraced – few from Reno and Sparks didn’t journey at least one night to the fairgrounds to watch a little buckin’ then do a little boot-scootin’ into the wee hours…
But – that’s another little story of the town that will wait for another day. Enjoy the Rodeo, wear a bolo tie or something western, whatever that is, and thanks for reading my Little Story.