Those Were the Days: Top o' Texas Rodeo

In the 1940s and 50ss just about every church sponsored a Boy Scout Troop. I was twelve years old and had joined up with all my neighborhood friends to Troop #8. There must have been twenty of us all between the ages of 12 to l5. Our Scout Master was Russell Cartwright, which we all liked very much. He had taken us on fishing trips to several Texas lakes with campground facilities. 

Now, a Scout troop needs money for equipment such as tents, cooking utensils, and so forth. One of our big projects for raising this money was working the big Top O’ Texas Rodeo. The rodeo was formed in 1945 by some enterprising men in the community of Pampa, Texas. The Kid Pony Show started back then also. Pampa had a population of around 16,000 to 20,000 during the 40s and 50s. 

The rodeo had a kickoff parade down Main Street and everyone in town was there. The rodeo lasted three days and the bleachers were always packed out and the cowboys and girls always put on a big show. The rodeo had all the events including bull riding which was my favorite to watch. The Tex Ritter band entertained, and there were plenty of clowns, and with lots of local contestants as well as out of towners. 

Wellsir, all the Scout Troops drew numbers out of a hat to see what they got to sell each year. This one year in particular, our troop got to sell coffee, ice cream, and donuts. Well, shoot, who the heck wants coffee and donuts in late August when the temperature is still 80 to 95 degrees? We would just have to show our “stuff” and get out there and sell, sell, sell! If you were assigned to sell ice cream you hollered “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” But sales were slow. 

The Shriners always out sold everyone with their barbeque plates and chopped beef sandwiches. Then you had the Scout troops that sold hamburgers and hot dogs, cakes and pies, candy, popcorn, and soft drinks. We all worked our “fannies” off and the crowd was always generous in helping out. 

So, on the final night of the rodeo, I think the good Lord stepped in to help us. We had the biggest ol’ gully-washer rain storm that started about 30 minutes until the rodeo would have ended. The announcer said to the large crowd, “Go home, the rodeo is over.” Wouldn’t you know it! 

The crowd began to leave. Our tent had a big awning that allowed folks to get out of the rain and since the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees cooler, we began to sell coffee and donuts! We had by far the largest crowd and sold out of our coffee and ice cream. However, we still had 20 dozen donuts left. Russell hollered, “Scouts, help yourselves to the donuts!” Five minutes later they were all gone. I ate 17 sugar-coated donuts and thirty minutes later I was sick as a horse and upchucking ... oh me oh my! But, we all enjoyed the evening and a memory was branded into my brain, and I didn’t touch a donut for about the next 20 years!

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