Not so well kept secrets from the Rodeo office
Like many people in Calgary I have not missed a Stampede. 3 generations of our family have worked during Stampede. Myself in the Rodeo office for 16 years, my dad, Don McLean was Rodeo Secretary for 20 years, my husband, Irv for 4 years, my sister, Lorraine in the Grandstand and my son Gregg (Scooter) is currently vice president of North American Midway, having been involved in Midway entertainment for 35 years.
I don’t believe the heart of Rodeo has changed that much but certainly behind the scenes evolved to what it is today. Numerous memories come to mind. I will tell of just a few.
The Rodeo office had a large porch with benches outside. It was a great gathering place. The inside was quite roomy with a reception area and two offices. There was also an interesting hallway down to the washrooms. The walls were piled two deep to the ceiling with beer cases. The infield director did a lot of entertaining.
The Rodeo secretary was literally secured and barricaded during the taking of entries, entry money and payouts to the winners. His office door was locked and padlocked and he sat behind a very, very, small opening during these times. However, with all this security I found it strange that on more than one occasion I was given a sack full of money, walked through the barns to the Administration office to make a deposit.
The office was run efficiently. Rodeo, Chuckwagon draws and results were always out within a reasonable time frame. Our hours were long, from early morning to sometimes as late as 3:30 a.m. However, it was dependent on the infield director and the draw committee and others getting the information to us.
The 3:30 a.m. night was a result of a dispute over one of the wagon races. The dispute went on for hours. It was also the occasion of my birthday. My mom had invited a lot of my friends over for a surprise party as there had been hopes we would finish work early. By all reports everyone had a great time without me.
When my dad took the position he was handed an unloaded revolver and told it was to be used to scare away unruly cowboys. He refused. There were always enough cowboys around that would wrestle the unruly one(s) and literally throw them out of the office or continue the fight outside of the office. People coming into the Rodeo office would just give the fight a glance and continue on their way or stay around to “whoop and holler” for a winner. I always had Saturday night off as it was not thought to be a suitable or safe place for a young lady to be. Looking back, I agree it was true. As it is today most cowboys are out to participate in the sport they love and always hopeful of taking home some of the winnings.
Many times a cowboy would ride his horse into the office, pick me up and take me out for a ride. Of course, my dad and some of the office staff would be running after and yelling at the cowboy to put me down. I always thought the scene would make a good “cowboy” cartoon.
It was fun meeting celebrities. So many wanted to see the heart of the Rodeo and so came to our office. Some of the most interesting people were the Rodeo clowns and the infield entertainers. We most certainly had our share of movie stars and royalty. I have petted skunks, ridden a buffalo, a horse (of course), my children have ridden a tame Brahma bull and I have had a lion fall asleep with its head on my lap. I don’t suggest this as its head is very heavy and your legs fall asleep.
I had to go to the infield office every day during the Rodeo and Chuckwagon races. One year was famous when the Stampede charged the First Nations gate admission. We heard they were doing rain dances. During that week it rained so much a cowboy rode me back and forth because the track and infield were not navigable on foot.
My dad (and family) along with Dick Cosgrave (and family) took the first Chuckwagons to Cheyenne, Wyoming.....memorable and exciting.....the horses and riders bucked right up into the box seats. It was pretty scary having horses hooves coming down on your head and missing by inches.
I only remember once when the office was shut down. During the evening performance we all went to watch a Chuckwagon driver and outriders racing around the track by itself. The driver had been racking up some pretty serious penalties in previous races. It was felt that that rig was seriously putting the other wagons at risk, hence the decision. The crowd went wild. This was the first and to my knowledge only time such a race happened.
One last story. Very often I watched the wagon races along with the judges from the “eye-in-the-sky.” One night, Lord and Lady C were with us. They were visiting from England and were ve....ry refined. Taking later we doubted butter would melt in their mouths. One of the judges constantly turned the air blue with ##%%>>$$ language at every wagon or outrider that was late or having trouble. After every sentence, as a gentleman cowboy would, he tipped his hat to the couple, looked the Lady straight in the eye and said, “Pardon me, Ma’m.” I quit counting after 20.
I have been privileged to watch some of the best events, cowboys and wagon racers in the world. It was a wonderful time with so many once in a lifetime experiences. The great memories that have travelled with me all of my life.
Mickie (Maureen) Korek