The Spirit Lives On
I was born in Calgary in 1940. My father was a former rodeo competitor as a bronc rider, a chuckwagon outrider and a hazer for bull dogger Eddie Bowlen. He was the grandson of a Scot who came to Canada in 1880 and settled on the Ghost River northwest of Cochrane. A love of the Stampede was instilled in me from the time I was born and in my 71 years of life I have only missed one Stampede, that being in 1964 when I was in hospital having my daughter who, by the way, has been a member of the Downtown Attractions Committee for over 25 years thus carrying on our family's tradition of involvement.
I remember as a child always going to the Parade plus taking in the sights at Stampede Park every year. My mother and my aunts always packed a lunch for my cousins and I and we trooped down to Stampede Park with it riding in our Red Flyer wagons, having a picnic on the banks of the Elbow at meal time. We were enthralled with the carnies' invitations to come see the bearded lady and the hoochy koochy girls but my father would quickly steer us away from them muttering that those shows weren't for children.
When I was 12 I was hired by the Stampede to usher in the Grandstand and performed those duties for several years. In the early 1960s I took vacation from my regular job for several summers to work in the rodeo office answering the phone, typing daily results for the press and the line-ups for the next day. We had to be accurate as we used carbon paper and no errors were allowed. Dick Cosgrave was the arena director and kept a good supply of beer in his office fridge. In those days, the bucking stock only had numbers so the night before each rodeo we had to give the animals drawn for next day's events a name before we typed up the programme list. Some animals worked under several different names during each year's rodeo. I remember how handsome Casey Tibbs was.....we all swooned over him.
One of the highlights of my week of work was being given one afternoon off each Stampede to go sit in the announcer Warren Cooper's booth and watch the rodeo. The night of payout to the cowboys all of us young women who were working in the rodeo office were sent home early as it was "not a place for young ladies to be".
In 1983, I submitted an application to be a volunteer. I was thrilled to be selected as a chaperone for the Stampede Queen and Princesses and performed that duty for 10 years. Initially, even though we put in countless hours each year, chaperones were not considered to be volunteers thus we did not get an annual pin. It was only through the intervention of my cousin Eleanor Baillie who was a director that we finally received volunteer status. My volunteer pin was sent to me by courier several days before that year's Stampede started. Because Margaret Fraser chaperoned the girls during Stampede, I didn't have any duties during the 10 days so in order to feel a real part of what was happening so I joined the Caravan Committee doing breakfasts not only during Stampede but throughout the year in Calgary and many other cities. The roads trips were great fun and we spread the spirit of the Stampede far and wide.
I also had the honour of riding in the Parade in a buggy with my parents the year my father was the "Pioneer Son" in the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Their Descendants section of the Parade......He was in his late 80's and his name was on the side of the buggy so people yelled out "Hi Doug" to him. He thought they all knew him. It was quite funny.
As I grew older the heavy lifting and tough schedule of Caravan started to weigh on me so I joined the Western Art Auction Committee plus during Stampede hosted visiting Rodeo Queens from the United States for the Queens Alumni Committee. Little did I know how involved I would become in the acquisition of art for the western art auction when I took on the chore of sorting through all the applications and organizing the jury sessions that selected the final pieces. For the months of January, February and March I couldn't see my dining room table because of applications and slides.
During this period, I also accompanied Margaret Fraser, the presiding royal trio and their chaperone to Las Vegas each year for National Finals Rodeo. I was the designated driver in Vegas and soon became very familiar with all the back roads so that we could get to our next function on time. Again, we spread the Stampede word and spirit not to mention that when we attended Cowboy Christmas I was always on the lookout for new artists for the Western Art Show taking names and making sure they were placed our mailing list.
Eventually I decided to retire and became an alumnus but I still spread the word about how great the show is, go to the Parade and take newcomers to Calgary under my wing to ensure that they learn just how great the Stampede is and how much fun they can have. As a result Caravan now has a new member who immigrated from Ireland a few years ago and is absolutely smitten with the Stampede. Since I have no grandchildren, I have outfitted his children in Wranglers, western belts and hats and I'm sure they will eventually become valuable volunteers. The spirit lives on!!!!!