ProRodeo Sports News - June 26, 2020

scheduled rodeos in the U.S. and Canada had been canceled, according to the September 1941 RAA Bulletin. Like today’s social-distancing restrictions, WWII brought on gasoline rationing and limited public gatherings along the coast and military roads. The West Coast, Arizona and NewMexico were designated Military Area One and Two. Within these zones, no public gatherings of 5,000 or more could be held without sanction. The only established rodeo within those zones to be held in 1942 was La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson, Ariz. The rodeos held throughout WWII had a war clause within their contracts, allowing committees to cancel at any time, without notice.

of any other community event,” according to the April 1942 RAA bulletin. The draft also played a role. By mid-July 1942 about 100 of the CTA’s 1,400 members had been drafted into the armed forces. Even animals were subject to a draft of sorts. In December 1941, the Army requested that all owners of mares and geldings 3 to 10 years of age in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada register their mounts with the Western Remount Arena in San Mateo, Calif. This call to arms (err, hooves) was never implemented, according to the January/February 1942 edition of Western Horseman . GROWING THE SPORT By mid-1942, it became clear that rodeo attendance had increased over 1941. The RAA’s July 1942 bulletin attributed the increase to rodeos forming in new areas and attracting “curiosity-seekers” and that established fans of the sport were taking a more active approach in finding rodeos to attend. Rodeo had proven itself as a


President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that baseball must continue despite the war as a morale builder. Rodeos didn’t receive the same level of federal backing, but fan

enthusiasm carried the flag into the arena, and some took it as an opportunity to establish new rodeos in places where none had been. Creating rodeos as fundraisers was a trend that began during WorldWar I and continued throughWWII. In 1942, Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days invested 75% of its profits in war bonds and donated the balance to the Red Cross, according to Western Horseman columnist Jerry Armstrong. Even in its infancy, by early 1942 the CTA had $10,000 worth of U.S. defense bonds. The CTA’s name changed during WWII, but their support did not. When the war ended, the RCA had $20,910 in war bonds (nearly $300,000 in 2020 dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The patriotic theme

morale booster for the military and civilians during the first year of the war. So in 1943, RAA President R.J. Hoffman continued his efforts to keep rodeos active while adhering to the travel restrictions of gasoline and tire rationing. The RAA’s April 1943 bulletin emphasized the importance of keeping competitions alive so they could resume on a full scale after the war. This was easier said than done, as lowered purses spurred arguments among some contestants. The RAA urged cowboys to avoid

bickering over prize money since bad news could reach the press. The organization also told them to not enter rodeos if they believed the prize money was too low and encouraged local ranch cowboys to continue to compete, according to the April 1943 edition of Hoofs and Horns . In the Jan. 30, 1943, edition, The Denver Daily Record Stockman predicted that the RAA’s efforts would pay off with an immediate expansion of the sport. That prediction came true in 1944. The year started with fewer rodeos than usual, but by the end of the 1944 season the number of rodeos had increased. By the end of the war, rodeo had established itself as synonymous with American patriotism and rallied new fans around the world, as soldiers stationed overseas introduced the sport to their foreign allies. That led to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) providing coverage of the 1944 Madison Square Garden Rodeo.

Rodeo Association of America magazine promoted rodeo as WWII neared its end.

continued at the Stock Show Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, where $50 war bonds were substituted for trophies to event winners. The prize money was an impressive $23,275 purse, plus entry fees. Other rodeos were able to offer higher dollar amounts, according to Armstrong’s column in Western Horseman’s July/August 1944 edition. Throughout the war, the RAA urged committee members of canceled rodeos to help organize those that were still being held for two reasons: preserving the sport and for morale of the troops who were fans. The secretary of the RAA received a letter from a colonel stating that the rodeo held in his area “was one of the finest morale builders for the army

DeVere Helfrich photo

After the war years, rodeo began a steady boom in popularity in the U.S., as fans flocked to arenas. Above, Burel Mulkey at Newhall, Calif., in 1949.

By the end of the war, rodeo had established itself as synonymous with American patriotism and rallied new fans around the world, as soldiers stationed overseas introduced the sport to their foreign allies.

ProRodeo Sports News 6/26/2020


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