Saturday, January 8, 2011

Finding your history in the oddest places

John Bartram, 1911-1987
One of our family's favorite pastimes has always been trolling the antique stores. My mom and I make a game of seeing if we can find items similar to the treasures that either of us grew up with: the dinnerware set that our family friend, Granny Sis, had when Mom was a little girl, a penguin ice bucket (or bun warmer, if you prefer) like the one Mom and Dad received as a wedding gift in 1964 (it's in my kitchen now) or Madame Alexander dolls that my sister and I collected as kids. It's a kick finding these things that remind us of our past, and we sometimes even bring them home. But, we never expected to find our own family in an antique store up in the California foothills.

Actually, my mom and her husband did the finding. I just reaped the benefits!

Here's how it happened: Just before Christmas, Mom and Rodney took a drive up to Mariposa, where several of Rodney's family are buried. They decided to snoop around the downtown antique stores, and boy was Mom surprised when she spotted some framed rodeo programs that featured her dad, John Bartram! She purchased a couple to give to my Aunt Brenda and Uncle Clay for Christmas, found out the name of the vendor who was selling these treasures, and asked him if he had any more. So, the day after Christmas, we wisely avoided the malls and headed back up to Mariposa to pick up some framed family history for ourselves.

Check it out!

This is a rodeo program from the Rowell Ranch Wild West Rodeo in Dublin, California, on June 4, 1941. Grandpa competed in three events that day: Brahma Bull Riding, Steer Wrestling and, of all things, Wild Cow Milking. That last event was a new one for us!

Not only was it fun to see Grandpa John's name all over this program, but also the names of so many of his good friends from back then. We recognized a lot of names from the stories Grandpa often told.

Here's the cover of the rodeo program. Grandpa John and his brother, Dutch, both worked for Harry Rowell from the 1930s through the early 1950s. Harry raised rodeo stock that was used for events not only at his own arena, but throughout the West. You can still see the rodeo grounds as you drive east on I-580 into Dublin, California.

Grandpa John is the #5 rider in the Brahma Bull Riding event. He competed professionally from 1932 until 1954. During that time, he participated in the rodeo portion of the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco, and joined rodeo greats Johnny and Frank Schneider and Joe Berl to make up the American team of rodeo riders sent to the World Games in Australia in 1936. You can imagine some of the wild stories Grandpa had to tell about his adventures!


  1. I didn't know they found it while browsing. That is awesome! I once found a book, in SoCal, while browsing one of my favorite shops. It featured the Bonanza area down to the actual road I lived on ( the road that runs along side Deedee's property). I love 'finds' with personal connections.