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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

World champion cowboy called Livermore home

By Barry Schrader.................................June 2, 2005

Livermore has been home to three world champs—heavyweight boxer Max Baer, wrist-wrestler Tiny Benedix, and rodeo rider Johnie Schneider.

Since Rodeo Week is just ahead of us, let’s concentrate on Johnie. But first, here is how to tell an old timer from a newbie in Livermore. If the person has been around for a long time, he or she grew up calling it “ro-day’-oh.” Those who hail from “back east” say “ro’-dee-oh.”

Johnie made his first appearance astride a bucking bronco in the Livermore Rodeo in 1923 at the age of 19. He was so good at every event in the arena that by 1931 he was named All-around World Champion Cowboy for racking up the most points in the nationwide rodeo circuit. The next year Livermore erected billboards on Highway 50 (now I-580) boasting that the town was home to the world champ. In 1935 Johnie was named All-around Champion Cowboy in Australia and a few years later added the Hawaiian Islands to his titles. He was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame at Oklahoma City in 1965. Then in the early 1980s a plaque was dedicated in his honor at the Livermore Rodeo Stadium, located at the bottom of the rear stairway to the grandstand. He was also named Grand Marshal of the Rodeo Parade and then spoke at the annual meeting of the Livermore Heritage Guild that year.

I first met Johnie in the mid-70s when he came to town to visit his grand-niece who worked at Der Weinerschnitzel, across the street from the newspaper office. He stopped in to introduce himself and I was dumbfounded that he was the same world champion I had read about. He had moved from Livermore many years before, after the loss of his young wife Julia (Freitas) who died of cancer at age 36. He then bought a ranch near Salinas and became a state brand inspector. He returned to chat several times over the next few years. He had great stories to tell and even shared some of his poems, written when he was a young man.

Johnie died in 1982 at age 77, a true “cowboy’s cowboy” throughout his life. He is buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery on East Avenue in Livermore.

That brings us to a tradition that Livermore has celebrated annually since 1918—the Livermore Rodeo. It has become known as the “World’s Fastest Rodeo” because they open each chute as fast as possible, one after another, creating more action in the arena than at any other rodeo. The cowboys and cowgirls are as much athletes as any football or baseball player you see in the big leagues today. In fact they risk more injuries than other professional sports because they are dealing with the unknown behavior of bulls and broncs that are totally out of control and outweigh the rider by several hundred pounds. So it makes it well worth the price of admission to witness this contest of brains and brawn June 11 or 12 at the Robertson Park Rodeo Stadium. And the warmup act is the downtown Rodeo Parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 11 when bands, marching units, floats and horses put on a show for your enjoyment. Make this weekend a family tradition and be a part of the rodeo crowd—a western hat and fancy shirt will make you feel even more a part of it. Not many communities can boast of a celebration that has remained popular for more than 85 years.

* * *

Last week I listed Lynn Owens as the Heritage Guild auctioneer but got his rank wrong. He retired as a Division Chief not a Captain. Thanks to Fire Chief Stewart Gary for pointing that out.

 

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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