Opinion

Bob Mitchell: Remember those Rotary burgers? Yum!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

During the Rotary Rodeo’s run on the American Legion grounds, there wasn’t much regulation regarding the food being served.

But, when health regulations came to the community, the club was no longer permitted to bark the selling of hamburgers. There was some regulation regarding this, so the type of food quickly became Rotary burgers.

At the same time, the open-air facilities where the Rotary burgers and hot dogs were prepared was ruled as taboo by the same health person, who just happened to be a Rotarian.

When the first accommodations were met, a project of roofing the cook area and screening the facility was next in line, which really made the service much more presentable to the public.

Crowd pleasing refreshments

At the same time, cold drinks were served in various flavors of pop in bottles that were chilled in coolers of ice. Along came a regulation that the ice must contain some kind of disinfectant for the safety of customers.

The pop was carried out to the crowd in wooden cases, along with a second Rotarian carrying a box of burgers and hot dogs. On the hot evenings, a case of soda pop didn’t go far before a return trip to the cooler was necessary.

Cooks claimed records

Main cooks for the club were Dr. G.A. Purves and George Joslin, who both claimed records each year for the number of sandwiches of some kind they took off their two grills.

In later years, when the event moved to the present location, a more modern cook shack was constructed, but one thing had been omitted, and that was ventilation.

As nights in these parts can be extremely warm, especially on into summer months, sweltering conditions existed at the heaviest part of the cooking. Even the ladies, called Rotary Anns, putting the sandwiches together needed breaks to get out of the building to survive.

Even Glen Nicoll, who was in charge of popcorn, went outside at every opportunity. His job was to keep Boy Scout Troop 76 members who were assisting the club in its selling efforts, with full sacks of their product.

Legal or not, in later years, cooking over a charcoal fire was moved outside. With a larger grill and much more comfort, it’s possible Dan Bailey and myself might have broken previous Rotary burger cooking records at the Rodeo.

Modern conveniences helped

Serving drinks also hit the modern era when the rodeo moved to the Bill Hailey Arena. Machines were available from suppliers and paper cups were provided, which made it easier for those dispensing the product and those consuming it.

This created somewhat of a problem, which was quickly solved by the Boy Scout Troop as they daily made trash runs through the grounds. In return, Rotary, which sponsored the troop, make a financial contribution each summer.

Looked forward to the parade

The opening Friday night of the rodeo won’t see a parade coming down Main Street, something that a lot of folks looked forward to each year. For some it was an opportunity to saddle up the old gray mare and take a ride.

Story worth repeating

This is a true story once told, but is worthy of repeating.

When the rodeo was held on the American Legion grounds, Sue would sing the National Anthem each evening. This meant she had to climb a fence, get on a catwalk and go to the speaker’s stand. Using the announcer’s microphone and accompanied by a record, she performed the song.

Then it was back down, over the cattle pens, to the fence and back to her seat in the front area of the west side of the arena.

One of those rainy Saturday nights, she scrambled out of the arena with the crowd on the muddy ground and went home. The next morning she woke up discovering that the set was missing out of her engagement ring.

With the rain-out, she went back on Sunday afternoon and performed her singing chore again and returned to the same area where she was seated the night before. Using her foot to move the grass, something caught the sun and it was the missing stone.

One person near her after discovering what had happened, ask her if “she had stumbled over the stone?”

Few will remember this

I wonder sometimes if anyone is still around who might have been stuck on the grounds when a deluge of water rained out the event for several years. The availability of tractors on the grounds yearly provided a pull out of the mud for vehicles parked in the lower part of the grounds.

Getting traffic out on the highway was always difficult as few people had the patience to wait their turns. There were a number of license numbers turned over to law enforcement for the crashers.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.