Well, it wasn’t 1819, but I did take a little trip last week as I headed straight toward Dublin, Texas and the Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum. I had heard that board members were updating, that they had new videos about the fascinating history of the Dublin Rodeo that extended all the way from Dublin, Texas to Madison Square Garden, and I wanted to know more.
Museum President, Carolyn Harbin, spent the first hour entertaining me with photos, videos, and stories before introducing me to Dr. Vernon L. Williams, board member, consultant, professor of history at ACU, producer of documentary films, and all around lover of all things that pertain to Dublin rodeo and the Dublin Rodeo Museum.
Of course, as a board member of the Comanche County Historical Museum, I had to ask how in the world Dublin was lucky enough to capture a professor and quite often his students to help with the mounds of work involved in maintaining a museum that functions with mostly volunteer labor.
“When I became a professor at Abilene Christian in 1989, I met Bennie Galloway, who was also a professor in the history department. (As a point of reference, Bennie’s wife is Lois Harvick’s sister, the aunt of Kenneth and Ronnie Harvick, Christi Escobar, and Dyana Thedford.)
“Bennie was constantly talking about Dublin and Gene Autry and of being mesmerized by Rosemary Colborn. He told the whole story over and over until I finally told him that I did not believe that any of those things happened in Dublin, Texas. One day I just said, ‘Enough. Get in the car, and let’s go to Dublin. I want you to prove it to me.’ We came to all the places, even visiting the Lighting C Ranch, and I found it was all true!
“One thing that I had experience in was in building museums. In fact, I had just finished a WWII museum so I told Dublin that I could help begin a rodeo museum if anyone was interested.”
At this point, Williams stopped to tell me that in his mind he privately dedicated his service on the museum to Bennie Gallaway for kindnesses shown to him and his family.
“The city provided the building and gave us a 100 year lease on it. For several years, we would bring students down, and we just slung sledge hammers. We’d raise money, and we’d spend it, and then we’d raise more. The building was in very bad shape, but it was perfect for what we needed.
“One thing we had to do was make it a national campaign. We knew the locals would donate, but we had to have a national appeal, and we did because this was a national rodeo. People all over the U.S. have donated to the museum. We have not borrowed any money so every single thing you see here is paid for.”
Of course, being able to offer service learning projects to educated university students with lots of various skills is a resource that few small town museums have. Because of Williams’ connection to ACU, students have had access to the video lab, and today the museum chronicles the unbelievable rodeo history that belongs to the unassuming little town of Dublin, Texas.
Don’t you wish your local museum had a professor who loved it? In the very near future, I will be bringing you some of the stories of the famous Dublin Rodeo…from Dublin, Texas to Madison Square Garden.