BATES, OREGON MAJORETTES
(World Famous!)

 

By: Helen Bogart

 

A group of Majorettes was started in a small Eastern Oregon sawmill town of Bates in the year of 1949.  The founders were two former High School Majorettes, Aglah Mereidth and Betty Brooks and a first and second grade teacher name Ruby Dunn. 

 

The name chosen for the group was the Bates Majorettes.  The original group were as follows: Shirley Sibley, Leader; Billy Jo Greear, Jeanne Strong, Marylyn Jones, Geneva Strong, Donna Sibley, Karen Nutt, Viola Luce, Patricia (Patty) Howard, Rosalie Greear, Rosita White, Peggy Frazier, Jo Ann Davis and Susan Bogart, age 5 ... the youngest of the group. 

 

Their first uniforms were short blue cotton circular skirts lined with white.  They wore white blouses and shoes.  This group of girls kept the town and their names in the news for the next several years.  Their first out-of-town appearance was for the Music Festival held in John Day at the Grant Union High School.  This was in May, 1950. 

 

In September, 1950, they graduated to new Military type uniforms, blue and white tops with pleated short skirts.  White Majorette boots and they wore blue ribbons in their hair.  Lana Owens was sign bearer for the Grant County Fair Parade, held in John Day.  Elva Strong made this sign.  They won a prize for out-of-town entry.  Aglah Merdith moved away before the girls performed at the country fair.  Betty instructed, with Elva Strong and Helen Bogart assisting.  Several girls joined the group through the years that the girls were active.  I will list them at the end of this story.

 

In May, 1951, Billy Jo, Marylyn, Patty Holthusen and Gayla Watterson performed at the Mother and Daughter Banquet for the Prairie City Junior Women's Club.  Betty Brooks moved away soon after that and Helen Bogart and Elva Strong took over the group.

 

In June, 1951, the girls marched and twirled in the Flag Day Parade in Baker.  They marched in front of the Baker Drum and Bugle Corps.  A white pill box was added to their uniforms.  The girls changed their clothes in the John Day Elks Club, in the women's lounge.  Their eyes really popped open and they were thrilled to see such elegance.  None of the girls had seen anything like it before.  It was about this time that Patricia McChesney and Myrna Adams joined the group.

 

Three of the Cub Scouts of Troop 92 carried the American Flag and two flags with the Majorettes name on them.  Helen Bogart was also Den Mother of the Cub Scouts at this time.  These are some of the Cubs that carried the Flag and Signs for the Majorettes at one time or another.  Billy Frazier, Ralph (BoBo) Holthusen, Larry Holthusen, Kenneth (Danny) Bogart, Mike Nutt, and Robert Miles.

 

June, 1951, the group performed for the Bates Women Club.  It was nothing to see Mrs. Bogart and the girls out marching and practicing on the rough dirt streets of Bates.  It was also in June that the group won $8.00 at the Prairie City Rodeo Parade.  Danny Bogart, BoBo Holthusen and Billy Frazier were the Flag bearers.

 

The Majorettes took first prize in the Kids Day Parade in Baker on July third, 1951.  Shirley Sibley was the leader for the July third and fourth parades in Baker.  Peggy Frazier was the leader for the rest of 1951. 

 

September, 1951, Loretta (Toots) McChesney assisted Mrs. Bogart at the Grant County Fair Parade in John Day.  Mike Nutt carried the Majorette Flags.  I am sure all the girls will remember that they were always placed somewhere back of a group of horses and had to march through the horse manure.  It was at this time that Herman Oliver was big cheese of the County and he thought that horses were the most important part of the parade.

 

During the winter of 1951-52, they performed at various home ball games in the gym.  April, 1952, Marylyn Jones, Susan Bogart and Billie Jo Greear performed for the Prairie City Fourth Annual Spring Fashion Show.  They wore new uniforms on one piece white satin circular skirts.  The skirts were lined with royal blue satin.

 

At this time Miss Verna Cook assisted Mrs. Bogart in drilling the girls five evenings a week.  It was during this period that Donna Howell and Nellie (Punkey) Welch joined the group.

 

May, 1952, the Majorettes performed at the Eight Grade Graduation at the Community Hall in Bates.  May 22, they marched in the Armed Forces Day parade in Baker.  They marched in front of the Baker High School Band.  Karen Nutt was leader for this parade.

 

With the help of the Bates Women's Club we were able to buy white Shako's with royal blue plumes.  (Majorette Hats).  June 10, 1952 the girls performed for the Bates Women's Club when they entertained the Prairie City Women's Club.  It was at this meeting that the girls presented Mrs. Bogart with a Orchid Hyse Crystal Cream and Sugar Bowl with tray, which she still had as of May, 1981.

 

In June, 1952 they marched in the Prairie City Rodeo Parade.  Winning another eight dollars, which at that time was a lot of money to the girls.

 

They performed again in September, 1952 - yes! - behind the horses again in the Grant County Fair Parade.  Any parade that gave prizes, the girls always came away with some of the prize money.

 

The girls twirled at the Amateur Hour put on by the Union Auxiliary in September, 1952, at the Bates Community Hall.  They won first prize.

 

The winter of 1952 -53 was a busy winter for the girls as they performed at all Scout and Basketball games.  Sandy Wilmarth joined the group in the spring of 1953.  The Bates Majorettes and Bates Boy Scouts opened the Grant County Musical Festival in John Day in May, 1953. 

 

May, 1953 the Majorettes won $5.00 in the Armed Forces Day Parade in Baker.  They marched in front of La Grande's American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps.  Marylyn Jones was leader.  Sandy Wilmarth, Donna Howell, Susan Bogart, Punky Welch and Gayla Watterson were the ones that took part in this parade.

 

Also in May the following girls performed for the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic of Baker at the American Legion Hall.  The girls really enjoyed this performance.  I think because the women made over them and served them lunch.  The girls attending were Marylyn Jones, Susan Bogart, Donna Howell, Linda Novotney, Sandy Wilmarth and Marlene Blume.

 

Kathy White joined in the summer of 1953.  Majorettes performed in Amateur Hour in Bates again on August 27, 1953.  No record is available at this time to see how the girls did in this performance.  (From what I can recollect, I believe they took second prize. -- Helen Bogart).  Karen Nutt dropped or moved away in the summer of 1953.

 

September 17, 1953 the girls marched in the Grant County Fair Parade.  This was the first time we had Marylyn Jones, the leader, in royal blue satin uniforms.  At one time Mrs. Bogart took the girls over to Unity for instruction from a lady who at one time was a Majorette.  I do not recall the lady's name.

 

During the years the girls were marching they raised money toward a loud-speaking system, which could be used on a car or used by electricity.  Knewt Dennis - Assistant General Manager of the Oregon Lumber Co., presented the girls with enough money to help pay for the loud speaking system.  The loud-speaking system was not only used for the Bates Majorettes, but for the school activities, ball games , and the Bates Hill Topper's Square Dance Club.  The loud-speaking system stayed in the Community Hall until the mill was moved to John Day.  It was then given to Deborah Chapter #43 of the Easter Star in Prairie City.

 

The last performance of the Bates Majorettes was at the Prairie City Rodeo Parade in the spring of 1954.  This was due to most of the original group had either graduated from the grade school or moved away. 

 

The following girls belonged to the Bates Majorettes at one time or another.  The ones with the stars behind their names were of the original group:

 

Shirley Sibley* 1st leader                                        Peggy Frazier* 2nd leader

Marylyn Jones* 4th leader                                       Susan Bogart*            

Jeanne Strong*                                                     Geneva Strong*

Viola Luce*                                                           Patricia Howard

Rosita White*                                                        Jo Ann Davis*   

Marlene Blume                                                        Nellie Welch

Patricia Holthusen                                                   Patricia McChesney

Linda Novotney                                                      Donna Howell

Karen Nutt* 3rd leader                                            Billie Jo Greear

Donna Sibley*                                                        Rosalie Greear                   

Lana Owen, 1st Flag Bearer                                      Gayla Waterson

Sandra Wilmarth                                                     Kathy White

 

 

At the time of the Bates Majorettes, there were no Majorettes either in Grant or Baker Counties.  After the girls performed in both counties several times, the High School Bands started having Majorettes.  Several of our group went into high school and took an active part in Majorettes.

 

(Compiled by: Helen Bogart, May 22, 1981)