As kids growing up, my sisters and I were subjected to many stories, view, songs, and events that centered around the Old West. When I say subjected, I don’t mean that we hated every minute of I, because we didn’t. We lived in Wyoming, and therefore we embraced the Old West. I can’t say that my sisters and I always liked all things western, because that would be false too. We all went through our Rock and Roll era, and during that time, we pretty much hated Country music, although shows like Bonanza, the Rifleman, Wagon Train, and The Virginian…just to name a few, were among our favorites, and we each had our favorite actors, and we were going to “marry” them. I know, silly…right?
Back then, the Old West was still considered something that people were proud to know about, or even to know people who lived those times. It was the times that our grandparents grew up in, and that made it even more cool. I don’t suppose that the kids of today look back on the Old West or even the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, as being cool, because those times were before personal computers and cell phones, so I’m sure it seemed like the dark ages to the kids of today. Those years were probably best known for protests…unless you compare that era to today’s, when everyone is so offended by everything. Even when I look back on my childhood years, I can’t say that I think we as a generation did anything so amazing…at least not until we grew up, because of course, it is our generation that invented the computer and cell phone. Nevertheless, it was a vastly different era that the Old West…or maybe that’s just my opinion.
While we were little, many of the cities and states were celebrating their centennial years, and it was a big deal!! Contests were held to see who could grow the best beard, and I’m sure who had the best Old Western costume. My Dad, Allen Spencer, decided to grow a beard for the competition. I don’t know if he won or not, or even if he entered any contest at all, but he got in on the festivities…as did Dad’s girls. We each had a long dress, much like the women of the Old West wore, and our parents took pictures to document the events. It was a great time, and they made sure that they had plenty of pictures of it.
These days, you seldom hear of such events. I don’t know if states or cities are just not at the right point, or if many people have just lost interest, or what has happened exactly, but you don’t see these things happening. I find that sad, because our family found it to be very fun and interesting. Of course, there are still reinactments of old western robberies, the pony express, and wagons west trips, and I think those would be fun, but for some reason that centennial just seemed different…more interesting somehow…like we were a real pioneer family.
My dad never was a man to wear a beard. In fact, he didn’t like how they looked. He always wore a moustache, and we always thought he looked very handsome. In fact, I think that is probably why I like moustaches today, but I don’t ever remember my dad wearing a beard.
He did wear one however…once. It was during the Minnesota State Centennial, and my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin, which is just across the bridge from Duluth, Minnesota. One of the event of that celebration was a beard competition, and my dad decided to join in the fun. I don’t know if there was an actual contest or not, but there were a lot of men who were competing. Dad reminds me of a thinner Sebastian Cabot, who played Mr French on the old television show, “A Family Affair.” I always liked Mr French, I guess in many ways, his protectiveness reminded me of my dad.
I think I would like to have seen that, because my parents were dressed up as pioneers. Mom wore a long skirt and Dad a suit. Dad carried a cane. They looked very distinguished. They didn’t really tell me much about the celebration, but I have checked into it, and there was a parade…of course, there is always a parade, isn’t there. They also had a Centennial Train, which was fashioned after the Freedom Train that had transported the Declaration of Independence and other important documents around America after World War II ended. And of course, there was a beauty pageant. But to me, the Centennial will always mean the time that my dad grew a beard and my parents dressed up like pioneers, in celebration of 100 years of statehood for Minnesota.