Sitting at a big dinner table in a home near the 800-acre cattle ranch where they spent their formative years, Jack and Steve Wallace recently pored over hundreds of rodeo photographs taken over the past six decades. The Wallace brothers have many memories of their mom and dad volunteering for the Ellensburg Rodeo. Looking through the old photos, the brothers recall past rodeos, their own days as roping competitors, and the rodeo connections of their children and grandchildren those of their late sister Betty. Throughout the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st, the Wallace family history has been tightly woven into the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo.

The Frank Wallace Family will be inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame (ERHOF), Thursday, at Central Washington University’s Student Union Recreation Center (SURC) Ballroom. Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper and Kay Forbes Hageman will also be inducted into ERHOF, and the banquet will spotlight ERHOF’s “Shades of Fame” western art auction and fundraiser. The Wallaces are being inducted into ERHOF’s “Pioneer Rodeo Family” category.

FAMILY HISTORY

The Frank Wallace family members are four-generation Kittitas Valley ranchers, horsemen, rodeo royalty, volunteers and timed-event contestants who have contributed countless hours to furthering the traditions of the Ellensburg Rodeo.

The Wallaces are descended from Scottish, English and Swedish immigrants. When he was a small child, Frank Wallace (1914-1995) moved with his family from Roseburg, Oregon to the Yakima Valley to farm. Kathryn Glenn Wallace’s (1919-2009) parents had come to Washington state from Iowa and were bakers in Selah. Kathryn and Frank married in 1938 and moved to the northeastern corner of the Kittitas Valley from the Ahtaneum area of Yakima County in 1949. They farmed and ranched and raised their three children — Jack, Betty and Steve — on a large cow-calf and hay ranch on the Vantage Highway. The Wallaces eventually bought a ranch on Lyons Road.

Although raised a town girl, Kathryn Wallace helped Frank ranch, and she worked for Mills Saddle and Togs (an Ellensburg Western wear and saddle shop) and the Central Washington University food services, from which she was a retiree. Kathryn was a member of the Rodeo Valley Riders and Jolly Neighbors, and in 2002 she was voted Kittitas County Cattlewoman of the Year.

FRANK AND KATHRYN’S RODEO VOLUNTEERING

Frank Wallace’s first involvement with the Ellensburg Rodeo came as a young man, when he competed in the Stagecoach Races, a colorful and dangerous track event from the early days of the rodeo. An early 1950s member of the Kittitas County Roping Club (ERHOF inductees), Frank met rodeo board members Art Driver and Tex Taliaferro and soon became a rodeo volunteer himself. He worked in and around the arena from approximately 1953 to the mid-1980s, giving three and a half decades of service.

Mounted on his horse, Frank Wallace assisted stock contractors (including Harry Vold and Christensen Brothers, both ERHOF inductees) in the difficult business moving broncs and bulls into their pens and chutes and leading them out of the arena after each ride. In timed events, Frank supervised and conducted the important, time-consuming sorting of calves and steers prior to the rodeo and moving them into their event chutes and out of the arena. Jack and Steve Wallace recall their mom and dad literally “lived at the rodeo grounds” from the week before Labor Day Weekend until the following Tuesday.

Frank and Kathryn Wallace spent rodeo in their motor home, parked along the northeast track fence. Kathryn was a great cook and the Wallace RV kitchen was fully stocked. Longtime Ellensburg Rodeo Arena Director Dr. Ken Macrae (also an ERHOF Inductee) recalled, “Long before there was any thought of a hospitality room for the rodeo workers, Kathryn Wallace fed the entire arena crew lunch from her motor home before every rodeo performance.” There were also liquid refreshments.

JACK AND STEVE WALLACE

Jack, Betty, and Steve Wallace carried on their parents’ volunteer spirit and love of the Ellensburg Rodeo. All three competed in junior rodeo. Jack enjoyed success as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) calf roper. During the 1960s and 70s, Jack won many calf roping championships, including Omak, Billings, and Williams Lake (B.C.), and Coulee City, where he won in the team roping three times. Jack rode the rodeo circuit from Alberta to Houston with his mentor Jerry Anderson and won go-rounds (“day money”) in Calgary, Denver, and Fort Worth on his horse Skillet.

A farrier (horse-shoer) by trade, Jack volunteers at the Ellensburg Rodeo’s timed-event stock and the roping chutes and served for a decade on the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Board.

Jack’s younger brother Steve has owned and operated a family ranch on Fairview Road for 40 years and was a co-partner in the Ellensburg Livestock Exchange. Steve won the prestigious Kittitas County Calf Roping championship in ’69, ’70, and ’71 astride his horse Jake, and he successfully competed as a roper in both amateur rodeos and the PRCA, winning the calf roping championship buckles at Othello, Coulee City, Sand Point, Union, and other rodeos. In Joseph, Oregon, he and Ken Macrae won the team roping.

MacRae recalls that in the 1990s, “Steve Wallace and his sister Betty’s husband Dan Hull were all helping in the arena,” carrying on the Wallace volunteer tradition.

THE 3RD AND 4TH GENERATIONS

When Jack and Monica Wallace, Betty and Dan Hull, and Steve and Debbie Wallace began to raise their own families, a new generation of Wallaces entered the rodeo arena. Collectively, Julie (Jon) Blackmore, Ehrin Wallace, Jackie (Brian) Fenz, Shane and Shannon Hull, Michele Wallace Femrite, Lindsey (Ryan) Clark, and Ty Wallace boast records as past rodeo royalty (Julie was 1992 Ellensburg Rodeo Princess), junior rodeo competitors, PRCA ropers, and Kittitas County Roping Club and Kittitas County Barrel Racing Club members, and Ellensburg Rodeo volunteers.

And now a fourth generation of Wallaces — Beau, Ben, JT, Emmett, Gunner, Penny, Kayliana, Jalina, Cade, Cort, Coy, and Blayce — are, literally, “learning the ropes” from their parents and grandparents.

LOOKING BACK

Back at that dining room table reminiscing about their decades-long involvement in rodeo, Jack and Steve Wallace happily recall their days as competitors. They laugh about the times they arrived to compete at a rodeo only to realize they had forgotten to enter, and the time Jack even forgot to enter them in Ellensburg. They recall their mad dashes traveling hundreds of miles to get from one rodeo to another in time for their events. And they remember the time Steve and fellow roper Sam Kayser were escorted into Ty Valley, Oregon by a police car, lights flashing and siren blaring, driven by a policeman who had decided to help the cowboys out rather than write them a speeding ticket!

“The Wallace family members have been closely associated with the Ellensburg Rodeo since father Frank Wallace volunteered in the mid-1950s,” Dr. MacRae noted. “This family has been and still is extremely dedicated to the Ellensburg Rodeo. They are great people and great friends.”

Michael Allen was born and raised in Ellensburg. He is a retired UW Tacoma History Professor and a member of the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Association board of directors.

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