Way Back When: Celebrating July 4 in 1915

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Way Back When: Celebrating July 4 in 1915
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By Betsy J. Green

In addition to the usual fireworks and parade, everyone in Santa Barbara gathered at the racetrack in the afternoon to watch the rodeo. There was a 3/4-mile dash, a "standing Roman race" (chariots, maybe?), and a cowboy tug-of-war."

You can see the location of the racetrack on this 1897 map drawn by Alfred Poett. This area usually flooded in the winter, but was dry all summer long. It was used for races and circuses, and even as an airplane runway in 1919. This location is now the El Estero Water Resource Center. Somehow that just doesn’t have the same pizazz.


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1919 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com​

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Lucky 777 Jul 05, 2020 10:36 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating July 4 in 1915

A "standing Roman race" was quite likely the trick riding called "Roman riding" where the rider stands atop a pair of horses, with one foot on each horse. Roman riding is one of the older forms of riding, and was performed first during the time of the Roman Empire. In circuses and rodeo entertainment as many as five horses have been ridden and jumped abreast.

Luvaduck Jul 05, 2020 03:01 PM
Way Back When: Celebrating July 4 in 1915

How in the world would one practice that when just learning and not get trampled? Fancy dives and gymnastic feats use an overhead harness on learners. Can't see how you could do that with galloping horses and the other "speeds" look like very different rhythms to this non-equestrian. Anyone care to enlighten me? No big deal, just curious.

bjgreen Jul 06, 2020 06:03 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating July 4 in 1915

Lucky 777 is correct! I asked the Great Google to show me an image of a "Standing Roman Race" and I found a photo of a woman racing in a standing position with one leg on top of each horse. Here's a pic: http://pastforward.winnipeg.ca/digital/collection/berman/id/5479/

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