Texas guys like football. At half time, they like beer. That combination leads to a pretty rowdy crowd. At least that was the case in 1939. At Kilgore Junior College, President B. E. Masters had an idea. He reasoned that the only thing that could compete with a beer in the mind of a young whippersnapper was a pretty gal. He took his idea to Gussie Nell Davis who, up to that time, headed up a Greenville High School all-girl "Flaming Flashes" drum and bugle twirl-and-dance team. Masters asked Miss Davis to see what she could come up with to keep the people entertained "without the drums and bugles." Miss Davis came up with a gem of an idea, something no one had done before.
In 1940, Miss Davis recruited freshmen and sophomore women at Kilgore Junior College and formed a precision dance-drill team she called the Rangerettes. With the assistance of a choreographer, Denard Hayden, she put together a show that wowed the halftime audience (to the consternation of the food vendors.)
The Rangerettes were an instant success. They not only provided a new kind of exciting halftime entertainment, they put Kilgore Junior College "on the map" and attracted a steady stream of new students. The entire concept could have all been a flash in the pan, except for the passion Miss Davis had for her newly minted organization. She immediately established a vision of excellence for the team and demanded performances designed to dazzle every audience. And perform they did, but not only at football games; they performed first nearby, then all over the country, then around the world. In 1940, they were featured at the Lions International Convention in New Orleans. By 1946, they were invited to their first bowl game, the Little Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In 1949, they made their first appearance at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Except for 1950 (when they appeared at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans), they have entertained at every Cotton Bowl half-time show.
Rangerette at Cotton Bowl.
(Courtesy Rangerette Gallery.)
Texas Tidbit: In 1999, with the Rangerettes performing at half time for the 49th time, Gussie Nell Davis was inducted posthumously into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. She died on December 20, 1993, but is remembered forever.
The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...