1983 Slide Ride
On April 9, 1983, a massive landslide crashed down along California’s American River Canyon. Dirt and rocks dammed the river and smothered Highway 50 between Whitehall and Kyburz. The closure of the highway adversely affected the small mountain communities of Pollock Pines, Pacific House, Kyburz, Strawberry, Twin Bridges and Little Norway. Millions of tourist dollars were lost and public services were disrupted.
One important service impacted by the slide was postal delivery. From Pollock Pines, a 115-mile detour was necessary to bring mail to the towns located above the slide. A conversation between an NPEA member and the Pollock Pines Postmaster prompted carrying the mail by horseback.
With a contract between the U.S. Postal Service and the National Pony Express Association, the first day in the saddle was April 15th. The most important mail was income-tax returns from the outlying towns. Riders carried an average of 1,000 pieces of mail a day.
The event generated worldwide publicity. News of modern day riders carrying the US mail appeared on the front pages of a Japanese newspaper in Tokyo, and the Stars and Stripes military newspaper in Djakarta, Indonesia. A radio talk show in Sidney, Australia, toasted the event, as did Diane Sawyer on the CBS morning news.
More than 60,000 letters were safely delivered during the six weeks that the Pony Express was activated. Of that amount, 40,000 pieces were sent by stamp collectors and postal history buffs and were stamped with a special commemorative marking.
1983 Old Washington Post Office Dedication
The old building at 12 th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, DC was constructed
between 1892 and 1899 to house the Post Office Headquarters and the city’s Post Office. The
Old Post Office Building is the second-tallest structure in the nation’s capital, after the
For most of the twentieth century, it seemed that the massive Romanesque Revival structure
was destined to be demolished, but through the efforts of dedicated preservationists, it has
become one of Washington’s favorite landmarks.
In honor of our nation’s bicentennial in 1976. The private Ditchley Foundation of Great Britain
presented a set of English change ringing bells to Congress. In April 1983, the bells found a
permanent home in the Old Post Office clock tower. They were dedicated as an everlasting
symbol of friendship between the two nations.
At the dedication on September 13, 1983, Mac McFarland and Chips Franklin, representing the
National Pony Express Association, led the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
1984 Tournament of Roses Parade
President Ronald Reagan’s Pony Express Letter
President Reagan sent a letter to the President of the Tournament of Roses Parade, in which he complimented the National Pony Express Association for its efforts to preserve the Pony Express Trail as part of the heritage of the Spirit of America.
Pony Express Riders carried this letter and delivered it to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses President during the Rose Bowl equestrian events on December 31, 1983 on the Rose Bowl Grounds.
Hats off to the members who were in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. This was an experience to long be remembered. The nationwide publicity and coverage was terrific. Our thanks to all of you who helped put this event together.
Our group was in parade position shortly after midnight for the parade which started at 8:20 a.m. on Monday, January 2nd. The floats were already in position on Orange Grove Avenue and some spent several hours walking the length of the floats, which was about two miles or so. It was fascinating to observe the final touches and creativity that went into making these floats.
Sixteen Pony Express riders carried the state flags of the eight states through which the Pony Express Trail traverses, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California before a crowd estimated at 1.3 million people. This was an experience in itself – to be among such a diversity of people expressing their individuality in such interesting ways. Grand Marshall was Danny Kaye.
1987 Constitution Parade in Philadelphia
The Continental Congress had agreed to the call for the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. All
state except Rhode Island sent delegations chosen by their respective state legislatures. The
Framers, whose average age was just over forty-three, were lawyers, planters, farmers,
merchants and politicians. They were, for the most part, men of reputation and experience.
The consensus that it was necessary to establish a strong national government emerged very
early on, when the delegates agreed to scrap the Articles of Confederation and write a new
Constitution. That would be supreme. The new government was to have three branches –
legislative, executive and judicial. The rest of the negotiations, for all the serious disagreements
and famous compromises that occurred, really amounted to working out the details.
The 200 th Anniversary of the signing of the constitution was celebrated in 1987. The September
1987 fifteen-hour gala provided a spectacle of floats, balloons, flags, bells and speeches, with
the Goodyear blimp providing a bird’s eye view. College bands from every state in the Union
played a brass fanfare written especially for the occasion, and a flag-waving drill team
performed in front of Independence Hall. In all, 20,000 people marched and performed –
including fifers and drummers, a colonial saluting battery, and nine bell-ringing town criers in
eighteenth century garb – before a quarter of a million spectators. At 4:00 p.m., the moment
the Framers signed the four-page constitution, someone ran a replica of the Liberty Bell,
signaling a round of bell ringing in communities throughout the nation and at U.S. diplomatic
missions and military installations abroad.
The following National Pony Express Association members rode in the parade in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania: Les Bennington, and Harold Hardesty of Wyoming; Vernon Combs, Art Navis,
Victor Grasz, Bruce Garrison and Gene Carter all of Nebraska; Merle Hubbard of Kansas; Ron
Fritzemeier, Chips Franklin, Ben Striker, Curt Mecham and Paul Melee all from California.
1988 First Trail Conference
In the summer of 1988, the National Pony Express Association (NPEA) received an
invitation to attend the first Conference on National Scenic and National Historic
Trails. This was to be held at Camp Whitcomb, which is located near Hartland,
Wisconsin, a short distance west of Milwaukee.
The growth of the National Trails System to 16 long-distance components, had led
to confusion on development and implementation of policy guidelines. Although
the Pony Express Trail was not in the Trails System at that time, we had a Study
Bill before Congress that would lead to it being designated a National Historic
Trail in 1992.
This meeting was designed to bring together the Federal Agency managers and
key representatives from Organizations that supported the promotion, develop-
ment, and maintenance of these trails. It was held September 27 through
October 1. Those attending from the NPEA were: President Ken Martin and Past
Presidents Bill Arant and Mac McFarland.
1990 International Ride for Peace and Unity
While Czechoslovakia was under Communist Rule, groups of people met under the bridges and studied U.S. history. It kept their minds occupied with happier events and they therefore became well versed on the American Pony Express of 1860-61.
The first ride in their country was in 1985 to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Pony Express. One of their organizer’s contacted the Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri and were then referred to the NPEA. After several years of correspondence, they were invited to ride here in the United States.
Obtaining permission to visit was going to be difficult due to the restrictions of the Communist regime, which had ruled since 1948. They received help and support from American Ambassador, Shirley Temple Black, and during the summer of 1989, they received permission to travel. In early winter the Communist regime relinquished power and dismantled the single-party state.
Six riders and a cameraman arrived in time to attend the swearing-in ceremony hosted by the California Division where Congressman Norman Shumway, who had introduced our trails legislation in Congress, was guest speaker. After following and participating in the re-ride across the country, they returned to their homeland.
Later in June, eight NPEA members from the United States and one from Germany arrived in Prague to participate in the re-ride in their country. After a whirlwind of activities our members returned home. The Czechoslovakians told the NPEA members that they were the first Ambassadors to extend a hand and carry them a message of peace.
1996 Olympic Torch Ride
The news that the National Pony Express Association had been approached about the possibility of carrying the Olympic Flame on horseback on its journey to the1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, was greeted with enthusiasm and excitement.
The NPEA’s portion of the route would be from Julesburg, Colorado to St. Joseph, Missouri, along the Pony Express National Historic Trail and the route of the annual re-ride of the original Pony Express. The Divisions in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri opened their ranks to include riders from the four other western Divisions.
Each Olympic Torch Relay features a torch designed to represent the character of that particular Olympic Games. The 1996 torch featured 22 aluminum reeds, each representing one of the modern Olympic Games, bound by a center handle of Georgia pecan wood. A gold band at the base of the torch listed the names of each Olympic Games host city. Another gold band near the top featured the logo of the 1996 Olympic Games and the Quilt of Leaves motif.
This torch was the first with a center handle. At 32 inches high and approximately 3.5 pounds, the 1996 torch was also the tallest and among the lightest for a Summer Olympic Game. Members were able to purchase the torch that they carried.
The Torch Relay began in Olympia Greece when the Olympic Flame was lit. It was relayed through Greece, birthplace of the modern Olympics. It was then flown to Los Angeles and after a celebration ceremony the torch began its 15,000 mile journey.
Over the next 9 days, it traveled by runner, bicycle, canoe, train and motorcycle to northeast Colorado. There on Monday, May 13th it began its journey by horseback. The Torch arrived in St. Joseph by Pony Express on May 16, through streets lined with banners and well-wishers. One cannot put into words the thrill and honor of carrying the Olympic Torch and its flame.