Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Trick Riding Sisters-Shirley and Sharon Lucas

I read this post by Julie Carter and with her permission am posting it here.
Thanks, Julie.

Back When They Bucked with Shirley Lucas Jauregui

You probably have seen Shirley Lucas Jauregui (pronounced Hah-reh-gie) and didn’t know you were looking at her while she doubled in the movies for Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun, Shirley Jones in Oklahoma and Lucille Ball in Lucy Wins a Racehorse.

Shirley and Sharon Lucas were the young and beautiful trick riding and stunt-doubling duo that hit the road in the late 1940s as The Lucas Sisters.



Originally from Bartlesville, Okla., the Lucas Sisters in their pre-teen years honed their acrobatic skills on swings, trapeze, and bars set up by their dad.

“When the circus came to town Sharon and I went home determined we could learn to do what we’d seen done there,” Shirley recalled. “We spent hours every day out there practicing.”

One day they went to a rodeo in Dewey, Oklahoma, a nearby town. “We got the bug then,” Shirley said. “We saw the horses and the ropers and we knew we wanted to be a part of it. Not long after that we saw Vivian White performing tricks on her running horses and our dream was born.”

The Lucas girls convinced White to teach them trick riding, promising that they would not “weaken.” They practiced without ceasing, mastering cartwheels, double vaults and more. “We lived in town,” Shirley said. “We didn’t know anything about riding and horses but we learned the hard way, with falls, sore muscles, and run aways.



Following their father’s sudden death, Karmen Lucas took her daughters’ dreams to heart.  They decided a warmer climate was in order where they could practice year-round.  They loaded up into a 1940 Ford sedan and their horse into a wooden two-horse trailer, and hit the road, eventually winding up in Lakeside, Calif.

 It was there that they landed their first trick riding job at the Lakeside Rodeo in 1948.

“It was quite an experience,” Shirley recalled with a chuckle. “I fell and plowed up some arena dirt with my face. All you could see was my eyes and my smile. But, the crowd loved it.”

Things quickly began to fall into place for the Lucas Sisters. Their very next job was the Sheriff’s Rodeo at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

“When you look up into a crowd of 100,000 people, it does make your heart beat fast,” Shirley recalled. “We were small-town girls. This was not anything we were prepared for but we did it.”



Through a series of connections that included Ben Johnson, Vern Goodrich and eventually film director Blake Edwards, the Lucas Sisters became members of the Screen Actors Guild. They worked first as extras on films but were quickly doubling for movie industry big names like Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Betty Grable, Ann Frances, Esther Williams, Doris Day, Grace Kelly and many more.

The sister act juggled movie contract work with their trick riding, performing at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, the Cow Palace, Albuquerque, Yuma and the Sheriff’s Rodeo in Los Angeles to name a few.

They upgraded their traveling rig to a “bakery wagon” where they built living quarters into the back. “The wagon and the trailer were all painted to match with ‘The Lucas Sisters’ written on the side,” Shirley said. “We always said we had the first hippie wagon, but we loved it. Later we got more in style and bought a Buick.”

The Lucas Sisters continued as an act until 1956 when Shirley and her husband Bob Jauregui had their first child Michele. Shirley continued working in the movie industry until 1958.



Shirley’s younger sister Sharon died in 2006 from a series of health complications that began when she ruptured her adrenal gland in an accident on the set of Annie Get Your Gun. “She was on cortisone all her life after that, and it just finally took its toll,” Shirley said.

Shirley resides on the family ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s near Penn Valley, Calif., where she her family moved in 1966. After 53 years of marriage, two children and lifetime of involvement in the Western way of life, Bob passed away in 2008.

Their son, Dan, a former NIRA tie-down calf roping champion, takes care of the ranch, while daughter Michele is an accomplished horsewoman and trainer in Kentucky.



Shirley has spent her life since her performing days being an active part of the community, California Cattlewomen, the PTA and more. “Whatever I got involved in, it seemed I ended up bring president,” she laughed. She has always been a huge supporter of youth organizations such as 4-H and FFA and an integral part of local rodeo, college rodeo and the county fair.

In 2008 Shirley received the Tad Lucas Memorial Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Tad Lucas (no relation to Sharon and Shirley) is remembered as a woman of great talent, spirit, courage and compassion. The Tad Lucas Award is presented to women who have exhibited the same sort of extraordinary characteristics while upholding and promoting American’s great Western heritage.

“I was so honored,” Shirley said of the event that seemed to bookend a career that began when she was a young girl with a great awe for Tad Lucas.

In March 2011, the month of her 87th birthday, Shirley will be acknowledged at the WestFest in Palm Springs, Calif., where she was queen 62 years ago.



Shirley is putting the finishing touches on her book about The Lucas Sisters. The book is a wonderful memoir preserving a glorious segment of rodeo and the motion picture history. It is full of photos highlighting an exciting career as well as stories about the day to day life on the road with The Lucas Sisters.

“Compiling these true events brought back many memories,” Shirley said, “some sad moments and many happy, exciting times.”

The web address to promote the book and  the story of The Lucas Sisters is www.thelucassisters.com. Shirley can be contacted at thelucassisters@yahoo.com. A FaceBook page is titled The Lucas Sisters - Shirley Lucas Jauregui. Shirley can be contacted at thelucassisters@yahoo.com .



“I wouldn’t do anything differently,” Shirley said, looking back. “Everything worked out pretty good.”
An amazing life. Would you have ever been brave enough to be a trick rider?

2 comments:

Julie Lence said...

Wow! I am in awe of these ladies.

Nancy said...

Do you have a link to the original article? Thanks!