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Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch (1953)

Hamon Arts Library - SMU

Sound | 1953

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  •  Two residents of Boys Ranch meet a newcomer at the train station before leading him to ranch headquarters 
  •  The new boy meets with the ranch’s founder, Cal Farley, and gets a new suit of clothes 
  •  The boys engage in trick riding at the Will Rogers Rodeo Arena 
  •  Duties include preparing meals, maintaining livestock, and tending to the farm crops 
  •  One youngster finds the urge to walk again through his friendship with a pet goat 
  •  A group of boys sing songs of the range 
  •  L-R: David Ash (with guitar), Fain Kennedy (holding rope), Eddie Stevens, and Bill Hiller (also with guitar) 
  •  Earl Smith, a graduate of the ranch, talks about his experience 
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This educational film from 1953 takes a closer look at the Boys Ranch, a facility near Amarillo. Founded in 1939 by Cal Farley, the ranch provides a home for underprivileged or delinquent boys, offering a structured environment that prepares them for adult life. The film highlights life at the ranch, from a tour of the facilities to a look at some of the boys’ duties and favorite recreational activities. The boys serve as cowhands on the ranch, tending livestock and crops. They also attend regular schooling through grade 12. In their down time, the boys practice their rodeo skills, play football, swim in the lake, and sing songs. While the boys come from all 50 states and various foreign countries,“soon they’re all real Texans,” the film’s narrator says.
Born on December 25, 1895, in Saxton Iowa, Cal Farley was an professional wrestler and businessman. He moved to Amarillo, Texas, in 1923, acquiring a tire shop and launching a daily radio program. The showran for 15 years. In 1934, Farley started the Maverick Club, a program designed to keep boys constructively occupied by helping them become involved in athletics. The program reached over 10,000 boys aged six to 16 years. To further the organization’s aims, Farley founded the Boys Ranch in 1939, ultimately selling his business in 1947 to completely devote his services to the ranch. For his work as a humanitarian, Farley received several honors, receiving the Veterans of Foreign Wars Silver Citizenship Medal, the Bronze Keystone Award of the Boys Clubs of America, and an honorary doctor of humanities degree from what is now Texas Tech University. He was also named an Outstanding Citizen of Texas. On February 19, 1967, Farley died suddenly yet peacefully while attending chapel services with the boys at the ranch.
 Located on the site of Old Tascosa in Oldham County, the Boys Ranch was founded in 1939 by Amarillo businessman Cal Farley. After noting that many boys involved with his Mavericks Club did not receive proper supervision or encouragement at home, Farley opened the ranch in order to provide underprivileged and delinquent boys with a “shirttail to hang to.” The boys lived on the ranch as cowhands, tending to livestock and crops as well as performing various chores and duties. By the mid-1940s, the ranch became widely known. It held its first annual Boys Ranch Rodeo in 1944. And two years later, MGM produced a film about Farley and the ranch starring James Craig and Dorothy Patrick. As contributions to the ranch increased, Farley hired a staff and expanded the property. Beyond its dormitories, the ranch came to include its own church, bank, post office, and schools. The Boys Ranch Independent School District opened in 1941, providing K-12 academic and vocational education. After the deaths of Cal Farley and his wife Mimi, the ranch was run by the couple’s daughter and son-in-law, Gene and Sherman Harriman. In 1987, the Boys Ranch merged with Girlstown, U.S.A. Now a coed facility, the ranch is still in operation today.