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Gilbert Rogin
April 20, 1964
A beauty-minded Texan pioneers a new glamorous look in women's track
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April 20, 1964

Flamin' Mamie's Bouffant Belles

A beauty-minded Texan pioneers a new glamorous look in women's track

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Mrs. Ellison, who scouts all Texas for her girls, found Paula, as she says, "in a big, old, German-type house out in the country. The first time I saw her she looked like a page out of Mademoiselle or Harper's Bazaar . But the first time I saw Janis, she was running barefoot in pedal pushers on a cinder track."

Janis Rinehart, who comes from Snyder, is 19 and works as a clerk at The First State Bank in Abilene, where they all call her Speedy. "I raced my boss in the 60 and the 100," she says. "He might have beat me in the 60, but he stumbled. He's 40, but he's in real good shape." Janis has run the 100 in 10.9 (the winning time in the 1963 nationals was 11.0) and the 220 in 24.7. "Janis comes from a family of 10," says Mrs. Ellison. "Her basic training was chasing her brothers about the farm. She had light-brown hair, but I decided to make her a blonde because she had the complexion and because she'd stand out in the judges' eyes at the finish of a close race. They also say blondes have more fun, but it went to her head with that boy friend of hers. When she was ready to go home after the nationals, I dyed her hair brown so her family wouldn't disown her. 'My dad'll kill me,' she told me.

"I think every girl can be pretty. There isn't any such thing as a girl I can't remodel. I taught Janis how to dress, act, speak like a lady. She's hard to dress, because she's tall in the body, is long-waisted, has big feet and doesn't walk too well in high heels. She had to learn what clothes to buy, how to dress, match or mix. I can visualize it when the girls can't—color, mix and coordination. Personally, I like to dress. I have a lot of clothes—three closets full."

Sue Schexnayder, who was known as Swift Sue in high school, is 19 and one of eight children. She lives in Port Arthur and has a partial athletic scholarship at Odessa Junior College, where she and a solitary boy comprise the track team. Like Janis, Sue has done the 100 in 10.9. Sue's workouts include four to six repeat 330s every other day, three to five repeat 60s, and 150s and 220s—all of which leads Mrs. Ellison to the dour observation that her college coach "is killing her."

"She's a real shy child," says Mrs. Ellison. "My other kids yak all the time like I do. She's sensitive and has no confidence. Sometimes I can't get inside her little wall. She wants to quit every time she loses. Sue's a natural beauty with natural-curly hair. She's had it straightened once. The girls back-comb it, and she wears this blue ribbon when she runs, and is real cute. Sue has a boy friend now, and beams all over. I'm so glad."

Carvelynne Leonard also has natural-curly hair, but Mrs. Ellison says, "She wears it long and plain. Paula's going to fix it for her." Carvelynne (her father expected a boy, whom he was going to name Carver) comes from Mont Belvieu, and is an all-district basketball player. Carvelynne's father, a pumper for the Sun Oil Company, supervises and fosters his daughter's track career. Carvelynne has been running competitively since she was 6, and was twice a national champion in the Junior Olympics. "The house wouldn't be the same if I wasn't running," she says. "My dad, everyone expects me to."

Dora Dyson, 20, a redheaded high jumper with a passion for snow cones, is the only married woman on the Texas Track Club. Her husband, Jerry, attends San Marcos Junior College, and Dora works for an insurance company. "Dora's done 5 feet 4," Mrs. Ellison says. "Golly, she can get 5 feet 6, 5 feet 7. I know she can do it."

The club's "weight men" are Irene Williams, 19, from Barksdale, a sophomore at Abilene Christian College, and Cel Rutledge, 21, a medical technician in Houston. Cel placed fourth in the shot at the nationals two years ago with a put of 47 feet 10 inches, and has thrown the javelin 148 feet, the discus 142. "Cel's facial features are real fine," says Mrs. Ellison.

In 1961 Mrs. Ellison founded the Texas Track Club around her older daughter, Pat—now 21 and retired from competition—who had broken the 75-yard-dash record in the Junior Olympics. "It started out as kind of a dream," Mrs. Ellison says, "and now we've had six different uniforms, I have a feeder club of 10 to 20 younger kids, the Abilene Track Club, last year we competed in 18 meets and so far this year we've been to the Los Angeles Invitational, the Albuquerque Invitational, the Lubbock Invitational, the Will Rogers Indoor Games in Fort Worth, the Dallas Invitational, the Long Beach Games, the Gulf Coast Federation Meet in Houston, the Border Olympics in Laredo, the West Texas Relays in Odessa, the Edwardian Olympics in Austin and the San Angelo Relays.

"I've gotten tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment out of educating the girls socially, building their bodies and helping them, and, as old as I am, I like the recognition and the glamour, too. Of course, each year I think maybe I won't put as much into it. Last year I spent $3,000 of my own money on the club, and I'm always running around trying to get sponsors. When we went to Los Angeles, for instance, our trip was paid for by the Optimist Club of Abilene, the Arvin Norwood Drilling Company of Midland and the Pool Well Servicing Company of San Angelo.

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