Chuck Shada shares his memories of the Chicago International Livestock Show during the 15th annual Stockyard Collector’s Auction.
Chuck Shada shares his memories of the Chicago International Livestock Show during the 15th annual Stockyard Collector’s Auction.
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Fifty years ago, Chuck Shada showed the grand champion steer of the junior show at the Chicago International Livestock Show.

“I was 10 years old when my dad took me to the International show for the first time, and I remember how big it was,” recalled Shada during the 15th annual Stockyard Collector’s Auction. “In 1963, I was 14 years old, and when the judge slapped my Shorthorn steer for grand champion, it was lights, camera, action.”

As a young boy, he said, he didn’t know exactly what was going on, but it was exciting.

“The two things I remember most was my dad, who comes running out in the arena, and they handed him the trophy, which was a cup,” said Shada, who lives near Anamosa, Iowa. “The second thing was there were 19 Shorthorn Lassies that were dressed in Scottish garments and everyone gave me a hug or kiss and I kinda liked that.”

A lot of people attended this prestigious show.

“There were roughly 4,000 people in the seats and over 400 steers in the Junior Show and 80 of them were Shorthorns,” the cattleman said. “They didn’t weigh the steers. They did it by age, and they checked the teeth of the steers. There were 37 steers in my class.”

The winning steer was purchased at a club calf sale in Osage, Iowa.

“Most calves brought $75 to $105 or maybe $120 if it was really good,” Shada said. “When they started selling this calf, my dad held up three fingers for $300 and we got the calf, but it was a lot of money.”

Traveling to the Chicago show began on Tuesday after school, he said.

“We’d load the semi — cattle in front and tack in the back,” he added. “Once we got to Chicago, we’d tie the calves in the barn, and we slept in our sleeping bags right in the straw.”

On Wednesday, the steers were washed, and then they went through a sifting committee.

“If your steer wasn’t good enough, out you went,” the cattleman said. “On Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day, my steer was clipped.”

The junior steers showed on Friday, and the open show was held on Saturday.

“If you were in the top four of the junior show, you got to show in the open show, which was a pretty big deal,” Shada noted.

As the winner of the junior show, Shada he interviewed by Orion Samuelson on Sunday morning.

“They took my steer in a trailer to the Congress Hotel,” he recalled. “And the auction was Monday morning, and I got $1 per pound for my steer.”

Two to three months after the show, Shada said, his parents had the steer’s hide made into a rug, which he still has.

“What I remember most from the International is you met such good people,” he stressed.

Bob May recalls spending many Thanksgivings at the International show in Chicago. His dad, Harry May, was the winner of the carcass show three years in a row in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

“In my lifetime, I’ve never met a man that I had more respect for than my dad,” he said.

“We had a two-ton GMC truck with high livestock racks, and we’d put the showbox on top,” said May, who lives near Mineral Point, Wis. “We headed to Chicago, and it seemed like it took three days to get there.”

He learned an important thing not to do while at the livestock show.

“I think I was 6, and I learned I should not chew Copenhagen,” he said. “I was sick for three days.”

Harry May was a fierce competitor, his son said, adding that he knew how to win and how to take placing below the top.

“In one carcass class, his calf stood eighth out of nine, and when he came out of the ring, I said we didn’t do so good,” he said. “But dad said, ‘We beat the hell out of the guy in ninth.’ He could always see the bright side.”

“There isn’t a better vehicle for raising kids than showing cattle,” he stressed. “And ag-related people are the best people on the planet.”

Ralph Danner’s father showed at the Chicago International from 1950 to 1971.

“In 1970, dad had the Reserve Grand Champion load, and they were 1,160-pound cattle, which were the end of the smaller cattle,” said the cattleman from Muscatine, Iowa.

“For me, Chicago preparation started the fall before, and in 1959, we went to Cody, Neb., to buy feeder cattle,” Danner said. “That’s was before interstates, so those cattle were shipped on a train.”

The cattle were drove to the stockyards in Cody by guys on horseback.

“I was 5 years old, and Cody was no more than a wide spot in the road,” the cattleman recalled. “The cattle would come into West Liberty, Iowa, they were unloaded at the stockyards and we hauled them home on a flat trailer.”

One year, Danner said, when they went to West Liberty to get the cattle, and the cattle weren’t there.

“The cattle had gone on about 10 miles away,” he said. “Dad was pretty excited when two carloads of feeder cattle were missing.”

When Danner first went to the International show, it was difficult to get a room at the Stockyard Inn.

“Dad stayed at a private home, and the owner would put up 20 consignors in his home,” he said. “I don’t think you would want to do that today.”

In later years, the Danners stayed at the Stockyard Inn.

“We were in a dorm room that had 10 to 12 bunk beds,” the cattleman said. “The reason dad started taking cattle to the International was the cattle brought $1 per hundredweight more.”