Betty Landreth, 100, BISD parade grand marshal, recalls 86 years of Charro Days

Betty Samuel Landreth can still remember riding in the very first Charro Days parade as a high school junior in 1938 and going to a ball at the El Jardin Hotel back when it was “the place to be in Brownsville.”

On Thursday, Landreth, now 100, was honored as the grand marshal of the 2023 Brownsville Independent School District Children’s Charro Days Parade. She rode in the lead truck, sitting on the driver’s side in the back seat.

“I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to expect. I’ll sit there in the truck and smile at the people on that side of the street. I have a costume, a china poblana costume. I look forward to it, I know its going to be hot,” she said Wednesday.

Children dance during the annual BISD Children’s Charro Days Parade Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in downtown Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Landreth said her memory of those very first Charro Days parades is hazy. She does remember the ball at the El Jardin, “which was a pretty fancy thing there on the patio,” she said.

“That used to be a very wonderful place when it was new. It had a radio station up on top of it. They didn’t have a parking garage. And so, the Landreth family had a parking garage down in the next block, and we parked a lot of their patrons. It was 1938 or ‘39, I imagine,” she said.

Landreth and her husband Noel had Landreth Locksmith at 204 W. Elizabeth St., which sat right on the corner where the Charro Days floats turn to head down Elizabeth Street. Part of it is being preserved as part of the Sams Memorial Stadium reconstruction and parking expansion project.

Landreth graduated from Brownsville High School in 1939 and went to Brownsville Junior College for a year before going to work for local attorney Kenneth Faxon’s wife Bernadineo as a sort of social secretary.

According to Charro Days lore, Faxon was one of a group of local businessmen who devised Charro Days as a way to cheer up Brownsville residents in the depths of the Great Depression. Landreth said it worked.

“I was looking through my school yearbook, I was the editor in ‘39, and I looked at the year before, which was the year that Charro Days began, and the staff of the annual used Charro Days as their theme because they were so happy about it,” she said.

Landreth also worked as a kindergarten teacher at First Baptist School and remembers riding on the school’s floats. The parades then were much like they are now, she said.

“The floats were beautiful. The bands marched. They played their instruments. Dancers danced. They were very much the same and followed the same route down Elizabeth Street to Fort Brown, sometimes crossing over into Matamoros,” she said.

Many Brownsville families attend the annual BISD Children’s Charro Days Parade Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in downtown Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

This year’s Charro Days brought all of Landreth’s children back to Brownsville at the same time, due to the novelty of having their mother serve as grand marshal.

“It was totally unexpected. I must say its exciting. I’m looking forward to it,” she said of her grand marshalship.

“My son is even driving down from Corpus Christi with his wife so they can see it. I have a daughter from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one from Idaho, and I presume they’ll go see it. But they’re helping me get ready for it. Janet is from Keller, which is close to Fort Worth, and Deborah. is from Salmon, Idaho. I have another daughter that lives here, Linda. And then Gordon Landreth lives in Corpus,” she said.

As BISD bands and performing groups assembled Thursday afternoon in the Sams parking lot, groups with a band entered the parade from the downtown side, marching away from West First Street, while those without one queued up to join them from the other side of Church of the Advent Episcopal.

In all, 107 units made up the parade, from marching bands to dancers, Superintendent Rene Gutierrez and his administration and members of the BISD Board of Trustees.

To see more, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Miguel Roberts’ full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: 2023 Brownsville ISD Children’s Charro Days Parade