They called her “Pill,” having received that nickname 55 years ago as a spin-off from her Kilgore Rangerette Days.

It went along well with her last name of Harmon according to the other ‘Rettes. Harmon was changed, too, but we will leave it at that.

She laughingly said, “My mother named me Barbara, but, no one knows me by that name. It is now sort of an alias. Then later, I married a man by the last name of Malm and so it was much easier to keep the nickname those I love to this day penned on me.”

Pill recently carried her framed July, 1965 Life Magazine article about the Rangerettes to the Kilgore Mercantile & Music store to show proof of the year that particular line-up was portrayed on canvas by Margaret Maxwell, along with many well-known Kilgore personalities (we talked about this a few weeks ago in Chit-Chat, you might remember).

Exactly 21 of the 23 personalities and one Rangerette, Sharon Skipper, had been identified by locals. Now, all but three of the Rangerettes have been identified by Pill.

“I remember the day well,” she said. “It was December, 1965 when we performed at six Christmas parades within five days. After Christmas, we came back to Kilgore to prepare for the Cotton Bowl parade, and people came to Kilgore to take photos for Life Magazine. This particular routine shown in the painting was to the musical ‘Hello, Dolly.’

“That day was bitter cold, but, bright and sunny. It looked like a spring day, except we were freezing. I didn’t know much about Kilgore then as I rode in with my Big Sis from Fort Worth, which was normal for a Rangerette sister to do and how fortunate I was that she, too, was from Fort Worth. So, at the time, I basically knew how to get from Fort Worth to the dorm and didn’t know much about the rest of the town.”

Her big sister was Judy (Cantrell) Bullard and Pill was a freshman. She was chosen to call cadence with the flags, which was unusual for a freshman to do so, but it was her big sister that kept re-enforcing her by saying over and over, “you can do it, you can do it.” Pill was placed at the front to lead.

“At first we just knew we would be on the front cover of the January 1966 issue of Life Magazine,” Pill explained, “but didn’t know anything about the time line of publishing. It came out in July, 1966 and we rushed down to the nearest 7-11 (convenience store) to grab a copy when we were notified it was on the stands.

“We were devastated when we saw a beautiful picture of Claudia Cardinale sitting in a wooden bath tub on the cover, until we opened it up and realized the KC Rangerettes were featured not only on one page but double pages in the center! The title was ‘The Texas Trademark: Flare for the Flamboyant,’ and was in such a much better spot that the cover.”

Forty years after the fact, she said, you know your guidance and the encouragement you received during those years as ‘Rettes insured you would get through it.

“Every bit of the time, they were building us up to be the finest representatives of the red, white and blue, of Texas and of America,” she said.

For the sake of her mother, Barbara “Pill” Harmon was born in Quanah, Texas. When she was three years old, the family moved to Fort Worth, where she grew up. She attended Kilgore College and then on to Texas Christian University.

She met and married her husband and they moved to California, where they lived for 34 years. When he died, she retired early after 37 years of teaching, and came back to Fort Worth to help her mother seven years before her passing.

Afterward, she was asked by a friend why she didn’t move back to Kilgore. So that’s what she did. and in July she will have been back to the area now for seven years.

“How thankful I am to be in this sweet, sweet town,” Pill said. “As a 73-year-, this is where I need to be. And it is so nice to know the town is still interested in the Rangerettes.”

Fittingly, Pill works at the Rangerette Showcase and Museum. She said, “Now, I get to give back to the organization and I just love it. Of course, I am vintage, and the girls know it, but they also know the love I have for them and the organization.

“I try to tell them every year, we build on the gifts we were given, and their dancing is so much better than what we first did, and of course the line-up is bigger. Then, we didn’t think about only a third of us making the line with two-thirds going home. Today, it is a big deal. These girls are talented, and it amazes me to watch them perform. This town has produced so well a unique and a wholesome All-American organization that can be represented and recognized in any town in Texas and in the United States. The legend has grown, and it is so wonderful to be a part of it.”

This year the KC Rangerettes celebrate their 80{sup}th{/sup} Anniversary. For more information, you can check it out on their website at www.Rangerettes.com or at the Rangerette Showcase and Museum. located at 1100 Broadway on campus. It is our understanding their agenda for the remainder of the year is overflowing.

If you are in the downtown area and want to check out the last of the people not yet identified in the painting, stop by the Kilgore Mercantile & Music store. Fred and Vivian Gebhardt will be glad to show it to you.

May His love and laughter fill your hearts and your homes throughout the week. In the meantime, we may be reached at 903) 984-2593, or at chitchatlinda@aol.com.

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