LITTLE NELL RECALLS P-DAYS PAST
Week Gazette May 1980
(published by Graphic Fox)
(published by Graphic Fox)
Helen Casamajor was the Little Nell in 1941. One of the more popular of
Chico State's long succession of Little Nells. It was, in fact, her
immense popularity that exploded into one of the more memorable episodes
of her colorful lifetime.
seems that some time back-when the West itself was just emerging from
adolescence and Pioneer Day was still in its infancy-the heart and core of
the event was a tradition. The "bad guys" must kidnap Little
Nell and hold her hostage while the sheriff and his posse combed the
countryside to execute a heroically righteous rescue in the nick of parade
those days had fallen into limbo-had, that is, until a select group of
Mary Helen (then) Erwin's best friends and admirers put their heads
together over a soda at Price's Confectionery and gleefully resurrected
Mary Helen's own words:
was Thursday. two days before the parade.. I was at home getting ready for
a field trip, when these four characters (referring to Ray Lobdell.
Bob-now Judge-Carter. Jerrv Maddux and Bill Norlie) burst in and grabbed
me. Of course my mother made a big show of protesting (it added to the
excitement) but they hustled me into a car and drove north up the valley
to Shasta Darn.
was part of the fun that Little Nell should try to escape. And it happened
that the girl on the Information Desk at the dam was a former Chico Stater.
wanted to get word to my Sheriff (Herman Kostiz. now a retired Industrial
Arts teacher living in Dunsmuir). but I didn't dare tell her and I
anything to write on so I could slip her a note. I made a pretense of
going to the bathroom and wrote a message on a paper towel, but the boys
were 'way ahead of me. They intercepted the note and the girl at the desk
never did know what was going on.
foil any possibility that Pd left other messages (I hadn’t). they drove
south again this
time down the West Side of the valley. Ray came back into Chico to find
out what was happening and returned to report that the whole campus
•was in an uproar- everybody cutting classes to take part in an all-out
boys drove up to a big brick farmhouse out on the River Road and asked
these perfect strangers if we could come in and listen to the radio
and-this is a commentary on the way Chico was-the people opened the door
and invited us in without question. -There was a campus radio reporter who
had an evening program, and almost the whole time was filled with news of
the big hunt. The peop1~ in the house never caught on that. we were the
target of the uproar.
evening came they drove back to Orland and we spent the night with an aunt
of Jerry Maddux. I had a part in the Pioneer Day show and I missed the
next morning they brought me back to Chico-and this was the part I didn't
enjoy- they tied me up and left me in an abandoned farm shed on Liberty
Lane. A •mysterious somebody' tipped the sheriff where I could be found
and Kostiz and Don Bevins came and 'rescued' me.
characteristic of the 'chivalry' of that era-the boys had me leave the
belt to my dress with Jerry's aunt. A week later she brought it over from
Orland and presented it to President Aymer J. Hamilton as proof that she'd
'chaperoned' our overnight stay and everything had been all proper and
Helen recalls other memories of that Pioneer Day.
Nell 'by tradition rode side-saddle in the parade. It was the first time I
had ever ridden that way and I didn't feel too secure. Immediately behind
the Sheriff and me was the Sheriff's Posse and-a new addition that year-a
group of Girl Rangers. They were shooting blanks and at every shot my
horse would shy. I didn’t think I could make it through the whole parade
route without sliding out of the saddle, but by holding on tight with both
hands, I managed to stay a-board.
those days there was always a melodrama just before the parade. That
year's production reflected the black clouds of World War 11 that were
gathering over Chico's horizon. That year Little Nell had to marry the
villain (played by Jack Taylor) because the hero (the Sheriff) got
of these and other fondly intimate memories of Chico State. Mary Helen was
a natural to return to campus in 1967 to work with the Alumni Office.
1970-71. during the administration of the late President Lew D. Oliver,
she was promoted to Director of Alumni Relations.
her capacity as Alumni Director she has been the campus liaison person
between administration, the alumni and the students. As such she, has,
since 1970, represented the alumni on the Bell Memorial Student Union
Board; administered the Alumni Student Emergency 'Loan Fund, and has been
the instigating force behind numerous Alumni Association projects that
have benefited the Union, academic units, student employment and other
special student and campus events.
one who is well known, well beloved and respected by students, staff and
thousands of alumni, her unanimous election to Marshal by the student
Pioneer Day committee is a well-deserved tribute to a grand lady who still
retains the joyously adventurous heart of a Little Nell.