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Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

Bobo and Blair

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Two Shelby County, Texas, communities might have passed into history without as much as a footnote if a singing cowboy had not popularized a marching and dice playing chant by East Texas soldiers.

Bobo and Blair, two farm communities on the old Houston East and West Texas Railroad, achieved fame when Texas Ritter borrowed the soldiers’ chant, “Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair,” for his popular song.

The soldiers’ chant was used by a National Guard Unit composed of men from Shelby County who discarded the familiar cadence of "hup, two, three, four" in favor of "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair," their home towns.

Dice players also took up the chant to make the point of ten on a pair of dice and others argue that the popularity of the saying began with a conductor on the HE&WT line, which passed through Shelby County.

The conductor supposedly called out the various destinations along the way to Shreveport, and the alliteration of "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair" made it a favorite of passengers.

Historian Robert S. Maxwell of Nacogdoches claims that the song had little to do with the HE&WT other than through the recording by Ritter that made the towns and the railroad line famous.

Leon Hale of The Houston Chronicle remembered that, as a young soldier in World War II, he watched crap games in Italy.

R.R. Morrison, commanding officer of Company B, 3rd Texas Infantry of the National Guard, said an outfit was shipped together from Shelby County to France during World War I, but just before being shipped out, some of the soldiers got into a crap game. One was trying to make his 10 point and yelled "Tennyhaw!" Another soldier from the unit, betting on the shooter, yelled "Timpson!" Others, used to hearing these names, called "Bobo" and "Blair."

Hale wrote, "Morrison told me that the Tennyhaw cry went overseas with his company and fell on fertile ground. It spread, big time, among dice players who’d never been to Texas."

As time passed, Tenaha and Timpson remained viable towns in Shelby County while Bobo and Blair faded as rural communities. Tex Ritter’s familiarity with the four towns came from his knowledge as a boy growing up in neighboring Panola County.

Bobo got its name from John Henry (Billy) Bobo, who opened a sawmill in the community. while Blair was first known as Blair Switch, which was likely named for an engineer for one of the trains.


Bob Bowman's East Texas December 30, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers


Related Topics:
Texas Railroads | Texas Music | East Texas | Texas Towns | Texas
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