My Childhood Memories of Uncle Sanders
I especially remember my Uncle Sanders at all of the
Family Christmas Eve Celebrations. As long as I can
remember, he always brought a special gift of a box
of Whitman Sampler Chocolate Candy to every family
member. To my grandmother, Miss Kitty, he always brought a box of Candied Dried Fruit. He loved Christmas, and paid special attention to the children of the family. Not realizing that,in those years,I was his ONLY niece, I felt very "Special" when he said,
"Now,how's my Favorite Niece?",as he took me on his knee.
Uncle Sanders' Childhood Family Circle|
My mother dictated these Memories of life at "The Cedars" to me in 1987, a few months before her death.
"SANDERS,four years older,was my only older brother, and I called him,'Bro'. Pickens,eleven years younger,was my only younger brother, and I called him, 'Little Pick'. Mama,Dad,'Bro', and I shared many years together before 'Little Pick's' birth, since he was fifteen years younger than 'Bro'."
Sanders' Early Animal Experiences:A Prelude To Fame
According to my mother,"'Bro'and I both owned pet calves, and a cow,'Princess',which we loved to lead down at the 'Big Barn'. We rode our ponies,'Pat'and
'Minny',on the harness horse jogging track at home. We
imagined ourselves behind a sulky,driving a Standard-
Bred Trotter or Pacer, just like Dad bred and trained at 'The Cedars', and drove in the Harness Races. We looked forward all year to riding the Ferris Wheels,
Merry-Go-Rounds, and Roller-Coasters at the Fairs. It was our greatest dream to win a Teddy Bear on the Glamourous Midways at'The Races' we attended each year.
The horses raced on the Grand Circuit at County and State Fairs from Georgia to Ohio and Indiana. Since Mama tutored us at home through the eighth grade,we continued our school work during our trips to 'The Races'. After that, we stayed with grandparents,aunts, and uncles, back in Alabama, to attend school,if Mama and Dad had a'winning season'and raced into the fall.
The whole family lived out of suit cases at boarding houses in each town hosting a 'Race Meeting',and went to the Races every summer afternoon. We became close personal friends of the families that we stayed with, and returned to their homes each season.
The horses traveled in railroad box cars, while our family traveled,at first,by horse and buggy,and later in one of the first automobiles in Jackson County. SANDERS actually drove his first Harness Race at the age of fifteen in South Georgia. He was up to the
challenge, since Dad believed in teaching children
'how to work'.We all learned how to saddle and ride a
horse correctly, at a very early age.
Sanders learned the secrets of using the hopples, blinders, and other specialized tricks of the harness horse trade from Dad. He attributed much of his success in developing a Promising Horse, "CHESTERTOWN" into a Great Horse, to his early lessons from Dad on the importance
of nutrition,grooming,conditioning,and fitting each
horse into the correct shoes. Individually designed shoes were forged in the blacksmith shop located behind
the Big Barn.
The ability to diagnose and successfully
treat problems with lame horses came as second nature to Sanders, as did his special talent for calming an anxious horse's nerves.
High ethical standards,gentlemanly manners,good sports-
manship, and an almost stoic refusal to compromise his
principles, earned Sanders a well-deserved nickname. Although fun-loving and witty; he was respectfully known in the Harness Horse World as 'The Preacher'.
To me, however, he always remained 'BRO'."
"RUSSELL-TALK":Three Generations of Russells talk "HARNESS HORSES"... HERE , as it
was chronicled in the sport of harness racing in the 20th Century!
SANDERS:IN HIS OWN WORDS
Sanders attended his first harness race at the tender age of three and advised his dad, who did not fare well in the first racing heat of the afternoon,"If you're going to keep finishing last, let's don't race any more." Twelve years later, he was in the sulky himself!
Quote from a Harness Horse book,"Care and Training of the Trotter and Pacer", of which he was author of the chapter:'Care of the Horse'. This book was published by The United States Trotting Association(USTA) of which Sanders Russell was a member of the Board of Directors for many years.
Sanders,born at Stevenson,AL on April 26,1900,won the 1962 Hambletonian at age 62 behind
A.C.'s VIKING .
ABOVE PHOTO: Courtesy of Mary Lou Dondarski, "THE HAMBLETONIAN SOCIETY".
An ever-determined SANDERS RUSSELL is shown in the sulky the week following his historic 1962 Hambletonian victory, his foot still in the cast!
In 1967,he set a World's Record,with Fresh Yankee's mile in 1:57 ,more than 50 years after he drove his first race. His father,a horse trainer,opened a public racing stable at 'The Cedars'in 1903.The stable has wintered there in Alabama under the same family management ever since. Among the many horses developed by Sanders and Pickens III; under the watchful eye and gentle, but firm, guidance of their father, I.P. Russell,II; were
"Tronita", "Johnny Brown", and "Dutch Boy", to name a few!
NOTE:Handwritten caption found on back of circa 1940s picture of 'Johnny Brown' by my grandmother, 'Miss Kitty'! In the background is the 'Old Cotton Gin' located in front of the Sanders Russell Training Barn, here, on the farm. Although 'The Gin' was torn down many years ago, my uncle, Pickens Russell,III,(1915-2011) when better than 90 years old,himself, told me that Uncle Sanders' and Aunt Evelyn's circa 1920s home; restored and lived-in by his great-nephew, Dr. H. Russell Phillips, DVM, his wife,Ann, and two young sons, Matthew Russell Phillips and Owen Phillips; stands on the site of a large cotton field near 'The Gin' and training barns. Interestingly, evidence of that cotton field remains in the "volunteer plants" sometimes growing through the carefully manicured bedded plants on the grounds of Russ and Ann's home. Funny how we never truly grow away from our 'Roots'!
ISRAEL PICKENS RUSSELL, III
"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED MAGAZINE" NAMES SANDERS RUSSELL
TO ALABAMA'S TOP 50 ATHLETES OF THE 20th CENTURY
Sanders Russell was named #24 from Alabama,in "Sports
Illustrated's" last issue of 1999, which honored the Top 50 Athletes from each state. In the company of top professional football and baseball players, Olympic medalists, and other team and individual sportmen and women; Sanders was the sole nominee from Harness Horse Racing. Born in 1900, Sanders is still at the top of his sport 100 years later.
"HOOF-BEATS MAGAZINE":November 2008
I recently had the pleasure of reading an article featured in the November 2008 issue
called, "Passing Time Sanders Russell: Hoof Beats remembers'The Preacher'"
by Benjamin Lammers.
The Russell family was honored to know that Uncle Sanders is still remembered in "Hoof-Beats", the foremost magazine devoted to the sport of Harness-Horse Racing, more than forty years after Uncle Sanders won the 1962 Hambletonian with A.C's Viking!
"USHWA LIVING HALL OF FAME":JUDGE WALTER S. RUSSELL 2011
Walter S. Russell was elected to "The 2011 Harness Horse Living Hall of Fame" in the category of 'JUDGE' by WSHWA, "The United States Harness Writers Association".
Walter, son of the late Sanders & Evelyn Russell, nephew of Israel Pickens Russell,III and my mother, Helen Russell Phillips, was honored on February 27, 2011 at "THE USHWA DAN PATCH AWARDS BANQUET" in Ft. Lauderdale,FL.
Induction ceremonies were held in Goshen, NY in July 2011.