The voice of the Woodlake Western Week parade took a rest this year. After 15 years as the announcer, Frank Ainley took on yet another role in the community and proudly led the parade as the Woodlake Lions Rodeo Grand Marshal.
“I’ll miss the announcing,” said Frank, “I like to ad lib and have a lot of fun with the crowd.”
In addition to his sense of humor, Frank is also known for his commitment to the community, his family, his students, his family’s cattle ranch and football. He has received many awards and accolades from local organizations–such as Tulare County Cattleman of the Year, Woodlake Man of the Year and Decade, Teacher of the Year and COS Hall of Fame.
“I just loved teaching and coaching,” said Frank, “You just find out what makes them tick as quickly as possible. You find what they do well, no matter how small and that’s what you go after.”
It was the love of football and coaching that pulled Frank into teaching. He had lived on his family’s ranch all his life. His parents, Ralph and Jesse Ainley, married in 1920 and settled on the Ainley Ranch outside of Elderwood. Frank’s grandfather had come to the area in 1908.
Frank was the youngest of their five children and attended Elderwood School. He graduated from Woodlake High School in 1951, where he played football. Then it was on to College of Sequoias and Whitmore College in Spokane to play collegiate football. He took a break from football to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard, 1953-57.
In 1954 Frank married a Three Rivers girl, Barbara Brewer, the back bone of the family. Five years earlier in 1949, Miss Brewer had been crowned as the very first Woodlake Frontier Days Rodeo Queen. Their great granddaughters, Corinne and Audra would go on to be crowned Woodlake Lions Rodeo Queens in 2001 and 2004 respectively. After an honorable discharge from military service, Barbara and Frank settled in Woodlake and started working the ranch. Together they had four children–Tim, Annette, Frank Jr. and Craig.
“We wanted to live the ranching life. That’s how we were raised,” said Barbara, “We wanted our kids to grow up in that environment. They learned to ride horses and rope cattle at an early age.”
All of their children live locally. Tim works in a Christian ministry and Annette is a speech pathologist. Frank Jr. and Craig run their own cow herds. Frank and Barbara have 15 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Although Frank loved the ranching life with his kids, the love of football brought him into town. He helped coach the first Pop Warner football in Woodlake.
Bud Loverin was the Woodlake Schools Superintendent and knew Frank wanted to coach football. “In those days you had to have a teaching credential to coach and he talked me into going back to school to finish my degree and credential program. He also convinced me to be a classroom teacher,” said Frank.
It was 1967 and Frank was 34 years old. His children were young and there was lots of work to be done at the ranch, but his wife and family supported his decision to become a teacher. They worked long hours, and if it was not for their help it would not have happened.
Finally in 1970, Frank began teaching world and U.S. history at Woodlake High, and realized his goal of becoming a football coach. “I learned a lot of football from Leo Robinson and Marvin Welch in those early years and continued to coach with Leo for the next 28 years,” said Frank, “We had great times coaching together and our teams were very successful because those young men were dedicated to work together and play hard. They were players who refused to give up. Tiger pride is something special at Woodlake High.”
Frank retired from the high school in December 2005. The thing he enjoyed the most was the daily relationship with the students. He says he learned more from the students than they ever learned from him. Frank still sees many of the former players and students today.
Generations of Woodlake kids have been encouraged, inspired and coached by Mr. Ainley. The Woodlake Lions are grateful for his commitment to our youth and our community. “I want to thank the Lions Club for bestowing the honor of serving as the 55th Woodlake Lions Rodeo Grand Marshal,” said Frank.