I’m dispensing with my usual meat and potatoes posts today… I figure that what with Obama thinking he’s the King of the World who has forfeited the rest of America’s season to our enemies… with Iran working on two nukes… not the zero nukes the dimocrats have insisted there are, and OBL is demanding that Europe withdraw its pitifully small number of troops from Afghanistan, and Kadafi claiming paternity of Barry (not a stretch considering Barry’s old lady)… terror squads being busted across the nation…. what could happen?
All my life I’ve used “Howdy” more than any other greeting and in this crowd… in the civic Center near the Gene Autry Church and the Gene Autry Volunteer Fire Department, so does everyone else.
Many in attendance dress the part, celebrating perhaps not the authentic West but the West portrayed in thousands of Western films… the exhibits are awash in boots, parasols, school marm dresses, marshal badges, cowhide vest and long sleeve shirts with pear snap buttons…. and enough six-guns to start a range war, I reckon.
Autry (1907 – 1998) made a lot of mostly B Westerns which usually saw him meeting a nice girl and defending her honor in a fist-fight or with some fair gun slingin’ which usually involved The Singing Cowboy shooting the bad guy’s Colt from his hand.
Damned fine shootin’ from waist.
And yes, each two-reeler usually featured at least three or four songs, often on horseback.
- acted in almost 100 films, and had soundtrack credit for 115 movies in a career that spanned more than a half century.
- made 640 recordings, including 300+ songs he wrote or co-wrote.
- sold more than 100 million records and had more than a dozen gold and platinum records, including the first certified gold record.
- flew “the Hump”—over the treacherous Himalayas—in the China-Burma-India Theater after enlisting in 1942 at age 35.
Gene owned the Anaheim Angles for decades, died at 92, and made more money than God, appearing on the Forbes’ magazine list of the 400 richest Americans until he slipped to a "near miss" in 1995 with an estimated net worth of $320 million.
Not bad for the grandson of a Methodist preacher,
And of course Autry had his own radio and TV shows in the 1940s and 50s, and was concerned that his young radio listeners would emulate him, so he wrote the Cowboy Code:
He told his fans that to be a good cowboy one:
- must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
- must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
- must always tell the truth.
- must be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.
- must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
- must help people in distress.
- must be a good worker.
- must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.
- must respect women, parents and his nation's laws.
- must be a patriot.
Perhaps these few, now remarkable guides for life were his greatest contribution.
Gene Autry, great American.
The real fun today was meeting some of my favorite movie and TV character actors from the 40s, 50, and 60s, including Donna Douglas—The Beverly Hillbilly’s “Elly Mae”; Ben Copper, left and above, mostly known for his work in Westerns, including Duel at Apache Wells, Johnny Guitar and numerous TV appearances through the 1980s; and James Hampton best known for his portrayal of bugler “Dobbs” in TV’s send up of U.S. Calvary movies… F Troop. .
Cooper is shown below in a scene from Gunfight at Comanche Creek starring Audie Murphy,WWII Medal of Honor Recipient and one of the most decorated American soldiers of all time.
Most people don’t know that Murph was also a successful country music songwriter. His songs were cover4ed by such diverse artists as as Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Porter Waggoner, Roy Clark, and interesting, Harry Nilsson.
His two biggest hits were "Shutters and Boards" and "When the Wind Blows in Chicago".
Donna Douglas, below with my main man, Chuck, was a dear heart; easy and pleasant with the fans, chatting and signing and posing for photos.
When I purchased one of her photos I asked her if she recalled making a public appearance in Taft California about 1964-65 where I first met her as a high school student. (Donna is shown right with my protégé the aforementioned Mr. Chow.)
Assuming she’d look quizzical or just say, “no”, she surprised me by immediately saying, “Yes, it was at a car dealership.”
Right she was…. and to this day I can still recall my, shall we say impure thoughts as I clasped her tiny hands and said “pleased to meet you”, my mind filled with fantasies that will be recounted in my soon-to-be published autobiography…. “I’ve Done Some Interesting, and Dangerous Things.”
For those keeping track, Miss Elly May will be 76 tomorrow.
Ahh, where did my life go?
“F Troop” was a great TV series which should forever be respect for the punch line about the “Ha’kowie Indians” who were so named after being lost for a very long time and then finally uttered… “Where the heck are we?”
The tribe’s name has been changed over the years to a more humorous and far more crude punch line.
It was a great day, walking back through my childhood, full of Red Ryder BB Guns, Roy Rogers lunch pails, and humming the lyrics of “Happy trails…. to you… until we meet again…..”
And once again I felt very grateful for the childhood I had… when children were loved and given the right role models and expected to respond to those lessons. For a time of wholesomeness and easily defined lines, a great education and wonderful friends… most of whom I still have.
Those who came after me have my sympathy
Well, gotta go, Pilgrim; It’s quiet….. too quiet, I think it’s Comanch’.