Our parents have always done a phenomenal job of taking photos and putting them into scrapbooks. Growing up we were always drawn to pictures of ourselves and less interested in the black and white/torn and tattered books. However, now we are thirsty to dig deeper into our parents history and get the story behind some of their pictures. We asked our dad to share some pictures and his thoughts are more priceless than we ever imagined.
These memories are amazing because he has woven in awesome pieces of Americana into every post. Anyone who likes history will also find his perspective fascinating.
This picture of my older brother Larry and me was taken in 1949 or 1950 in front of our house on Solano Ave in Albany, California. I went to kindergarten and first grade at Vista Elementary School on Albany Hill, a few blocks behind us.
I remember when this picture was taken – I was quite the cowboy! One of my favorite Christmas presents as a very young boy was a Hopalong Cassidy dress-up outfit that included a black silk shirt, a black belt and holster with “Hopalong” written on it, and leather wrist cuffs. Don’t ask me what those cuffs were for besides ornamentation, but that didn’t matter – I sure felt like Hoppy when I was dressed up like him! I still have the belt.
Hopalong Cassidy was a character from novels later popularized in movies made in the 1930’s. Some of those original films were eventually sold to NBC which edited and aired them on television in shorter installments in 1949. Hopalong Cassidy became the first network western TV series and “Hoppy” was my first cowboy hero.
As the 1950’s progressed, “westerns” became a staple of television drama. Here’s a listing of some of the weekly westerns that I remember watching with my family during the mid and late fifties:
Roy Rogers; Gene Autry; Wagon Train, The Rifleman; Bonanza; Have Gun – Will Travel; Wanted Dead or Alive; Cheyenne; Rawhide; Zorro; Death Valley Days; Gunsmoke; Wild Bill Hickok; The Cisco Kid; Annie Oakley; The Adventures of Kit Carson; Rin Tin Tin; Bat Masterson; Maverick; Davy Crockett; Laramie; Riverboat; Sugarfoot; Tales of the Texas Rangers; Tales of Wells Fargo; Tombstone Territory
Not surprisingly, Hopalong Cassidy wasn’t the only cowboy I idolized, or the only one whose “stuff” I wanted. Another of my cowboy heroes was Roy Rogers. I remember sending away for a set of plastic figures of his TV series characters including Roy, his wife Dale Evans, their horses Trigger and Buttermilk, little rubber saddles for the horses, and their sidekick Pat Brady’s Jeep called Nellybelle. I still have the little figures of Trigger and Buttermilk.
But my favorite, and arguably the most popular western hero of the fifties, was Davy Crockett (technically a frontiersman, not a cowboy). The king of the wild frontier was a character made popular on the weekly Disney TV show, and the keel boat made popular in the show is still a ride in Frontierland at the Disney parks. A Davy Crockett craze swept the country in the mid-fifties, and every boy wanted his own Davy Crockett coonskin cap.
I sort of had one and sort of didn’t. My mother concluded they were too expensive to buy, so she made one for me and another for my neighbor. She used the bottom of mid-size grocery bags for the top of the hats and attached cut-to-fit pieces of some brown “fur” (fake fur, I suspect) to the paper form and attached tails made of that same material. They did, in fact, look something like a coonskin cap. It worked just fine for me.
The Davy Crockett thing worked just fine for Fess Parker, too, the actor who played Davy Crockett. You may recognize the name as the brand of his winery, which is known for its quite good wines.