A few years ago my wife Babs and I were guests at the Roy Rogers Festival in his “home town”, Portsmouth, OH. Jocko Mahoney, Lash LaRue and Dale Evans were there.
One morning we all broke breakfast bread by an indoor swimmin’ pool. We had to make speeches—tremble! I can’t ad lib a belch after a Hungarian dinner. I arose on tremblin’ legs. Suddenly, in a flash, a story once told me by my pard from the past, Antonia Christina, came to mind, and I blurted it out as best I could recall—It went well. Dale smiled and nodded.
I reckon you might like to read the story as penned in a recent letter from my ol’ pard. Tell it again, Chris—“As a youngster, I lived in Hollywood, one block north of Hollywood Blvd. in a one room apartment. I would sit in a soft chair, next to the radio, play music, and while rocking back and forth for hours at a time, go into a trance-like state and dream. My favorite dream (at age 7), was imagining I was Roy Rogers’ daughter. I was too young to be his wife, and he was happily married to Dale anyway. However, I heard they loved kids, and owned a big ranch with horses. I wanted to ride a horse across the plains, and after a day out on the range, come home to my loving family, especially to my wonderful dad—Roy Rogers! He embodied all that was good, free and magical to me.”
“It was 1952. I was playing in the school yard, showing off on a swing, when I went flying out onto the asphalt on my ankle, and broke it. It was determined I needed a cast. This was not an easy prospect for a 7 year old, but necessary. I hobbled around on my crutches for several weeks—which seemed like years. However, this bothersome cast was to become the basis for the most enchanted moment of my childhood.”
“The Hollywood Christmas Parade (always held the day before Thanksgiving) was always a banner event for me. I looked forward to it for weeks. All we had to do was walk one block, and there we were. It was difficult getting a good view sometimes, but this year was different. I, with my cast, looked rather touching to people, so they parted to let me, my grandmother, and teenage sister get through to the front row (by the curb).”
“Hollywood Blvd. was all dressed up for Christmas. The policemen were on horseback (what a thrill!). The music in the distance was sending the rhythms in the air. Spectators were chattering, rubbernecking and hanging from rooftops and windows. The atmosphere was full of expectation, excitement and curiosity, with the promise of magic and glamour. As the music got louder, my heart was beating fast.”
“I leaned out, and squinting my eyes, could see a distant rider coming closer. It was him, alright; Roy Rogers on Trigger! The leader of the parade, the leader of my heart! As he got closer, almost in front of us, he put up his hand and stopped the parade. We all looked at each other wondering what was going on. Then, he dismounted from Trigger, and led him over to me. Me! Roy Rogers and Trigger were coming over to say hello to me! Roy took my hand and asked my name (I was dumbfounded, and could barely speak.). Then he had Trigger kneel and whinny, which made my grandmother jump in surprise. It was all like a fantastic dream, but it was real! Roy then remounted, raised his arm and motioned for the waiting paraders to continue on down Hollywood Blvd.”
“I’m 53 now. I’ve met a few celebrities in my life (my sister is Carol Burnett, and my first husband is Will Hutchins), but no encounter with anyone famous can compare with the night Roy Rogers held up the Hollywood Christmas Parade to say hello to a little girl with a cast on her leg. My hero, Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys, star of my dreams, was truly a kind and gentle man.”
Thanks for the reminisce, Chris.