“I coulda been a cowboy, just like Gene and Roy,” goes the popular country and western song.
Gene (Autry) and Roy (Rogers) were my heroes when I was growing up back in the ’40s and ’50s.
Every Saturday afternoon, I would walk into the Strand Theatre in Hamden, Connecticut, and plunk down my 20 cents to see a cowboy movie starring, Gene, Roy and Hopalong.
Another nickel got me a candy bar.
Gene and Roy never kissed a girl. And they never cursed. They always caught the bad guys, riding into the sunset singing a song.
Back in those days you were either a Gene or a Roy fan, and never the twain shall meet. I was a card-carrying member of the Roy Rogers club. Dale Evans was more like a mother to me than a sex symbol. I dreamed of owning a dog like Bullet and a horse like Trigger.
My choice of cowboy hero was solidified one traumatic day at the New Haven arena where Gene Autry was performing. Heading for the snack bar, I passed his dressing room. Someone opened the door and there was the cowboy adjusting his girdle.
I was crushed. No event destroyed my childhood since I realized there was no Santa Claus.
I followed Roy Rogers from black-and-white movies to TV, never missing an episode.
Time passed. Gene and Roy moved on to that great ranch in the sky. Western heroes changed from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to the casts of “Bonanza” and “Ponderosa.”
To this day, I have a Roy Rogers coffee mug on my desk and a photograph of my hero on my wall.
Old Westerns on my computer
Old re-runs of Bonanza still show up on TV, but the real nostalgia, the adventures of Roy, Gene, Hoppy and even Tom Mix, can still be found by typing their names on Google and choosing an oldie but goodie. You can watch many for free or a very low cost.
You can also order CDs.