From the book: “Roy Rogers and Dale Evans - Happy Trails” - with Carlton Stowers - 1979
If ever there were questions about the effect switching from motion pictures to television would have on the careers of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, they were quickly and positively answered when the first rating polls were conducted. If anything, the weekly thirty-minute NBC episodes broadened Roy’s and Dale’s audience considerably.
Now it was no longer just the youngsters who were following their Western heroics, but entire families seated in living rooms across the country. To mom and dad, they were refreshing— a team whose show was not only entertaining but also taught their children high morals and made them aware of the high price of wrongdoing, To the kids, they were still Roy and Dale, good always triumphing over evil with a song and a smile or two along the way.
And rather than voicing displeasure over the fact that their cowboy hero was married to his leading lady, youngsters began looking up to Roy and Dale as the kind of parents every kid would like to have. On at least a dozen occasions over the years, misguided and frightened runaways appeared at their California doorstep, suggesting that Roy and Dale might prove to be better parents than those they had recently run away from. In each instance, it took only a brief heart-to-heart talk with the King of the Cowboys to reunite the strayed youngsters with their distraught parents.
In addition to widespread public appreciation, Roy and Dale received recognition from their peers; they were chosen 1953’s Best Actor and Best Actress in a network Western series. Clearly, Republic's loss was television's gain.
"The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show" would, in the course of its long run, establish itself as one of television’s most successful—and most unique—efforts. From 1951 through 1958, it was a weekly feature on NBC, under the sponsorship of General Foods. For the next two and one-half years, it would be shown in syndication, sponsored by Nestles chocolate. Then, with Ideal Toy Company joining forces as a co-sponsor alongside Nestles, the series was sold to CBS, where it would run for yet another four years.
Roy and Dale's public appearance schedule was as demanding as it was lucrative, and always mixed with their songs and variety acts was their message of Christian faith. Promoters, no longer wary, knew full well that their headline attractions were going to bring their religion to the stage with them. "I think," says Art Rush, "that people finally realized that customers were as eager to see them perform as ever, but they were also eager to hear and learn of Roy and Dale's faith in God. All I know is that they set new attendance records wherever they appeared."
This is not to say that Roy and Dale's performances were ever lacking in fun and laughter. If nothing else, Trigger alone saw to that.
On a trip to Hawaii for a series of performances, Roy had the talented palomino sent over by boat in the company of trainer Glenn Randall several days after Roy, Dale, and the children had enjoyed a brief vacation. At the dock, Trigger was given a celebrity's welcome, complete with band, photographers, the customary Zeis, and native girls dancing the hula in their grass skirts. Trigger, delighted to be back on solid ground, and evidently ready to eat, promptly caused a roar of laughter by taking a healthy bite out of one of the dancing girls' skirts.
"He was," says Roy, "always the biggest ham in the family."
The early fifties, then, were good times for the Rogers family. Their two additional children added new meaning to their lives and, though hardly forgotten, the loss of Robin was turning from painful memories into warm reflections.
Dale's book was published in 1953 and by the end of the year had climbed to number three on the list of best-selling non-fiction books, trailing only the Revised Standard Version of the Bible and Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. In the first two years alone four hundred thousand copies of Angel Unaware would be sold.
And as the sales mounted, Dale announced that all royalties earned by the book would be donated to the National Association for Retarded Children.
“RETARDED” - a word today that would be never used - Keith Hunt
While these were busy times, they were also times of enjoyment. Roy, always an enthusiastic outdoorsman, found time for occasional hunting and fishing trips, and for shooting trap and skeet at the Agua Sierra Gun Club with friends Robert Stack, Richard Crenna, and Clark Gable.
"The finest gun I ever owned," Roy says, "was one I bought from Clark Gable for six hundred and fifty dollars. One afternoon he was having a terrible time—couldn't hit anything. Finally, he turned around and said, ‘Anyone want to buy this so-and-so?' I took him up on it before he had a chance to cool off and change his mind. I shot my first twenty-five targets straight the very next day."
The best times, though, came as Roy and Dale watched the kids grow.
Dale and I had told Dusty that we were bringing Dodie home with us, but Sandy was a complete surprise. All the way home, Sandy talked a mile a minute, excitedly getting to know his new family, while Dusty remained very quiet.
The following morning Dale looked in on the boys and found Dusty busily hiding all of his toys before going off to school. He explained that he didn't want to come home later in the day and find that "that new guy" had made off with any of them.
That, of course, didn't last long. As soon as Dusty realized his new brother represented no threat to him, the toys came out and the two boys became fast friends—fast in every respect. What they didn't get into simply couldn't be gotten into.
One Saturday morning Dale looked outside to find them going from house to house, gathering up all the neighbors' mail so they could play postman. Exercising her "spare the rod and spoil the child" philosophy, she grabbed a switch and took off in hot pursuit. Now, my wife may be a fine actress, singer, and writer, but a track star she's not. It wasn't even a match. The punishment had to wait until the young partners in crime got hungry enough to come home.
We decided to keep Sandy out of school for a few months to allow him some adjustment time and to have doctors check on the physical problems we knew he had.
His coordination was poor—so poor that he was unable to ride the bicycle we bought for him. His breathing problems, we found out, were the result of a closed nostril. The surgeon who corrected the difficulty told us that it was obviously the result of an injury he had sustained as an infant, either from a fall or perhaps a blow from a fist. Sandy had a tremendous fear of even the slightest heights, and initially reacted to discipline by breaking into a sweat and getting sick to his stomach.
And then the doctors at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital did a series of tests which revealed abnormality in the brainwaves, an indication of slight brain damage. Sandy, they told us, would have what they termed plateaus of learning. He was not mentally retarded, but his mental and emotional development would be slow and at times difficult.
Difficult tasks, we would learn in years to come, brought out the best in Sandy Rogers. Maybe he had some problems; maybe he didn't move with the athletic grace of his brother; maybe it took him longer to do his lessons or learn a new skill, but he gave it everything he had—and you could see the warm look of self-satisfaction in his eyes with every new accomplishment, no matter how small.
After a while we sent him along with Dusty to attend second grade classes at a military school. He didn't exactly make the dean's list, but he worked hard and seemed to thoroughly enjoy school.
And Dusty made allowances. While he dealt Sandy a good measure of teasing and a normal amount of boyhood badgering, he seemed to recognize Sandy's difficulty with games and was far more patient than critical. As long as Sandy wanted to play, there was a spot for him. And if anyone took it upon himself to give Sandy a hard time about striking out or dropping a pass, he had Dusty to deal with.
They were, believe me, fun to watch—fun and frustrating. They were living, breathing proof that boys will be boys.
Cheryl was fast growing into quite a young lady, and Linda was catching up with her older sister as fast as she could. And little Dodie enjoyed to the fullest all the advantages of being the baby of the family. An occasional case of the croup aside, she was as healthy and happy and normal a baby as you would ever hope to see.
It didn't take any Rhodes scholar to realize that we were truly blessed. If I had it to live all over again, though, I would just as soon Dusty and Sandy hadn't sneaked into the garage and methodically peeled all the rubber off the dashboard of my racing boat.
Our family wasn't the only thing that was thriving.
The membership of the Hollywood Christian Group had grown steadily to the point of having its own headquarters, operated by Tim and Velma Spencer. The doors were kept open day and night for prayer and counsel, and on Monday evenings we held our regular meetings at various members' homes.
Billy Graham was the guest speaker at a meeting which was held in the backyard of our home. He told of being invited to conduct a Crusade for Christ in London, and was having trouble deciding whether to accept the invitation or not, since the invitation had been extended by just a few churches. I asked him if there was anything Dale and I could do to help. We had a sizable fan club in the British Isles, I explained, and would be more than glad to do whatever we could.
He smiled and, half kiddingly, said, "You weren't planning on being over there in the early spring, were you?"
"We will if it will help," I said.
That's the kind of careful planning that drives Art Rush up the wall. Even before Billy left our home, I had explained the situation to Art, and he had immediately gone about the chore of rearranging schedules and laying the groundwork for us to do our first overseas tour, winding up in London's giant Wembley Stadium, where we would join Graham's crusade in its seventh week.
INTERESTING, I DO REMEMBER AS A KID OF 10 YEARS, WATCHING ON TV ONE MESSAGE FROM GRAHAM, BUT NEVER HEARD A WORD ANYWHERE [I DIDN’T READ NEWSPAPERS, AND NEVER HEARD IT ON THE LATE NEWS] ABOUT ROY AND DALE AND TRIGGER2 BEING IN BRITAIN. I ALREADY HAD BY AGE 10 A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND CHRIST….I JUST THOUGHT IT WAS NICE TO SEE SOMEONE LIKE BILLY GRAHAM OPENLY PREACHING ABOUT CHRIST - Keith Hunt
The theaters were all sold out even before we left the States. We opened our tour in Glasgow and proceeded on to Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Liverpool, then on to Belfast and Dublin. We enjoyed the countryside and the people along the way, although we were disturbed to read in the British press that Graham's visit was being dealt sarcastic and downright cruel treatment by many leading spokesmen of the British media. Generally, the press was friendly to us, but there were times they let their suspicions show. And on at least one occasion, they got their facts a bit jumbled . . .
While we were already in Scotland, Mary Jo and Art were en route aboard the Queen Mary. One evening a wire reached Art, informing him that I had been shot during a performance in Glasgow. Art went into a panic and pressured the ship's wireless operator mercilessly to find out more details. After several hours of hand-wringing I knew nothing about, Art finally got the real story.
The opening scene of our stage show in Glasgow had called for our singing group, dressed as outlaws—neckerchief masks and all—to enter from stage right and to shoot blanks toward the opposite side of the stage, where I was to make my entrance on Trigger. It had been my responsibility to load all guns used in the show, including those for a shooting act later in the program which used live ammunition. By accident, I had loaded one of their guns with bird shot. I realized the error of the load as the "outlaws" began to shoot; I felt Trigger flinch and noticed several burning places on my face and in my arms and legs. You know the show must go on; I went to the microphone with blood streaming down my face and said, "You know, they've been shooting at me for twenty years, and this is the first time they've hit me." I introduced the next act, and asked if there was a doctor in the house who would come backstage. After having a few bird shot picked out of us, Trigger and I went on with the show. We had a few hot spots for awhile, but found they were not nearly so damaging as the news had been to Art Rush on his ocean cruise.
When we reached Liverpool, Dale and I both came down with a galloping case of the European flu and were ordered to bed by a local doctor. A press conference had been scheduled for that afternoon, and there were writers who insisted to Art that they were convinced the flu story was nothing more than a carefully planned Hollywood ploy to get out of the interviews. And all the while we were being shot full of penicillin and sulfa and feeling like we would have to get better to die.
Gradually it turned into a circus. A couple of journalists finally succeeded in sneaking into our room and actually put their hands on our foreheads to see if we really were running a fever. Outside, a crowd of something in the neighborhood of twenty thousand had gathered, chanting for us to come out and sing a couple of songs. At that particular moment I couldn't have hummed "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and Dale was having a worse time of it than I was. Finally the crowd was appeased when our singing group, the Whip-O-Wills, along with Trigger, put on a brief performance in the street in front of the hotel. Believe me, there's more truth than poetry to the old axiom that there's no business like show business!
All in all, however, the trip was an enjoyable experience. The crowds were great, the countryside beautiful, and the people warm and friendly.
There was one particular person we met while visiting in an Edinburgh orphanage called Dunforth who particularly impressed us. Her name was Marion Fleming, a tiny little girl with a beautiful voice. She sang "Who Will Buy My Pretty Flowers?" for us, and I thought Dale was going to grab her up on the spot and make a run for the door.
Instead, however, we asked if it would be okay for her to join us for lunch at our hotel later. We were so taken by her that we invited her to come to California to visit with us the following summer, as soon as her school was out.
English law forbids Americans' adopting children whose parents are still living without the parents' permission, and even then the adoptive parents have to reside two years in Britain. Marion's parents were divorced, so the matron of the orphanage said a summer visit would be the best arrangement she could make. But that summer visit was later extended through Christmas, and even longer when finally we officially became Marion's guardians.
"Roy," Dale once said to me, "we're either going to have to stop visiting orphanages or buy us a hotel to live in."
The apprehensions everyone had felt about London and Billy Graham's crusade were gone by the time we appeared with him in the seventh week of his crusade. Preaching with a power that can only be divinely inspired, he not only captivated the crowds but quickly began to win over the skeptical members of the press. The same writers who were describing him as a preacher who looked more like a Madison Avenue television salesman were soon singing his praises.
By the time the crusade came to a close, there were ninety thousand people standing in the rain in Wembley Stadium to hear him preach. As he spoke with that booming, forceful voice, spreading his message to a crowd which seemed not at all perturbed by the weather, the Archbishop of Canterbury held an umbrella for him.
For Billy Graham, the crusade was an unquestionable success. For Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, it was an experience never to be forgotten.
THE FACT IS TODAY [ IN 2016] LESS THAN 3 PERCENT OF THE BRITISH ATTEND CHURCH ON A REGULAR BASIS - DEEP CHRISTIAN RELIGION HAS ALL BUT DISAPPEARED FROM BRITAIN - Keith Hunt
Our spirits, already lifted by the success of the tour and the crusade, rose even higher at the thought of getting back home. The television series was still several episodes behind the hurried-up shooting schedule we had gone through prior to our trip, and I was eagerly looking forward to some hunting and fishing and spending some time with the kids.
Art Rush, the man who never sleeps, had other plans. We were, he smilingly informed me, scheduled for a three-week tour that would carry us to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas. "Just think," he said, "you'll both get to work in your home states while we're gone."
I thought about mentioning that it would suit me just fine to work in my own backyard, but it would have done no good. I was just thankful he hadn't scheduled us to fly straight to Columbus, Ohio, from Wembley Stadium.
Just as we were preparing to go onstage in Columbus, I was called to the phone to take a long distance call. When the conversation was completed, the show had begun, and Dale was already onstage. When I took my place beside her at the mike, she immediately asked what the call had been about. I told her I would tell her after the show; I had decided to wait until we got back to the hotel to tell her the bad news which had been given me over the phone. Once there, I said, "Dale, I just got word that—" She did not allow me to complete the sentence; "my father is dead," she said. Dale says she has strange feelings before tragedy strikes. That night, she had been unaccountably nauseated before going onstage.
And so she was off to Texas to help her mother and brother in preparations for the funeral. I had planned to accompany her, but she argued against it. I had a contractual responsibility to complete the tour, she pointed out, and she would be all right. "You don't have to go with me to be with me, you know," she said. "I'll be fine."
I guess if we spend another thirty years together I'll still find myself amazed at the lady.
The following summer Cheryl decided it was high time for her first really big splash in show business. On numerous occasions she and the other kids had joined us onstage, but she had in mind something a bit nearer the spotlight. So we took her with us for our appearance at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. I won't go so far as to say it was a mistake, but she did come down with a pretty serious case of show business fever. As a father, I didn't know whether to be proud or to go through the audience punching noses of all the young men who whistled and applauded her with such enthusiasm. Needless to say, Cheryl loved it, and matter-of-factly informed us that she was eagerly looking forward to the show we were scheduled to do in Madison Square Garden a month later.
It had come time to put a parental foot down. Dale and I both explained to her that to participate in the New York show would mean her missing the first several weeks of school, and that was completely out of the question. We got the whole mistreated teenager routine before we left, and had hardly unpacked after our arrival when a neighbor called to inform us that Cheryl had come to her, angrily announcing that she was leaving home forever.
To her everlasting credit, the neighbor had already called Father Smith at St. Nicholas, knowing that Cheryl held him in high regard, and he came over to discuss the problem with her. For a few days, it seemed as if we were talking long distance every minute we weren't working.
Father Smith, working in the role of a gentle arbitrator, heard both sides of the issue, and finally suggested to us that it might be a good idea for Cheryl to be on her own for a while. He suggested enrolling her in a girl's school, recommending Kemper Hall in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He said he felt reasonably certain that Cheryl would agree to it, and suggested that the move be made immediately.
Addled by the whole series of events, we talked it over and came to the decision that the situation offered precious few alternatives. In her current frame of mind, Cheryl was not going to be happy at home regardless, and there was the disturbing possibility that if told to stay against her strong will, she might well go far beyond the neighbor's house the next time she decided to leave.
Father Smith tried to make things easier for us, agreeing to handle the details and pointing out that this sudden bid for independence by our oldest daughter was hardly original. Welcome to the teenage years, he said, pointing out several similar cases he had dealt with which had come to happy endings. He insisted to us that, in his opinion, we were far from losing a daughter.
Okay, we finally said, let's give Kemper Hall a try.
As soon as we had completed our engagement in New York, Dale went to Kenosha to visit Cheryl and talk things over. In addition to the normal run of teenage problems she was wrestling with, she had developed a growing concern about her real mother. Dale, having a better understanding of such things, dealt with that particular aspect of the problem admirably. She promised that if Cheryl was still so inclined when she reached twenty-one, Dale would do everything possible to help her find her real mother. In the meantime, though, she would have to remain in school and see to it that her grades stayed high.
That following summer, she returned home with high marks in each of her subjects, and life went on in the Rogers household as if she had not even been away.
And I should point out here that Dale did keep her end of the bargain, helping Cheryl to find her real mother. Cheryl even went to her mother's home for a weekend visit, and evidently came home with answers to all her questions about her background.
One thing which Cheryl found upon her return from school was that we were again planning a move. Which was no big deal to her, inasmuch as we had bounced around like so many ping-pong balls since she was just a little baby. This time it was to a one hundred and thirty-eight acre ranch in Chatsworth.
It was the kind of place we had been talking about for quite some time. On the ranch was a beautiful old brick and frame house which could be made accommodating by simply having an addition built on to both ends of it.
The purpose of moving to a place with so much acreage was twofold. First, it would provide us with much needed elbow room and, second, we were planning to use the ranch as a handy location site for shooting movies and television specials. Soon after our move, in fact, the company which produced the TV series "Brave Eagle" came to do some filming, much to Dodie's horror. One morning Dodie came frantically flying into the kitchen to inform Dale that a bunch of wild Indians were coming to get her. Looking outside, Dale saw a group of actors on horseback, fresh from makeup, dressed in full Indian regalia, wearing war paint and practicing blood-chilling war cries. It was no easy task to convince our own little Indian that she was seeing nothing more than a bunch of grown men playing a game. Finally Dale took Dodie out and introduced her to some of the visiting actors to prove to her they had no intentions of scalping or kidnapping any little girls.
As our family grew together, Dodie found herself something of an odd-girl-out. Dusty and Sandy were like two peas in a pod, and Marion and Linda had become very close. Cheryl, of course, was too interested in boys to have need for a pal at home.
So it was that when Dr. Bob Pierce of World Vision, Inc. brought by some films he had taken showing the plight of Korean orphans who were the victims of racially mixed marriages, the germ of an idea was planted. Suddenly we were talking about making room for one more: maybe Dr. Pierce could find a little Korean girl about Dodie's age. We gave him a picture of Dodie, explaining our wishes to him, and he said he would see what he could do.
Meanwhile, we had plenty to keep us busy. There were times when Dusty and Sandy fully qualified to be known as the Terrible Twosome—like the time things began to turn up missing around the house. After a little detective work, helped along by a conversation with the principal at the Northridge Military Academy, we learned that they had a thriving business going at school, selling off little items they were certain would not be missed from home. When confronted, both readily admitted their transgressions and said they were fully prepared to accept the consequences. What they got was my best "thou shalt not steal" lecture and, as an added bonus, a good old-fashioned bottom-busting out in the garage.
There are times, it seems to me, when words need a little action to go with them.
Then, just to keep things from getting boring, the house caught fire. I was away on a trip at the time and would get the full details only after arriving back home. It was the Christmas season, and in decorating the house Dale had placed a large candle atop the television cabinet. One evening Marion was engrossed in a late movie and remained up after everyone else had gone to bed to see its conclusion. She had, of course, been reminded to blow the candle out before she too retired.
Sometime just before dawn Cheryl woke to find the television set already burned to ashes, the piano smoldering, and a huge hole burned almost through the living room floor. She calmly went to the phone and called the fire department, then went about the business of waking Dale and the rest of the children and getting them out of the house. For a half-hour they all stood outside in a drizzling early morning rain, waiting for the fire truck to arrive while the living room, dining room, and kitchen were turning to black, charred ruins. We celebrated that particular Christmas in our den, with the distinct smell of smoke mingling with evergreen and turkey and dressing.
While we were performing at the annual Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo, a letter arrived from Dr. Pierce. Along with it, he had sent a photograph of the little part Korean, part Puerto Rican girl he had selected from over six hundred possibilities as a companion for Dodie. The picture of three-year-old - In Ai Lee, a very serious-faced, pretty little girl with a Dutch bob hairdo and soft brown eyes, was all the convincing we needed. Dr. Pierce immediately set to work to clear her for adoption. By June, he told us, the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans League of Nations family would have an additional member.
I'll never forget that afternoon at the airport as he stepped off the plane carrying In Ai Lee—we had decided to call her Deborah Lee—in his arms. There was no hint of a smile on her little face, but as soon as I reached for her she came to me without the slightest hesitation. From that moment on, Dale insists, she was "daddy's girl," and I find it hard even now to argue the fact. We just seemed to hit it off at once.
We were due at the studio shortly after Debbie's arrival, so we took her with us, everyone in the family taking turns trying to make her feel at ease and to coax a smile from her. Our failures were duplicated by the cast and crew, who did everything but stand on their heads to try to erase the serious look from her face. It occurs to me now that she probably thought we were all operating with something less than a full deck. But, whatever her judgment, she was having none of this smile-for-your-new-family business.
Until, that is, one of the cameramen came walking toward her with a big red balloon. That did it. Little Miss Stoneface burst into a wide grin as she accepted the present.
That obstacle behind us, we moved on to the Americanization of our newest daughter. It didn't take long to realize that it would not be an easy task. American balloons, for instance, were quite nice, but the beds Debbie could do without. For weeks Dale would tuck her into bed and return later to find her stretched out, sleeping soundly on the bare floor as had been her custom in her homeland. Though she had been taught a few words of English by the missionaries she had lived with for a time before coming to us, she held stubbornly to her native tongue. She would try to draw Dodie into a conversation, rattling off Korean a mile a minute, and little Dodie, five months her elder, would just shake her head and say, "I don't understand." Debbie would finally get one of those exasperated looks on her face and go back to whatever it was she had been doing before the one-sided conversation began.
And then one day, after a frustrating experience of trying to make Dale understand something and having her mother say that she didn't understand what she wanted, she placed her little hands on her hips, shrugged her shoulders, sighed deeply, and walked away. From that moment on she never spoke Korean again. She had made a brave effort and failed, so she evidently decided that when in America ... In a month she was speaking English as plainly as Dodie.
Still, for some time to come, every day would bring a new experience for her. For instance, the first time she ventured out of the house and was greeted by Bullet, she became hysterical. Bullet, the friendliest dog I ever owned, was more surprised than we were. Finally, it was explained to us that German shepherds were trained as police dogs in Korea to guard against looting. They were taught to be vicious, much as Dobermans are in this country, and to obey only their masters. Becoming a dog lover was no easy task for Debbie.
And it was with no small amount of hesitiation that she accepted the large crowds which would greet us at airports and come to our performances. Crowds to her meant angry, violence-bent mobs, and there was real fear in her eyes before she was finally satisfied that the people had not come to do us any harm but, rather, came because they liked us.
It was exciting to watch her solve so many of life's mysteries, to see her gain in confidence with each new revelation. Life holds a great many pleasures to be sure, but I question whether there is any one more heart-warming, rewarding, and downright enjoyable as watching children grow.
You have to look fast, though, because they grow up in a hurry.
By the late 1950s, the Roy Rogers family was among the most well-known in America. Journalists were forever fascinated by the fact that Roy and Dale had adopted so many children, and were amazed at the manner in which they had so successfully mixed religion and the entertainment business.
Whenever school schedules would permit, Roy and Dale would take their family with them for personal appearances and ofttimes allowed them small parts in their act. Once the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Show, it had evolved into Cheryls doing a few numbers, then Linda and right on down the line. Dodie and Debbie, dressed like twins, did a sister act which became a favorite of the crowds.
Still, it was the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West whom people came to see. The remarkable string of attendance records they established at virtually every stop stood as testimony to the fact that their popularity had waned not in the least.
"They were so popular and such familiar faces," says Art Rush, "that it became all but impossible for them to go anywhere in the U.S. or in foreign countries and not be recognized.
"When Roy and Dale appeared at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Roy decided he wanted to see the fair grounds without being recognized. So he put on a fireman's uniform, dark glasses, and a fake beard and set out for his afternoon at the fair. He got about a hundred yards before someone came up to him and asked for an autograph and an explanation of why he was dressed up in such a ridiculous outfit.
The tip-off, he later learned, was the fact that he had failed to take off the gold-tipped boots he had worn in his performance earlier in the day.
And while their popularity with adults continued to grow, hero-worshiping youngsters still formed the backbone of their audience. As part of a promotion of their appearance in Milwaukee one year, a small ad ran in the local paper telling the youngsters of the city that if they would call a certain number, they would have the opportunity to say hello to the King of the Cowboys. What they heard when they called was a tape recording of Roy's voice saying, "Howdy, partner This is Roy Rogers. . . "
After over three hundred thousand calls, the local telephone company informed the promoters of the state fair that it would be necessary to suspend the calls before their circuits went completely haywire.
As entertainers Roy and Dale were touching virtually all the bases—major rodeos, state fairs, television, radio, records, live performances. And Dale's second book, My Spiritual Diary, was furthering her reputation as a writer with a unique gift.
If there was any aspect of their professional career which concerned Roy, it was the fact that the appellate court had, in 1954, reversed the decision in his suit against Republic Studios. While the decision came long after he and Dale had gained a strong foothold in the TV market, making it, for all practical purposes, a dead issue, Roy was genuinely disappointed at the lack of support he received from his peers in the motion picture business.
“Ronald Reagan was the president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time," Roy recalls, "and when I went to him for help he told me there was nothing he could do. It became clear to me early that I was in my fight alone. And facing pretty bad odds."
Indeed, one of the Republic attorneys later told Rush that every major studio in Hollywood had made their legal teams available to Republic during the drawn-out legal battle.
"There was a strong feeling within the industry," reflects Rush, "that an outright victory by Roy would have spelled trouble for the movie business from then on with people under contract. Which was a bit absurd, particularly in the light of the fact that Roy was probably the only actor to have a clause in his contract giving him commercial rights to his name, voice, and likeness. He had no intentions of doing anything more than protecting his own rights. But from that day to now he has not made a motion picture in this town. He says he was blackballed, and I have to agree with him."
To Roy Rogers, however, all that is water under a bridge he crossed long ago. Blackballed or not, it caused no serious damage to his career. If anything, it only channeled it in different directions.