“ROY ROGERS AND DALE EVANS - HAPPY TRAILS” - WITH CARLTON STOWERS - 1979 BOOK.
PART 3 - PARTNERS
CARLTON STOWERS IN ITALICS
An estimated two million people had jammed the sidewalks and parkway along Colorado Boulevard from Orange Grove Avenue to Sierra Madre, a five-mile ribbon of asphalt familiar to television viewers throughout the Free World. It was the morning of New Year's Day, 1977, and the traditional Tournament of Roses Parade had again turned Pasadena into a wild celebration of sight and sound.
The morning air carried the scent of a newborn day, a crisp, clean smell that brought a pleasant and welcome relief from the eye-stinging pollution which so frequently spills across the Los Angeles basin and backs up against the San Gabriel Mountains.
Earlier, while the city was still masked by darkness, thousands of cars arriving from a maze of directions had spilled from the bumper-to-bumper freeways onto the exit ramps, and their occupants had hurried to find their way to favored viewpoints along the parade route. For some the wait would stretch for hours, but it was time deemed well spent. A good vantage point from which to watch the pageantry of the Tournament of Roses, the parade to end all parades, is as coveted as a fifty-yard-line ticket to the Rose Bowl game held later in the festive day.
Now, with the waiting over, a restless stir of anticipation rumbled through the crowd. Those on hand to serve as eyewitnesses, as well as the two hundred fifty million who would watch from the comfort of their living rooms, readied for their initial glimpse of the first husband-and-wife team in the colorful affairs eighty-seven-year history to share the honor of being Grand Marshals. The honor had been dealt to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, motion picture and singing stars whose closely-woven careers had spanned three generations.
There, amidst the marching bands, the prize-winning flower-draped floats, the gaily costumed riders and baton-twirling majorettes, the King of the Cowbogs and the Queen of the West were clearly the centerpieces of the celebration.
They represented much to many. To some they were still Saturday afternoon heroes, a welcome reminder of younger days when there were, indeed, still heroes. To others, they were living monuments to the good which is still so much a part of the American Wag—two proud, strong people afraid neither of waving the flag nor publicly admitting their faith in God.
It was appropriate, then, that the theme of the day was 'The Good Life." For Roy and Dale, who just the evening before had quietly celebrated their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary, the theme fit comfortably.
As the white open convertible, with the honored couple seated in the back and their longtime friend and manager Art Rush riding up front, moved into the complex pattern of the parade, cheers began to echo through the morning air. And, almost as if it had been rehearsed, a massive amateur chorus of onlookers broke into a song which had been written by Dale Evans and sung so often by both of them that it had become something of an anthem for the Western movie world: "Happg trails to you ..."
There was an electricity about the mood of the crowd, something which went beyond the festive atmosphere generallg reserved for such events. It was as if those who lined the route, standing twenty deep in many places, were reaching out to the two familiar symbols of the parades theme—a man and a woman who, despite their successes and good fortune, had remained untarnished by the ambition and greed which had turned the first half of the 1970s into a national nightmare of deceit, deception, and disillusionment.
It was a time of intense emotion, not only for those standing along the route or seated in the jam-packed bleachers, but for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans as well.
“I had ridden Trigger along that same route a number of times," Roy would later recall, but it was never anything like this. Dale and I had enjoyed riding on various floats in years past, but this was different. The crowd reached out to us with an almost overwhelming spirit of warmth and acceptance that I had never felt before. It was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had."
“There are times when we're all guilty of taking things for granted," said Dale. “But this day was something special. When you stop and think about it, it is an enormous responsibility to have been chosen to exemplify the Good Life in the parade. Serving as Grand Marshals has to be one of the most rewarding things that has ever happened to us."