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That Reminds Me: Saturday morning fever

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BETWEEN 1960 and 1962, my Saturday mornings followed an unchanging pattern. My father’s mother would arrive on the bus and we would walk a mile or so to the Regent cinema for the weekly children’s programme. Always the Regent, although at the time Nelson, Lancashire, was blessed with more picture houses than you could shake a stick at. Now there isn’t a single one.

The Saturday morning programme, for which the entry fee was a shilling (5p), would include the odd cartoon and perhaps something vaguely educational, but the highlight was the adventures of Roy Rogers. The King of the Cowboys had a magnificent palomino horse named Trigger and an Alsatian called Bullet, the ‘wonder dog’.

The plot was always straightforward, climaxing in our hero chasing the baddies. The camera would alight on Roy and Trigger racing along furiously, at which the audience would scream ‘Hurray!’ Then on to the fleeing miscreant(s) – ‘Boo!’ This sequence would last for a couple of minutes before the inevitable victory for the good guy. ‘Hurray!’ ‘Boo!’ ‘Hurray!’ ‘Boo!’ You get the picture.

The loudest and most hysterical cheering emanated from my Nanna, clutching her carton of watery Kia-Ora orange squash and causing many a youngster to turn round in puzzlement. I joined in at first but by the age of seven I had come to see the whole thing as an embarrassment and I was relieved when the old girl decided the walk to the Regent had become too much for her.

Roy Rogers was born Leonard Franklin Slye in 1911, in Cincinnati, Ohio. When he was eight his parents bought a farm in a place called Duck Run and it was there that young Len learned horsemanship. On Saturday nights the family would have the neighbours round and Len would serenade them while playing the mandolin.

At the age of 19 Len travelled to Tulare, California, where he lived in a labour camp picking peaches for Del Monte. His sister Mary suggested he audition for a radio programme, Midnight Frolic. He was hired and performed on guitar, singing and yodelling. It was the start of a career which saw him belong to several country music groups while also appearing in Western films. Still billed as Leonard Slye, he sang in a movie starring Gene Autry, at the time the most famous musical cowpoke in the land. When Autry demanded more dosh, Republic Pictures replaced him with our Len, renaming him Roy Rogers.

His first starring role was in Under Western Stars, about a singing cowboy who runs for Congress to campaign for poor ranchers hit by the Dust Bowl. He went on to appear in almost 90 feature films, was twice inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and lent his name to a chain of restaurants. After nine years of making radio programmes he moved to television and made 100 episodes of the Roy Rogers Show between 1951 and 1957. He died in 1998, aged 86.

Old Jokes’ Home

Roy Rogers was the subject of a gag which occasioned great mirth among me and my chums in the late 1960s. It goes like this:

Teacher: ‘Who can give me a story that illustrates a proverb?’

First pupil, Clive: ‘There was a sale on at Woolworth’s and I queued up for an hour before it opened then got a Dinky toy at half price.’

‘Yes, and what proverb does this illustrate?’

‘The early bird catches the worm.’

‘Very good, anyone else?’

Second pupil, Susie: ‘My dad put some money on a horse he was sure would come first and spent his winnings on a colour television. It lost.’

‘Proverb?’

‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’

‘Excellent. Any more?’

Third pupil, little Johnny (it was always little Johnny, wasn’t it?):

‘Roy Rogers comes home from riding the range and he finds that all his cattle have been rustled and his house has burned down. A neighbour tells him that Red Indians are to blame. Roy tracks down the tribe, finds them sleeping in their wigwams and shoots every one of them dead.’

‘Proverb?’

‘Don’t mess around with Roy Rogers.’

A PS from PG

The picturesque village of Rudge-in-the-Vale dozed in the summer sunshine. Along its narrow High Street the only signs of life visible were a cat stropping its backbone against the Jubilee Watering Trough, some flies doing deep-breathing exercises on the hot window-sills, and a little group of serious thinkers who, propped up against the wall of the Carmody Arms, were waiting for that establishment to open. At no time is there ever much doing in Rudge’s main thoroughfare, but the hour at which a stranger, entering it, is least likely to suffer the illusion that he has strayed into Broadway, Piccadilly or the Rue de Rivoli is at two o’clock on a warm afternoon in July.

PG Wodehouse: Money for Nothing

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to alanj126@yahoo.co.uk

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