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140616 June 16, 2014

Speaking of Westerns
by Tommy Towery
LHS '65
        Going along with John's series, this week I saw this flyer for the Memphis Film Festival and I almost went. I say almost because I had set myself a condition that had to be met before I did, and I could not meet that condition.

        You may notice one of the stars who was attending was a person we normally do not associate with Western movies, Edd Byrnes. Most of us remember him from the detective series "77 Sunset Strip" where he played Kookie. Back during that series I wrote a fan letter to him and about a month later I got back a postcard with a picture of him in his Western outfit and announcing his upcoming movie "Yellowstone Kelly." I have seen that postcard in the last couple of years and I told Sue that if I could find it I wanted to go down and show it to him, but I got mad because no matter where I looked I could not find where it was stored. I was so mad at myself for not being able to keep up with things that it spoiled any desire I had to go. I thought it would be neat to get it signed, especially since it was addressed to me by name and to my address on East Clinton and was postmarked back in the late Fifties.

        They have these things every year and I am going to continue to look for it and should he happen to show up next year I will take it down with me and get it signed, even if I have to pay the charges most of the stars charge for autographs at shows like this.


        Memphis, TN - I thought I was going to have trouble with this week's issue because I bought a new computer and was transferring all the files from the old computer to the new Windows 8 system. I spent all last night and much of this morning do so and when I sat down and started working on it I ran into a problem. I cannot stand the keyboard layout on the new system. If you are a touch typist like me, you know when keyboards feel right and when they don't. The last problem I had was when IBM first introduced their home computer system. The IBM folks had developed the world's best keyboard layout on their Selectric ball typewriter, but when they released their home computer system, they elected to use a standard IBM computer keyboard and not the typewriter layout - it drove me crazy. The first accessory I purchased was a third party keyboard.
        So, tonight I reformatted the computer back to the original configuration and erased all my programs and files and tomorrow I take it back and continue to use the one I have been using every night since November and weekly before then. There's a lot to be said about being comfortable with what you have. Newer is not always better.

Gene Autry Show

TV Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s
Gene Autry
 "The Singing Cowboy"
by John Drummond
LHS '65

        Per special request from Joel Weinbaum,  we focus on Gene Autry, an American icon for over half of the 20th Century.  He was the silver screen's first singing cowboy and is credited with creating the genre of musical B-level western movies.  Star of 93 feature films, Gene brought music, comedy and action to each of his roles.


        Gene Autry was born in Tioga, Texas on September 29, 1907.  His talent was discovered by Will Rogers in 1929, when he performed as "Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy" at radio station KVOO in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  His first leading man role was in 1934, when "In Old Santa Fe" was released.  In 1940, he was the 4th biggest box office attraction in films, behind only Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy.


        Joining the Army Air Corps in 1942, Sgt. Autry flew many missions over Burma.  After the war ended, he toured with USO troupes in the South Pacific, until resuming his movie career in 1946.


        Overlapping his film roles, he was also a prolific songwriter and vocalist.  His first major hit was "That Silver-Haired Daddy of MIne" which became the first record ever certified Gold.  Gene made  640 recordings and over 300 were written or co-written by him, including over a dozen Gold and Platinum albums.  Many were written for western movies, but also included Christmas and children's songs, such as: "Here Comes Santa Claus, Right Down Santa Claus Lane" and "Peter Cottontail."  His rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is the second all-time most popular Christmas song, selling over 30 million copies and counting.


        From 1940-1956 (with exception of military service) his "Melody Ranch" radio show was broadcast on CBS.  The trademark theme song was "Back in the Saddle Again."  In 1950 he became the first major movie star to transition to television.  Flying A Pictures produced 91 half-hour episodes of "The Gene Autry Show" for CBS.


        Gene Autry was also an astute business man, owning many radio and TV stations in Los Angeles and across the country.  A passionate baseball fan, he served as Vice-President of the American League from age 65 until his death.  In 1988, at age 81, a long-cherished dream came true when The Gene Autry Heritage Museum opened.


        In addition to becoming a 33rd-degree Mason,  many honors were bestowed on him, including inductions into The Country Music Hall of Fame (take note, Jim McBride; you might want to get a horse), the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP.  Gene Autry is the ONLY entertainer to earn stars on all 5 of Hollywood's Walk of Fame: one each for Radio, Recording, Motion Pictures, Television and Live Performance.


        Gene Autry died at his home in Studio City, California on October 2, 1998.  He was 91 years old.


        To watch his films on a TV screen, tune in on cable to Encore's "The Western Channel."   For more information, go to "Public Cowboy #1  The Life and Times of Gene Autry."


Trivia questions:


1)  What was the name of Gene's horse?  The animal also had a special title, e.g. Muhammad Ali was called "The Greatest."   What was the horse's title?


2)  As in most all westerns, Gene had a series of sidekicks.  In chronological order, the most popular were Cactus, Frog Millhouse, and Shadrack Jones.  Who were the actors?


3)  In addition to his trademark round white Stetson, Gene often wore a special article of clothing when dressed as a cowboy.  What was it?


4)  In 1961, Gene purchased a professional sports franchise.  Which sport, and what the name of the team?

Gene Autry-Back in the Saddle Again


Think Reunion

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From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Slide Rule

 Joel Weinbaunm

LHS '64

        That K&E slide rule is actually for electrical engineering calculations, i.e., Log-Log(LL) scales. I have a similar model "Hemmi Sun" made in Japan from bamboo, with the plastic cover. With a little practice you can achieve a good level of precision which requires good vision and the ability to see fine detail in those results. I picked mine up during an R&R trip to Japan following a extended stay on Yankee Station, Vietnam. It got a lot of use before engineering calculators became  affordable, but the batteries never need charging. Once I finished UAH in '71 and by the nature of my work i don't think I used it much after that. Engineering is a vast field and not everyone was involved with slide rule calculations. Computer programs became the modus operandi, and the slide rule went into the bottom drawer, kinda like the abacas.  Now in the mid 60's Japanese businesses were still using the abacas to total up sales.

Subject:    CaptainGallant

Rainer Klauss

LHS '64

        Tommy, we didn't have a television in our house until late 1956, so I missed the first season of the exotic Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion and have no recollection of seeing any of the second season. Your story does stir up a memory from my first year in Huntsville in 1950, the year the German invasion of Huntsville took place. We first lived in Longwood Apartments, near the intersection of Longwood Drive and Whitesburg Drive (the apartments are still there). The Huntsville Hospital was one block north and Fifth Avenue Elementary was one block west. Because money was a little tight for us too that first year, my father built me a pale fort out of many small segments of white pine for my birthday.. And ranged all around it were cowboys, Indians, and horses--all of them silver--that he had bought at a five-and-dime. It was the first birthday present I have a memory of getting and thoroughly enjoying. From Fort Bliss, Texas to Fort Longwood, Alabama. Years later, fort fever would be rekindled every Christmas when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived and its many delights marveled over for weeks.


        But I digress. Even without seeing the television show, I can answer all of your questions about Buster Crabbe. He was famous for playing Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers in movies and serials. He was also a champion Olympic swimmer before that. His son was called Toulouse in the television series. He was half Berber and half French, the result of a liaison between Captain Gallant and a Berber princess. That affair was revealed in the pilot for the series, but never referred to again.

Subject:    Buster Crabbe

Chip Smoak

LHS '66

        In addition to the character Captain Gallant Buster Crabbe actually played three other characters of note - Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and, last but not least, Tarzan.


        Of lesser note he played western characters Billy the Kid and Billy Carson in a number of westerns that were shown on television, usually on Saturdays.

 In 1932 Mr. Crabbe won an Olympic gold medal in swimming. 

Mr. Crabbe's son Cullen was a series regular on the Captain Gallant series playing a mascot called Cuffy, replete with Foreign Legion uniform cut to his size.


Subject:         Roy Rogers

Dianne  Hughey McClure

LHS '64

        Many many years ago my family visited the Roy Rogers museum in fact I still have the magnet I bought there displayed on my refrigerator. We were driving from Las Vegas to California so I could go to a taping of The Price is Right. The deal Ronnie and I made was he would go with me to the taping if we would see the Roy Rogers museum on the way. Roy Rogers was his boyhood hero. He would joking say that he wanted "Happy Trails" played at his funeral well I didn't do that but I sure gave it some thought . So "Happy Trails " to you all until we meet again which I hope will be in September. 

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