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Saturdays at the Bowie

Moseyin’ Along

December 12, 2012
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Back in those long-ago childhood years in Ft. Worth, Texas, Saturday was the best day of the week.

With no school until Monday morning, I routinely joined forces with my best friend, Martha, and became part of the eager crowd of kids filling the seats at the old Bowie Theater.

Saturdays were a bargain when it came to entertainment. For a handful of change, we were treated to hours of film magic. First, we'd see the featured movie of the week. What followed was the prize we all waited for - the Saturday matinee.

Usually, these were Western films featuring the white-hatted heroes of the day. And, of all these larger-than-life role models, my favorite was Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys.

Of course, where Roy went, his forever partner, Dale Evans, the Queen of the West, went too.

Those were the days when the movies we saw were pure escapism. There was no question about the two factions in the films - the good guys and the bad guys. Usually, it was easy to identify the two groups since the good guys were decked out in white Stetsons while the bad guys sported black ones.

There were no psychological side stories in the Roy Rogers films. Cowboys of the same gender didn't fall in love with one another. No movie featured a conniving widow with a history of killing off her husbands. No bankers were involved in Ponzi schemes. No local preacher was trying to start a splinter church with a goat as a mascot.

Instead, these pictures, with titles like "Days of Jesse James," "Man from Cheyenne" and "Sunset Serenade" were pure and simple entertainment. And the audience of kids who filled the worn plush seats at the old Bowie sat transfixed throughout every picture.

In each one, no matter the theme nor story line, the screen would be filled with scenes of Roy aboard his amazing horse, Trigger, and Dale riding her favorite mount, Buttermilk, roaming the range, setting things right along the way. In the end, Roy and Dale - along with sidekicks Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine - were always on the side of good.

Roy, born Leonard Franklin Slye in Ohio in 1911, made over 100 movies starting in 1935 and ending with the last one in the early 1980's. He died in Apple Valley, Calif., in 1998.

In addition to his movies, Roy had a popular radio show for nine years and his television series ran from 1951 to 1957.

Even though I was a fan of his radio and TV programs, it was Roy's movies I enjoyed most.

Martha and I would carefully save our allowance so that when Saturday came, we wouldn't miss being part of the scene at the Bowie.

When we went in, we always stopped at the refreshment stand. She would buy a box of popcorn. I would buy a large Hershey bar. Then, during the afternoon, we'd share each other's treats.

Popcorn and chocolate were the ideal accompaniment to the excitement on that big screen as Roy made the old West safer for everyone.

But Roy himself was well aware of how western films were changing. In fact, in one interview when he was asked about the quality of the movies being made, he said, "Today they're making pictures that I wouldn't want Trigger to see."

When I compare modern movies with the ones I use to watch on those magical Saturdays at the old Bowie, I understand just how Roy felt.



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