By Jerry Stewart – 2020 Spring/Summer
As we look ahead to celebrate another Labor Day in September here in America, I don’t know about you, but I find myself doing a “think back” to all the labors in my life. My dad started us kids early in our labors with yard work, painting, and doing chores for our elderly neighbors. My first real job was at age 14, when I worked that summer for the City Parks Department. We cleaned up parks, dug through dirty creeks, and pulled a lot of weeds. All that for $1.29 an hour. Now that sounds like unfair child wages! Actually, the minimum wage in Texas that year of 1962 was $1.25.
But as I think of all my jobs in my life, I do have one job that stands out as my most memorable. It was in 1975 when I worked with and lived with my childhood hero, Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys.” The story of how I got there was both strange and amazing.
It Started With Peep Hole Installation
I was going to graduate school and had just gotten my degree in accounting, so I started a small accounting company. I was trying to support myself and my family while going full time to school. Because I spent so much of each day at school, I had a very hard time building my new company. I decided to do what some would consider a “below my level of education” work; I started going door to door selling the installation of peep holes. (You know, those little scopes you put in your front door to see who’s at your door before you open it). Yep, it was a real job, and I made money doing it.
Well, one day I knocked on a door to sell my “Peep Hole Install” idea to a family, and they said “yes.” As I worked, the owner learned that I was an accountant and hired me to handle the accounting work for his company that produced TV Commercials. But you say, “Hold it; what does all this have to do with Roy Rogers?” Good question.
After a few months of working together, this TV Commercial producer told me that he was going to produce a feature film – a full- length Hollywood Movie! It all sounded crazy to think that he wanted to hire me, an inexperienced accountant whom he met while I installed a peep hole in his door. I was to go on location for seven weeks to handle all the money for the film.
King of Cowboys!
Oh, and one more thing – the star of his movie was, believe it or not, my childhood hero – Mr. Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys.” I had watched Roy Rogers on TV and in movies most of my life. Could it all really be true?
In July of that year 1975, I drove to a little town about 60 miles from Lubbock, Texas, the town of Dickens. This town had a cafe, a gas station, and a little ten room motel. For seven weeks I lived in the motel room next door to my cowboy hero, Roy Rogers! We had meals together, drives, talks, and even singing. I got to see first-hand just what kind of a man he really was. Our time together didn’t tarnish his image one bit. In fact, it made him even greater in my eyes. He was kind and considerate, very down to earth, not full of himself and his fame. And he lived by his own Roy Rogers Rider’s Rules that he had taught us kids while watching his shows. If you’re old enough to remember Roy Rogers, you may remember these rules:
Roy Roger Rules to Live By
Be clean, be courteous and polite, and always obey your parents. Protect the weak and help them, but never take chances. Study hard and learn all you can; be kind to animals and take care of them. Eat all your food and never waste any. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly, and always respect our flag and our country. Roy Rogers lived by those rules.
Seven Weeks with Roy Rogers
Seven weeks with Roy Rogers was, one of the most memorable times of my life. I recall the times I would be at a restaurant with Roy, and fans would approach him for an autograph. They would look at me and assume I was somebody, and want my autograph too. At times Roy would have to walk to the phone booth by the highway just to make a call, because he suspected that the motel switchboard operator might be listening in. There he was, standing at that booth, right by the road, as curious fans drove up and down the road hoping to get a glimpse of their cowboy idol. One day, one fan almost fell out of his car taking a picture of Roy’s stand-in double, thinking it was Roy, while, at the same time, almost running over the real Roy Rogers – and he never even knew it.
Well, sadly, all good things must end, and soon the filming was over. I saw Roy and Dale one more time at the film’s Premier, but our paths never crossed again. But, wow, what a wonderful adventure experience. Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, are gone now; they’re with the Lord in Heaven. But their memory still lives on in my heart and millions of others who grew up with his “Riders Rules.” Thanks, Roy, for your talk, and your walk. Happy Trails – see you both in Heaven.