I remember when little boys wanted to be like Roy Rogers and little girls wanted to be like Dale Evens. Today if you ask people under 40 who Leonard Slye was, they would probably look at you surprised and ask, ”who?” And if you asked them if they knew that Roy Rogers was the King of the Cowboys for at least a dozen years in the late 1940s and 1950s you just might get the same look because that was a long time ago.
Roy Rogers was born in Cincinnati with the given name Leonard Slye in 1912. It was at the beginning of his movie career that the executives of Republic Studios suggested Leonard use a different name. They suggested a good solid name like Rogers, after the famous humorist and author that died August 15, 1935. The name Roy was suggested, meaning “king”. This was the name the boss liked. Evidently Roy liked the name as well because several years later he went to the courthouses and had his name legally changed to Roy Rogers.
Roy Rogers the charming hero in western movies, was loved by parents as well as youngsters. With the help of Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes and Roy’s horse Trigger, everything would turn out O’K without a lot of bloodshed.
Roy Rogers also became a radio and TV star, and he was featured in comic books that numbered in the millions. His real life was an open book to the public, with reporters recording every move the man made in newspaper columns and magazines. He appeared in rodeos, county fairs children’s hospitals and Madison Square Garden to mention only a few places.
Merchants began capitalizing on the name Roy Rogers. Sears and Roebuck catalogs carried everything any “buckaroo” would want to imitate their hero, Roy Rogers. They began dressing in Roy Roger’s cowboy boots, chaps and western hats. They treasured the many Roy Roger’s belts and belt buckles, “King of the Cowboys” harmonicas, cameras, rings, tumblers, games and toys.
In the 1950s Quaker Oats offered numerous Roy Rogers premiums so all the little cowboys and girls would want to eat oatmeal for breakfast. Collectors of the Ad World scramble to find the Roy Rogers posters with Trigger, the beautiful palomino rearing toward the clouds with Roy on his back waving to his fans.
Other King of the Cowboys treasures are the Quaker Oats Roy Rogers plastic autographed souvenir cups in exchange for only 35 cents and one trademark from a Quaker Oats package in the 1950s.
I admit when I was a child I went to every Roy Rogers movie I could on our Saturday night theater and today I will watch the old movies on T-V if possible. However the only Roy Rogers collectible for the Ad World column I own today is the Plastic cup it took me years to find.