Western Days

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This article is part of "Robin's Personal Memories Project"
The information on this page is from my personal history and memories
and should NOT be used for any reason other than reading enjoyment


When I was about seven or eight, I had major problems with my name. My classmates would call me "Robin Hood", Robin Red Breast" and other variants, or ask why I had a girls name. To overcome this "emasculation", I took up the nickname "Tex". Anyone who tried to give "Tex" a bad time would surely have been shot, or at least, had their "lights punched out". <g>

I would later discover that I was named for a second cousin, Robin Evan Roberts. He was to become a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, but this was little consolation for a scrawny little kid who questioned his "Masculinity Deficit".

"Tex" roamed the West, fighting for truth, justice and the American way of life. He rescued every "Damsel in Distress" he could find. Occasionally, I would have to capture one of the bad guy’s female companions and force her to tell me where the "Hole in the Wall Gang" was hiding with my fair damsel, but that was only fair.

In school, I had a different kind of problem. Due to a curse, genetics or family training (I'm not sure which one) I found I could read a book and recite it back, often verbatim. This cerebral fault was later described as "having a semi-eidetic memory masked as attention deficit disorder”. (Hell, when I was young, “ADD” was the opposite of subtract” and not something treated with Ritalin”.) I was continuously bored in school. In fifth grade, I used an entire writing tablet to design a space craft. Each page would contain detailed drawings of one or more compartments, all drawn to scale. The teacher confiscated my drawings and I was sent to the Principal Office to await a “Teacher-Parent Conference”. When my father arrived, the teacher applauded my design capabilities, but I was reminded that it was a Social Studies class, not Astrophysics.

One day, sometime around my fiftieth birthday, I was talking to my father about “things historical”. He said that while “you kids were growing up”, he had attended several Teacher-Parent Conferences He regularly received the, “Mister Roberts, come get your child” type of calls. None of the problems were severe enough to warrant the death penalty, but more than once we were restricted to the house. On one occasion, my sister was “grounded”. When she asked how long her sentence was to last, my father replied, “until your Graduation Prom”. When she began to snivel, he added, “College Graduation!” He also celebrated the fact that speed dial equipped telephones were not invented until AFTER all of us kids had graduated from school.

As a young lad, I enjoyed exploring new places and I have never outgrown it. Building forts, having mock battles using those little green, plastic soldiers and “terra-forming” were some of my favorite activities. If I couldn’t find some place to explore, I would try to modify my terrestrial, physical environment. I enjoyed using my land rover (cleverly disguised as a Schwinn bicycle) to discover places of interest. (Kelly (of Carson City) once declared, “You’re a Master who enjoys dressing his slaves as dolls, AND you have a dirt road fetish.)

Knott's Berry Farm

Disneyland was just being built, but Knott's Berry Farm was already open, and it was fun! Begun in the mid-1930s, it had restaurants, panning for gold, and for a buck you could ride on a real stage coach. The Roberts family regularly visited Knotts on the weekends. In the late 40's, I would dress up in my cowboy hat and boots, my western style shirt and holstered cap guns. I would ride with the driver of the stage coach and when the bad guys attacked, I would draw my pearl-handled cap pistols protecting the passengers on "my stage". I remember that more than once, when the stage got back to the stage station, the passengers would disembark and thank me for my bravery in defending the stage coach. The gentleman would often shake my hand, and occasionally a "Fair Damsel" would kiss me on the cheek. I may have been seven or eight years old, but I was a precocious child <g>.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Quite often, the Roberts family made an trip to visit Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, another of "those places" where magic lived. It was owned by Sid Grauman, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. @ SM-201 (There is THAT name again!) The concrete entryway was covered with hand prints, foot prints and signatures of various famous movie stars.

It seemed like we were able to get tickets for all the major movie releases; "Oklahoma!", "Fiddler on the Roof", "South Pacific", "Carousel", "The King and I", and many others.

We even went to several premieres. On one occasion, we went to the West Coast Grand Opening of the movie "Oklahoma!" I fell totally "in love" with Laurey, played by Shirley Jones, when she sang "Oh, what a Beautiful Morning!" (Maybe it was her gingham dress?) After the movie was over, the stars from the film, mingled with people in the audience. I don't how it came up or why, but Shirley Jones kissed me on my left cheek and left a lipstick smear that I wore for days.

Westerns Movies and Serials

I always enjoyed watching the Saturday movie serials. The bad guys couldn't beat the good guys, so they would capture/kidnap the good guys' girlfriend/wife/daughter. She would be bound to a tree/railroad tracks/saw mill/downed log in an effort to convince the good guy to sign the deed/open the vault/release one of the bad guys from jail.

There seemed to be only a single plot with about couple of dozen variations, including whether he was a singer (with or without backup musicians); rode a (black, white, sorrel) horse, and whether the "Damsel in Distress" wore pants or gingham dresses.

One of those interesting pieces of trivia" is the fact that almost all of the low-budget 1950's movies were usually filmed at Corriganville, the movie ranch near "Two Shay Ranch", or somewhere in either Antelope Valley or Apple Valley. True, John Ford loved Utah's Monument Valley and many of his high budget films were produced there, but the majority of the films were shot on California.

Growing up in this era, I was able to visit many of these venues, often during filming. Today, with insurance, OSHA and security concerns, you wouldn't be able to get with five miles, but "back then", we could find a hay bale, a rock, or sometimes bleachers and watch the good guys shoot it out with the nasty, onerous villains. We could watch the “hero” arrive in the nick of time to rescue “his lady”, and they wouold ride off into the sunset together.

Most of the Saturday morning serials, whether westerns or sci-fi, all had one thing in common. They were produced at a very low cost. One of the most common effects was lack of “Continuity Personnel”, probably because they hadn’t been invented yet. It was not uncommon to see a stage coach being drawn by six gallopping horses, racing along a dirt road. Quite often, you could see the vapor trails of a state-of-the-art, jet aircraft screaming across the skies in the background. I remember a rider on horseback racing to the next stage station and seeing a series of (probably 100,000 volt) electrical transmission lines in the background. “Continuity? We don’t need no ‘stinkin’ continuity!”

Vazquez Rock

Vazquez Rock is one of those place that everyone can identify in a film, but not know where it is located. This geological formation is just south of Palmdale on Highway 14 and has been the backdrop of innumerable westerns and Sci-Fi movies.

  • Do you remember Captain Kirk (William Shatner) fighting the big green lizard (a Gorn) in Season 1, Episode 18. The arena where the battle took place is Vazquez Rock.
  • In "How William Shatner Changed the World", Shatner is shown climbing down from the same rock as he tells the audience how various devices from "Star Trek" episodes have been adapted as current technology.

Iverson Ranch

Iverson Ranch is situated in the Santa Susanna Mountains, in the northwest corner of Chatsworth. It's been used for thousands of motion pictures, serials and television series. The rocky terrain has been used to simulate Africa, Asia, the South Seas, the old west, and any locale the studios wished to provide. The first production made at Iverson was "My Official Wife" in 1914.

Also see the page [ List of Western film actors ]


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