“Cowboys like smoky pool rooms, clear mountain mornings, warm puppies and children, girls of the night. Them that don’t know him won’t like him and them that do won’t know how to take him.” ~Willie Nelson

Lately I’ve been thinking about movie heroes, cowboys in particular. I went to the movies every Saturday and stayed there until Mama or Daddy picked me up.

A Saturday matinee cost 9 cents for kids under twelve, a candy bar was a nickel and a bag of popcorn, a dime. I showed up every Saturday unless I had chicken pox, measles or mumps. My folks loved it because the show started at noon and lasted until 5 o’clock. The matinees my brother and I attended featured cowboy stars like Rocky Lane, The Durango Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Johnny Mack Brown, Rex Allen, Lash LaRue and Tom Mix.

Orangeburg had two movie theaters, the Carolina and the Edisto and for only 9 cents we got to see a newsreel, cartoons, a chapter from a serial, a short subject with Laurel and Hardy, sometimes a documentary, and then the feature.

After finding a seat, I settled in for an afternoon of magic. I watched Movietone News with that fool rooster crowing his head off, and then footage of the President or the war or something current. A glimpse of Paris fashions was shown and maybe a candid visit with Betty Grable, Bette Davis or Errol Flynn. During most of the newsreel portion I talked and giggled with my friends.

Looney Toons, Donald Duck and Tweety Bird. After cartoons came a comedy featuring Ma and Pa Kettle or The Three Stooges, and then it was time for a continuing serial like Buck Rogers (my brothers fave) or the one I liked best, Blondie. (With the exception of Bubblehead Blondie, there was a serious lack of serial heroines back then although later in the century the advent of  TV soap operas made up for the deficit.)

In cowboy movies, the good guys always prevailed and got the girl; the bad guys always got caught. When the gunfight was over, our hero stood at a bar in a saloon drinking sarsaparilla with his sidekick, someone like Smiley Burnett who talked funny.

My brother and his friends booed and hissed if and when a cowboy kissed anybody other than his mother or his horse.

Every now and then a cowboy appeared live on-stage at the Carolina Theater. What a crush I had on Lash LaRue who cracked his whip, KAPOW! and made my eyes grow big as salad plates. He was one slick, sexy dude dressed head-to-toe in black, a good guy who never wore a white hat.

My heroes have now all gone up to that big cattle ranch in the sky, but I will never forget the good times I experienced because of them. All  mine for 9 cents.


I miss ol Hopalong Cassidy. I coulda sworn I saw him yestiddy.

I ’spose I must be wrong, ’Cause I heard his git-along-song

When he pranced off on his horse into history.

Buster Crabbe made Westerns, too. You remember him, at least you ought to.

He was a white hat cowboy in his prime,

He could turn his horse ‘round on a dime.

But with a name like Buster Crabbe, he had to.

Someone please tell me where did Lash Larue go?

With that black hat of his cocked real low?

When he snapped that bullwhip my stomach did a flop-flip.

His smile was mighty sexy, also.

Do you ever ponder about Tom Mix and wonder how he did those gun tricks?

He was quickest on the draw, could shoot holes in a straw,

Then use ’em over again for toothpicks.

Where oh where could all my heroes be?

Those matinee cowboys I so loved to see. I ‘spose I could be wrong,

But did I hear their git-along-song

When Calvin Klein pranced into history?