by Michael D. Wynne

Roy Rogers’ visit to Alexandria was treated like the President of the United States visiting, maybe even more prestigious, according to the many articles in the Town Talk newspaper. The days and hours towards his upcoming visit in 1956 were seemingly counted by the citizens and children.

It should be noted that prior to Rogers’ announced visit here, the Town Talk was full of advertisements of upcoming Roy Rogers movies throughout the early 1950’s. A ton of clothing and accessories (“Roy Rogers Tent,” “Roy Rogers Jeans,” “Roy Rogers Toy Guns,” etc.) were highlighted in advertisements for local stores.

The first of many articles in the Town Talk is dated April 5, 1956. This article, on page one, was titled, “ROY ROGERS DUE HERE- By Boat.” The article went on to say that Rogers, “but not Trigger (his horse)” was coming to Alexandria, and “coming by motorboat.”

A boat manufacturer in Denison, Texas had hired Rogers, “the movie cowboy” to make a 950 mile trip down the Red and Mississippi Rivers in May to promote this manufacturer, ending finally in New Orleans. Rogers and the president of the boat manufacturer were traveling together in a 15 foot runabout with a 40 horsepower Mercury motor.

Rogers was scheduled for arrival on the afternoon of May 7th. Rogers’ boat was also going to be followed by a large boat flotilla.

In the May 2nd edition of the Town Talk appeared a giant half-page advertisement paid for by Jimmie Walker Home Appliances of 726 Main Street in Pineville addressed to “Boat and Motor Owners,” (Jimmie Walker Home Appliances sold Mercury boatmotors). It said, in essence, that everyone was invited to come and see the “Giant Boat Caravan” and to greet the “WORLD FAMOUS COWBOY,” Everyone could register to win a boat and motor at the store. Boy Scouts were invited to come meet Roy Rogers, (“Have your scoutmaster contact us for details!”). There would be a bonfire and public camping on the levee that night near Red River Bank “just below the (Murray Street) traffic bridge.” The store was later inundated with telephone calls and visitors to the store wanting more information.

In the May 5th Town Talk, it was announced that the City of Alexandria would officially meet with Rogers. A formation of six tiers of boats would leave from beneath the Murray Street Bridge at 2 P.M. to meet Rogers’ boat.

In the morning edition of May 7th , the Town Talk announced on the front page that the Red River was a virtual “dude ranch.” Dozens of local “admirals” took their boats “out of the corral, saddled them up with outboard motors,” and went up the river to meet Rogers. This “armada” escorted Rogers to Alexandria. They tied up on the downriver side of the traffic bridge (where the convention center is now) and camp out there for the night. The organization of the armada was in great detail in the long article.

In the May 8th edition, Roy Rogers was pictured three times, on the front page and page two. The article said Rogers himself actually stayed at a suite at the Hotel Bentley rather than camp with the nearly two hundred visitors and locals on the levee. He was guarded by the sheriff’s office and escorted to the Bentley after the ceremonies on the levee were over. All night long, there was a steady stream of cars moving in and out of the area in hopes of seeing Rogers.

Rogers was made an honorary citizen by Mayor George Bowden. Rogers was also given an honorary badge making him a state wildlife and fisheries agent. He left at 7 A.M. the next morning. Pictured in the paper in one of the photos with Rogers was Douglas Ryles, a newsboy, who boarded Rogers’ boat to give him a Town Talk paper.

Rogers was decked out in cowboy clothing with, of course, a cowboy hat. After Mike Tudor read this article above, he said, “As I read the above , it refreshed my memory. I was 11 and do recall it now, possibly because Jimmy Walker was my cousin … It was a really BIG Deal.”



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