X is for… the King’s ten rules. (You will really have to hang in for this one.) So, first let’s meet Len. Len was born in Cincinnati in 1911 and lived in a tenement on Second Street. When only two, he sailed up the Ohio River to Portsmouth in a boat built by his father and an uncle. The family settled on a farm in nearby Lucasville where Len received his first horse. He would love horses for the rest of his life. It was also on the farm that Len first taught himself to play music.
Having returned to Cincinnati at 17, Len quit school to help his family by taking work in a shoe factory. The next year he drove to California in a Dodge Brothers touring car to visit his sister. By the following year he had moved for good. He worked as a trucker but lost his job in the depression era economy, and wound up an itinerate farm hand, working hand to mouth. He did manage to buy a colt named Golden Cloud. He loved playing guitar and singing to the poor folk gathered around the work camp fires. When offered an opportunity to return to factory work Len took a bold chance. He decided to take a shot at a music career.
After little success, Len started a band called the O-Bar-O Cowboys. He changed his name to Dick Weston and the band toured some around the southwest. Len met Arlene Wilkins at a radio station in Roswell, NM. The band added more members and experienced some success. In 1935 Len worked on his first film, in ‘36 he married Arlene and in ’37, after sneaking on the set at Republic Picture, he landed a $75 a week contract to make movies. His big break came a year later. While working on a Gene Autry movie the star walked off in a contract dispute. Len was recast in the lead and given a new working name, but he was so wildly successful that soon he would be known simply as the King.
Len’s success was unmatched over the next 25 years, working as singer and actor in radio, film and TV. At one time nearly every school boy in America owned a toy with his name on it. By the end of Len’s life he had amassed a fortune from his show business success and business savvy. But there was
tragedy as well. His beloved Arlene died after giving birth to their second child in 1946. He and his second wife, Francis Octavia, lost their 2 year old daughter to complications from Down Syndrome in 1950. Always Len stayed above the misfortune. He was a Shriner and Free Mason and worked tirelessly for many charitable causes.
In 1968 the Marriott Corporation licensed Len’s name to create a franchise of 600 restaurants across the country, but of course it was not his birth name of Leonard Slye they franchised, but his stage name. You see Len’s band, the O-Bar-O Cowboys, would become known as the Sons of the Pioneers, and his horse Golden Cloud, he was renamed, Trigger, his second wife is known to us as Dale Evans. And Len, well when he took over for Gene Autry in Under Western Stars, they renamed him too. He would forever be known by the name the Marriott wanted. He was simply, Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys.
Roy died in 1998 leaving behind a legacy of kindness and decency. Oh and the X for today’s post? X is for the Roman numeral ten. (Okay the X was a bit of a stretch) Roy Rogers used his popularity with all those school boys to pledge them to observe ten rules, his code of conduct called the Rider’s Rules by Roy Rogers. The stars of today, idolized by kids, might take a lesson from them.
Rider’s Rules By Roy Rogers
1. Be neat and clean.
2. Be courteous and polite.
3. Always obey your parents.
4. Protect the weak and help them.
5. Be brave but never take chances.
6. Study hard and learn all you can.
7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
10. Always respect our flag and our country.