“First thing I did when we got to Canada was buy a cowboy hat,” Sid says from his well-worn side of the couch. “When we first came to Canada in 1953 [from Friesland, Netherlands], we couldn’t read or write. I went down to the local bookstore and found this book.”
Sid holds up an original Roy Rogers and the Rimrod Renegades. It cost 50 cents.
“I would repeat the words over and over until I remembered and learned to read English. I lost the book the year after – until last Christmas when Jill and your mom found it online.”
The book Sid now has in his collection is not the actual book he picked up in 1953; he received this one as a gift this past Christmas.
“They found me an original from 1952!” Sid says enthusiastically as he’s on the phone with his partner, Jill.
Sid happily passes over the phone to me and I ask Jill where she got the book.
“Yes, I remember your Grandpa talking about how much that book meant to him so I searched online and found it. It came all the way from England!”
Sid continues his story, “We didn’t have electricity when we first came to Canada. A neighbour gave me a record player – a wound-up gramophone – that played our records and old Roy Rogers.”
Sid and his family eventually got a radio.
“I always loved Roy Rogers, since I was a kid. We listened to Roy Rogers over the radio. They would tell stories and shows played over the radio before television. Shows like Hop-along Cassidy.”
Roy Rogers, also known as “King of the Cowboys,” had his own radio program airing from 1944 to 1955. “[That show] was a story about Roy Rogers as a sheriff of the town Rimrod. He’s the good guy chasing the bad guys and he always wins.”
Each episode was roughly 30 minutes long. For those who do not know, Roy Rogers is a singing cowboy. The song “Happy Trails” was the theme song of the radio program and was written by Dale Evans, Roy Rogers’ wife. This song was covered by such acts as Van Halen and Janis Joplin.
Another notable song from Roy Rogers and his band, Sons of the Pioneers, was “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” which in today’s society would be recognized from the film, The Big Lebowski.
Sitting on the couch in his cowboy boots, Sid says, “I have some old Roy Rogers records that I listen to on my new record player.”
I respond, “Let’s listen to them!”
Visit Sid in Beaver Creek, Yukon this spring and summer and listen to his Roy Rogers records and have a peek at the book that in 1953 taught him how to read English for the first time.