Lone Ranger Frontier Town—June 30, 1948

Word had spread. The Lone Ranger was on a Union Pacific train headed west. Destination? Lone Ranger Frontier Town. Occasion? The program’s fifteen years of radio broadcast were cause for celebration. And a celebration there would be.

Lone Ranger Frontier Town - Cheyenne WY

Lone Ranger Frontier Town Afternoon Festivities in Cheyenne, WY

For just one memorable day, Cheyenne, Wyoming, was transformed into Lone Ranger Frontier Town and became the epicenter of the Lone Ranger’s adventures. There were parades and proclamations and performances. Speeches made and honors conveyed.

The presidents of both the program’s sponsor, General Mills, and the broadcasting network, ABC, were there. It was the most elaborate promotional event of the time, and few since have achieved such success. Against this backdrop, General Mills launched the Cheerios Lone Ranger Frontier Town promotion—for just a Cheerios box top and a dime each week during July, you could collect all four sections of the Lone Ranger Frontier Town map with the town buildings printed on the back of each box for cut-out and assembly. (Full Lone Ranger Frontier Town sets became the most collectible of all Lone Ranger premiums.)

Relating only the commercial success of that day, however, would leave out an important detail. During the war that had just ended, The Lone Ranger program had become a platform for community action, promoting the sale of War Bonds and other war efforts. With the war over, attention turned to the affliction that had struck so many children (and adults) during that period—polio. The National Society for Crippled Children (now Easter Seals) became the primary beneficiary. In the weeks before Lone Ranger Frontier Town, young listeners were encouraged to contribute what they could to aid this cause and “help less fortunate boys and girls run and play again”. While the steady flow of pennies, nickels, and dimes accumulated to many thousands of dollars raised for a very good cause, perhaps more the more enduring legacy was actually living a part of the Lone Ranger Creed—”Everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.”

About that train ride to Lone Ranger Frontier Town

A few days after Brace’s passing, J. P. McCarthy broadcast a tribute in which many of the program’s original actor’s and production staff shared memories of him. Chuck Livingstone, the program’s director for many years, was on that train. After changing trains in Chicago, news had gotten out that The Lone Ranger was aboard.

Brace got out in the platform between two of the cars and looked out the window. And as it came along in these little cities, little towns, there were groups of from 40 to 200 children—schoolchildren that had heard about this. As he came by they’d all wave at him, and he waved his hand at them. I stood there watching him, and, golly, the tears were just streaming down his face. It was something which I shall never forget, and definitely demonstrates the feeling that this man had. Brace never felt that it was honoring Brace Beemer, though it was in a way, but this was a salute to this person, this character which he had created and had played so well and so long.

The First Broadcast – 80 Years Ago Today

For weeks, writer Fran Striker had submitted script after revised script to George W. Trendle for approval. The clarity of Trendle’s vision of the character was unwavering, and with it came rules. The Lone Ranger was to speak in perfect English. Forced to shoot, he would shoot to disarm, never to kill. There would be no romantic entanglements. The list was longer; Striker’s challenge great.

Despite the three hundred miles separating them–Trendle in Detroit, Striker in Buffalo–one-by-one the elements fell into place, and a script was approved. Rehearsals began with actors from WXYZ’s staff players. The first broadcast was scheduled for January 30, 1933.

WXYZ Staff 1931

Members of the WXYZ Staff in 1931: (L-R) Forrest Wallace, Brace Beemer, Harold True, Bob White and James Jewell, standing, and Owen Uridge, seated.

Monday night, nine o’clock. Nothing had been announced in advance. The only fanfare occurred when the needle was dropped on a recording of the William Tell Overture Finale. Surrounded by the cast, the mic in Studio A was opened. From the towers of the Michigan Radio Network’s seven stations, broadcasting history was made.

We can’t be sure who played the role of The Lone Ranger that night. What is certain is that he and his fiery horse galloped from Studio A to worldwide radio broadcast and on into books, records, comics, movies, and television. And amazingly, after eighty years, the legend lives on.