In light of the fact that the new Lone Ranger movie is opening in the U.S. today, I thought I’d write this post about the Lone Ranger in the 1930s, and what he meant to children in Santa Barbara back then.
My father told me about these events this past January when we drove past what used to be the Langendorf Bakery.
In the summers of the 1930s, the Lone Ranger would make appearances at the Langendorf Bakery in downtown Santa Barbara at 226 W. Mason St. every Thursday at noon.
In 1936, my father was a little boy living in Miner’s Oaks, near Ojai, CA. He had taken the bus from Miner’s Oaks to Santa Barbara to spend the summer with his grandmother, whose home was a quarter-mile from Cabrillo Beach and a quarter-mile from Langendorf Bakery.
That summer was his Summer of the Lone Ranger.
Every Thursday just before noon, some 5 to 15 kids would run from the beach to the parking lot of the bakery and wait for the Lone Ranger. At noon, the Lone Ranger would come out on the loading dock and talk to the kids, barefoot and in their bathing suits, “giving them a message about how to live a good life. He would talk to us and tell us to be nice to people, be respectful of elders, and obey our mothers and fathers.”
Then, he would pass out the wooden silver bullets, which my dad collected throughout the summer. Asked if he had kept them after childhood (a silly question, if you know my father), my dad replied, “I fired them all when I learned how to shoot a rifle. Wooden bullets don’t fire very well. They don’t have much power.”
The Hostess Brands Merita Breads Company sponsored those bakery visits, and every child present would receive a cherished silver bullet or some other prize from the masked ex-Texas Ranger. Below is a photo of a vintage silver bullet pencil sharpener giveaway promo.
This was back in the day before the Lone Ranger began appearing on film, so his image is a bit different from today’s version.
For the children who listened to the tales of his adventures on radio (there were 2,956 shows broadcast), he was a true hero, the man who defied the odds, thwarting the bad guys and riding off into the sunset with his trusted friend Tonto on his horse Scout (Tonto was a chief’s son in the Potawatomi nation. His name translates as “wild one” in his own language). Tonto would greet the Lone Ranger saying, “Ta-i ke-mo sah-bee,” which meant “Greetings, Trusty Scout.”
Each radio episode was introduced by the announcer as follows:
“In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past came the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
Later, when the show was on TV, starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, the introduction was:
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! … With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of History can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
The theme music was primarily taken from the “March of the Swiss Soldiers” finale of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture, now eternally associated with the series.
“As I remember, Mother and Yvonne and I would sit in the living room and listen to the radio, which was sitting on a table. He was one of my heroes, because he was the good guy and he always won. And he had an Indian as his sidekick! Ta-i kemosbabe.”
In the 1930s, heroes were heroes.