By Mike Steely
Last week’s huge Ninth Annual Advertising Auction at Fountain City Auction inspired me to go dig out some old promotional buttons or pins I found years ago in an abandoned theater. The place is long gone now, but back 30 years or so the building was still there and was used as a skating rink and wrestling venue.
It took me a while to find them, but I came up with three Western Movie buttons, the kind they used to give you when you went to the movies. I remember finding them beneath the old projection booth in what would have been the last row in the theater. Two were discovered in the dust of a corner and another lay near the ticket booth door.
I should have looked further, considering the price now of things like old posters or show-bills. I kept the buttons and, like the pack-rat I am, tucked them away. Over the years my wife and I have collected all kinds of promotion buttons: political, brand names, parks, attractions, causes, etc.
The first of buttons from the old theater is a John Wayne button. Did you know Wayne was actually Marion Morrison from Winterset, Iowa? He was injured in a body surfing accident after his family moved to California and lost his football scholarship. He traded a pair of football tickets with early cowboy star, Tom Mix, for a job in the prop department. His first film was in 1926 as a bit player.
Wayne’s nickname “Duke” was given to him by a fireman who saw Morrison as a young boy with a big pet dog named “Duke” and began calling the child “Little Duke.”
The second button I found was of Roy Rogers, the movie and TV cowboy star who’s actual name was Leonard Franklin Slye. Rogers was born in Cincinnati. The family moved west. During the depression his family worked and lived in labor camps. Inspired by the comfort that music brought during the hard times in the Labor Camps, he and his cousin began performing music as the “Slye Brothers.” When he started acting the studio changed his name first to Leroy Rogers, then to Will Rogers, and finally to “Roy Rogers.”
The third button, and the most interesting to me, is of Andy Clyde. I must admit I knew very little about the man until I did a bit of research. Clyde appeared in many western movies as a bit player and co-star, alongside John Wayne and others. He was from Scotland and his theatrical family moved to the United States. His father, brother and sister were all actors.
Andrew Allen Clyde (his real name) was born in 1892 and began his movie career in silent films. He may be best known by most of us older TV viewers for his roles in Lassie, The Real McCoys, The Andy Griffith Show, Circus Boy, Rin Tin Tin, Dr. Kildare, and Leave It to Beaver.
He was a very successful character actor and I’m surprised that the “Western” movie button pictures the same man that I recall from many of those television shows.
I have no idea of the value of the buttons, probably not a lot, but they mean a lot to me. I saw a similar Roy Rogers button-pin on EBay for $ 25. They take me back to my childhood and those Saturday afternoons at the theater when you could stay for hours for a quarter and watch two movies, lots of serial features, cartoons, and dream away the day.