Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Badger, Death, Flap and The Lone Ranger rode again (with shades on)

(Originally published Jan. 16, 1983 in The Leaf-Chronicle newspaper, Clarksville, Tenn.)
The News Brothers, Rob "Death" Dollar, Scott "Badger" Shelton and Tim "Flapjacks" Ghianni share truth and justice with their good friend, The Lone Ranger about 30 years ago. Photo was taken by my brother Eric "No Nickname" Ghianni.     
My heart was thumping mightily as I sat in the darkened auditorium, the strains of that oh, so familiar tune quickening my pulse.

Moments before, I had been cheering, stamping, applauding as the greatest of the good guys eliminated another evil threat in the old West.

The hero on the screen raced off on his white horse, his faithful Indian sidekick riding beside him on a pinto. The crescendoing trumpets blared as “The End” flashed on the screen.

The houselights came up in the auditorium of the Convention Center at Hopkinsville’s Western Kentucky Fairgrounds. Within minutes, the crowd was on its feet, as a familiar figure in white hat, blue cowboy suit, red bandana and sunglasses edged his way through the throng.

I looked at my friend, Rob Dollar, a staff writer for The Leaf-Chronicle, and asked.

“Who is that sunglassed man?”

“Why, don’t you know?” he said, a gleam in his eyes. “That’s The Lone Ranger.”

Clayton Moore, 68, wears sunglasses now instead of a mask. That’s because of legal hassles that came up when a movie, “The Legend of The Lone Ranger” was made a couple of years ago.

“They said I was too fat and too old to be The Lone Ranger,” said Moore. “I’ll get my mask back.”

Others have played the part, but to those of us who grew up in the early days of television, Clayton Moore is The Lone Ranger.

Rob and I weren’t the only adults at Saturday’s grand opening extravaganza sponsored by Chaney & Chaney Insurance Corp.

There were plenty of youngsters, who have witnessed the exploits of the masked man in reruns.

But there also were plenty of what Moore called “big guys” in the crowd, those of us in our late-20s and early-30s who grew up with The Lone Ranger. That group included me, Rob, my brother, Eric, and WJZM Radio News Director Scott Shelton.

We all had cheered as the masked man defeated Western villains on the old flickering RCA, back when the dog was still listening to the master’s voice on the RCA trademark.

And we all cheered anew as Moore carried us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

We were easily primed for our excitement. Prior to Moore’s appearance, we watched “The Lone Ranger,” the first of two feature films Moore and Jay Silverheels (Tonto) made. That film was made in 1955. They made 169 television episodes.

Moore opened a question-and-answer session by yelling “Hi-yo Silver, away!” in the authoritative tones which filled our living rooms 2 ½ decades ago.

The session was laced with The Lone Ranger’s straight-shooting philosophy. Some might say the mom and apple pie voicings are corny.

I disagree. As Moore said, “The Lone Ranger always speaks the truth!”

His voice cracked when he spoke of Silverheels’ death three years ago. “He’ll live throughout eternity. Scout, Tonto, Silver and I will keep riding forever.”

In a brief photo and interview session afterward, Moore broke more sad news to us: the white horse he posed with at the fairgrounds was a “loaner.” The real Silver died in 1972 at the age of 33.

Feeling uncomfortable calling him “Mr. Moore,” we addressed him as “Lone Ranger.” He didn’t mind. That’s who he is, after all.

Before he left, Moore autographed a black costume mask I pulled from my pocket. He may not be able to wear a mask, but to me he will always be the masked man. That mask will hang on my wall forever.

The sunglassed man climbed into a black luxury car and sped away.

“Hi-yo, Silver, away!” I yelled after him. He smiled and waved back.

As the snowflakes pelted us in the empty parking lot, Dollar turned to me and asked:

“Who was that masked man?”

“Why don’t you know,” I said. “That’s The Lone Ranger.”

There were no silver bullets. Tonto and Silver are dead.

But, The Lone Ranger rides again.


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