Rex Trailer & his horse Gold Rush
(first photo of Rex ever taken by WPTZ)
One of Philadelphia’s first television cowboys was Rex Trailer. He came to WPTZ, Channel 3 in Philly in 1950. Previous to that, Rex had a program called “The Oky Doky Ranch” from 1948 to 1950 which aired on the DuMont TV network.
Rex Trailer had several shows on WPTZ. There was "Ridin’ the Trail" with Rex Trailer, "Hi-Noon" with Rex Trailer, "Saddlebag O' Songs" and "Rex Trailer's Ranch House." He was at WPTZ from 1950 until 1956. In January of 1953, "Ridin’ the Trail" was the Rex Trailer program at that time. It was on Saturday mornings from 10 am to 11 am and featured western films. Also at that same time, there was an additional Saturday program at 5 pm called, "Rex Trailer's Ranch House." It was on for a half hour. Also in January of 1953, there was a Thursday afternoon program from 5:15 to 5:30 pm.
On Saturday, November 7, 1953, Ridin' the Trail was on from 9:30 am to 11 am. On that day, he showed the 1938 western (made in Britain) called "Riders of the Black Hills." The next week, Bob Livingston, who starred in the previous week's adventure was back with the 1937 film, "Hit the Saddle."
Also on Saturdays at this same time, from 5 pm until 5:30 was Rex Trailer's Ranch House. It was described in a Channel 6 publicity piece this way: "kids flock in for songs, games and dances with the popular cowboy and his guitar." Earlier that year, in April, Trailer's Ranch House was on daily from 5:15 pm until 5:30 pm, just preceding Howdy Doody. By that fall, the network had inserted a new program which took over Trailer's time period, "The Gabby Hayes Show" which was quickly replaced by "The Pinky Lee Show."
On Wednesday, April 15, 1953, Trailer received an engraved tomahawk fromThe Indian Lore Group of the Germantown Boys Club. At that time, he announced that he would be appearing in three parades and a fundraising minstrel show.
In July of 1953, there was a 15 minute Trailer program airing just after "Lunch with Uncle Pete" (Boyle). It was called Saddlebags O' Songs and aired from 12:45 to 1 pm. Channel 3 referred to it as Rex Trailer Sings. Everyday, Monday through Friday, television's outstanding western personality visits with you at 12:45. Join Rex for a relaxing quarter hour of songs of the west and interesting conversation. TV Guide referred to it as, "Rex Trailer entertaining in his comfortable ranch house." By November of 1953, the daily show had moved to noon until 12:15 pm, just before Pete Boyle. This Monday thru Friday show was retitled "Hi-Noon."
In 1954, Margaret Annemarie Battivio became a regular on the program. This six year old singing sensation would later record a hit record under the name, “Little Peggy March.” In September of that year, Rex's daily show was on from 4:45 to 5 pm.
After Channel 3, Rex left Philly and headed to New England. In 1956, he started a program called "Boomtown" in Boston. The show lasted for 20 years with over a thousand episodes.
Boomtown may remind some people a little of “Action in the Afternoon” which originated out of WCAU-TV while Rex was here in Philly. Just like “Action,” Boomtown constructed a whole town on the backlot of the Channel 4 studios in Boston.
Odd thing is that in Boston, Rex Trailer’s main kiddie show rival was Major Mudd, played by Ed McDonnell. Ed worked at Channel 3, WPTZ while Rex was here.
Rex Trailer during the Boston years
Rex Trailer in 2000
These were exciting years for me. I lived in Bucks County in Doylestown. I had a ranch for boys called "Rex Trailer's Western Valley Ranch." We had a horse for every youngster and taught them about their care and how to ride them. We also had a herd of white face cattle, put on horse shows and I did many shows inviting the public to the ranch.
We did one promotion with TV Guide that attracted so many people that traffic was tied up for hours. Over five thousand people attended.
After I came to Boston, I did return to Philly, but not as Rex Trailer. As a promotional stunt the Sheraton Hotel Corp. hired me to put on a Paul Revere outfit and ride my horse "Gold Rush" from Boston to Philadelphia carrying the key to the (then new) hotel they were opening there. The ride was a re-creation of a ride made by Paul Revere in 1773, to tell the Continental Congress about the "Boston Tea Party". Paul was a courier for the "Sons Of Liberty" back then. The resulting international publicity was fantastic.
In 1960, he recorded an album on the Crown label (CLP-5158) called "Country and Western." Boomtown Revisited was revived in the nineties. In 1990, he played Dr. Reynolds in the motion picture "Mermaids."
Today, Rex heads his own production company, RTV Television Productions. He also teaches undergraduate and continuing education classes at Boston's Emerson College (alma mater of Jay Leno).
Rex says that his mentor was television and motion picture legend, George “Gabby” Hayes and Rex is a licensed pilot. He has been flying since the age of 14 when he was taught by his grandfather.
In March of 1953, Rex helped entertain the "Philadelphia area's bombardment wing." On Wednesday, April 21, 1954 at 7 pm, there was a special WPTZ, Channel 3 night at the Center City location of the Gimbel Brothers Department Store. On hand were Rex Trailer, Pete Boyle, Jack Pyle, Alan Scott and Joe Earley as Mr. Rivets. Admission was free and it was a fundraising event for local charity.
Walt Hug, a visitor to our website e-mailed:
About 20 years ago, I hired Rex Trailer who then had a video production company in Boston, to work with me on a video production I was doing in that city. Working with him then, in the early 1990's, I realized who he was (the name Rex Trailer rang a bell) and we talked about the early days (1950's) of TV in the Philly area. He claimed to be one of the first children's shows on in Philly.... By the way, when I was in first grade at St. Lukes in Glenside, in 1956, Pete Boyle made a surprise visit to our schoolroom! I still vivedly remember him.
Known TV Time Periods
January 1953 - 10 to 11 am (Saturdays) (Ridin' The Trail)
January to November 1953 - 5 pm to 5:30 (Saturdays) (Rex Trailer's Ranch House)
January 1953 - 5:15 to 5:30 pm (Thursdays) (Rex Trailer)
April 1953 - 5:15 to 5:30 pm (daily) (Rex Trailer)
July 1953 - 12:45 to 1 pm (daily) (Saddle O' Songs)
November 1953 - 12 noon to 12:15 (daily) (Hi-Noon)
November 1953 - 9:30 to 11 am (Saturdays) (Ridin' The Trail)
December 1953 - 12:45 to 1 pm (Rex Trailer)
July 12, 1954 to August 1954 - 4:45 to 5 pm (daily) (Rex Trailer)
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Photos originally donated by Rex Trailer
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