Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Why The Roy Rogers Museum Closed Its Doors For Good

By: Mia Williams | Published: Nov 29, 2021

Before we get into the nitty, gritty of the subject matter, let’s take a look at some fun facts about Roy Rogers! On November 5, 1911, Roy Rogers was born east of the Mississippi River – in Cincinnati, Ohio, to be precise. Leonard Franklin Slye was his given name upon entering the world. “Len” was his family and companion’s moniker.

Roy Rogers was an American icon known most prominently for his acting and singer from the 1930s to the 1980s. “Ruler of the Cowboys,” Roy Rogers has stood out as a symbol of his time. In the same way as other world-renowned icons, the celebrity had a whole museum devoted to his life and profession – one that once pulled in more than 200,000 guests every year. Presently, however, the attraction is no longer attractive. All in all, what’s the reality behind this pitiful shutdown, and for what reason did the Rogers family let it occur?

The Making Of A Cowboy

Rogers has more than acquired his place as a movie legend, all things considered. As he actually remains well known today, you’d figure his museum in Branson, Missouri, would be a hot ticket.

Advertisement

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Be that as it may, obviously, Rogers wasn’t as prominent of a celebrity to keep his museum doors open. He was conceived by Leonard Slye in 1911 – 20 years before the Great Depression grabbed hold. As a youth, the future star figured out how to ride horseback by square moving and warbling. These abilities would work in his favor when he made his way into the entertainment industry.

Radio Stardom

Later on, according to the counsel of his sister Mary, the 19-year-old Rogers tried out with the Midnight Frolic radio show. At this point, he was a modest young fellow. Was there a natural-born performer within him just waiting to be unleashed?

Advertisement

Archive Photos/Getty Images

Furthermore, he got into a bluegrass music bunch called the Rocky Mountaineers. Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer were likewise Rocky Mountaineers toward the beginning of their vocations.

The Sons of the Pioneers

In 1933, Rogers, Spencer, and Nolan dispatched a gathering by the name of the Pioneers Trio, which in the long run turned into the Sons of the Pioneers. Because of the prominence of radio, the Sons of the Pioneers began to develop to be a colossal hit.

Advertisement

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

Some of their melodies, for example, “Cool Water” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” are still known and popular today. You’d think that these hits would be sufficient for the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum to stay contemporary and tourist-filled, yet the poor museu, still had to shut its doors.

The Western Star

Also, Rogers definitely ought to be remembered as a symbol of the silver screen in countless Westerns. He began as a supporting character alongside Gene Autry, the most well-known singing cattle rustler of his time.

Advertisement

IMDb

However, he wound up as the more established entertainer’s important rivals. As the rising star got deeper into the realm of movies, he changed his name from Leonard Slye to Roy Rogers. We think Roy Rogers has a much better ring to it.

Trigger the Pony

Essential to Rogers’ prosperity was the presence of Trigger, his pony companion. Toward the start of his film profession, Rogers was given his pick of horses to ride, and he immediately decided on Golden Cloud – a pony who was also in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Advertisement

Wikipedia

After Rogers bought the majestic creature, the entertainer changed his name to Trigger in view of his speed and insight.

Advertisement

A Man And His Horse

As per Rogers and individuals near him, Trigger was unquestionably shrewd and fast to learn. He could do quite remarkable stunts for a horse such as stroll on his rear legs, sit on a seat, put a cover over himself, and surprisingly sign an “X” to act as its signature.

Advertisement

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Trigger and Rogers were best buds, constantly seen together. As the distinction of the entertainer developed, so too did that of his pony. Thus, it’s no big surprise that the equine star was respected in Rogers’ exhibition hall.

Advertisement

Married Life

Away from performing, however, Rogers was hitched a couple of times during the stature of his vocation. For his first marriage in 1933, he wed Lucile Ascolese, who was a fan of the cowboy. Nonetheless, the association didn’t endure, and in 1936 the pair got separated.

Advertisement

Archive Photos/Getty Images

That very year, however, Rogers wedded Grace Arline Wilkins. They later adopted a child together. Yet, while Grace bore two different children, she shockingly passed away from severe complications after giving birth to their son.

Advertisement

Dale Evans

Rogers’ third spouse was Dale Evans, his co-star in the movie Home in Oklahoma. The Dale Evans namesake is commemorated in the name of the museum itself.

Advertisement

Bob Beerman/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Evans had a child already from a previous marriage, but had to hide the fact that she was an unmarried mother as this could hurt her reputation as an actress within the entertainment industry. To conceal the secret, Twentieth Century Fox told individuals at the time that the youngster, Tommy, was really her more youthful sibling instead of her son.

Advertisement

Evans and Rogers Tie The Knot

Rogers would make a legitimate lady of Evans when the pair made their way down the aisle on New Year’s Eve in 1947. Furthermore, as a wistful gesture to the first time they met, the couple held their ceremony at the farm where the movie Home in Oklahoma had been shot.

Advertisement

Dale Rogers Training Center

Flashforward and the couple welcomed a child together named Robin Elizabeth. Unfortunately, their young child passed on from  issues emerging from Down Syndrome before her second birthday. Evans in the long run composed a book, named Angel Unaware, as a method of honoring her late daughter.

Advertisement

A Growing, Caring Family

After losing their little girl, Evans and Rogers started attempting to change the public view of disability.

Advertisement

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Evans had such an effect that the Dale Rogers Training Center, a committee for disabled youngsters, is named after her. Rogers and Evans later adopted and raised four more children together as well.

Advertisement

Tragedy Strikes

Sadly, the Rogers wound up enduring more misfortune as time continued. Debbie, an orphan from the Korean War, whom Rogers and Evans adopted, lost her life at 12 years old in a bus accident.

Advertisement

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Also, Sandy, another one of their adoptive children, went on to serve in the Army. However, in 1947 she died in a military hospital.

Advertisement

Roy Rogers Becomes A Merchandiser’s Dream

However, despite the heartbreak, Rogers’ profession continued. His increasing fame led to many products and merchandise to revolve around him. This included everything from toys to books to even a comic book series from Dell Comics.

Advertisement

Bert Parry/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Evans, as well, turned into an easily recognized name, showing up in nearly 30 of her better half’s motion pictures. Furthermore, because Rogers purchased the rights to his own resemblance and likeness in 1940, he gained quite a financial standing due to all the merch sold.

Advertisement

The Roy Rogers Show

Then came The Roy Rogers Show in 1951, which featured Rogers and Evans alongside their beloved animals, Trigger and Bullet the Wonder Dog. Pat Brady was also highlighted in this show as the companion character.

Advertisement

Bettman/Getty Images

Furthermore, the show was well known enough to run for six seasons and 100 episodes prior to reaching a conclusion in June 1957. Indeed, the series is still recollected affectionately today, and you’d presumably expect this would be sufficient enough to keep the museum open. So what happened?

Advertisement

The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show

After The Roy Rogers Show ended came The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show. However, this new creation did not live up to the previous show’s acclaim and was dropped after only three months due to low evaluations.

Advertisement

Muppet Fandom Wiki

However, Rogers wasn’t done at this point. He showed up in other TV shows, including Wonder Woman and The Muppet Show.

Advertisement

Forever Remembering Trigger

Be that as it may, in 1967 Trigger unfortunately passed on. Rogers selected to have the notorious creature safeguarded, and when he and his significant other opened The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Apple Valley, they had Trigger’s mounted body displayed there.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

However, they moved the museum and its inhabitants to Victorville, California in 1976.

Advertisement

What Happened To Bullet The Wonder Dog?

Likewise, the taxidermied body of Bullet the Wonder Dog was also put on display at Roy and Dale’s museum. The same is true for Dale Evans’ horse, Buttermilk, after he passed too.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Furthermore, Trigger’s stunt double in the films, Trigger Junior, could also be found in the museum. However, these memorialized remains of the Rogers’ beloved animals were not enough to continue to draw visitors to their doors.

Advertisement

Roy Rogers Restaurants

As part of his business management at Marriott, Rogers rebranded the organization’s Hot Shoppes eateries with his own name. Thus, Hot Shoppes became Roy Rogers Restaurants.

Advertisement

Roy Rogers

Thus, Rogers got cash for letting the firm utilize his name – in addition to a charge for any appearances that he made at the cafés. His name and persona was something of gold back in the day and Roy was doing well on money because of it.

Advertisement

Rogers And His Kids

However, despite the fact that Rogers’ business successes were significant, his associations with his children were also without a doubt at the forefront of his interests and concerns.

Advertisement

Paul Harris/Getty Images

In 1987 his child Roy Rogers Jr. (a.k.a. Dusty), did an interview with People Magazine about his adolescence. Furthermore, Dusty’s mom and father participated with their own thoughts too.

Advertisement

Roy Rogers As A Father

Dusty and Sandy and I used to go out for a couple of weeks at a time and hunt and fish and live off the land,” Rogers enlightened People regarding his life as a parent.

Advertisement

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He continued by saying, “If you spend time to teach kids right and wrong when they’re little, it’s much easier for them to grow up. And it shows you love ’em.”

Advertisement

Dusty and Rogers’ Brief Falling Out

Dusty and his dad did, in fact, momentarily drop out of contact after the son graduated from secondary school and was looking to get into movies.

Advertisement

Ron Wolfson/Getty Images

Indeed, it appears to be that Rogers didn’t want his child to emulate his own example and career. Instead, he advised him to get a “good job.” This angered Dusty a bit and he tells People that he ended up leaving town with his friends. Fortunately, however, the pair made up eventually.

Advertisement

Dusty Tried To Understand His Father’s Fame

I used to wonder when I was a kid what in the world was so exciting about this guy,” Dusty told the magazine concerning his dad.

Advertisement

John T. Barr/Getty Images

“Then I got to going through all the clippings, the fan mail, the thousands of pictures of all the things he’s done, the children’s hospitals he’s visited. It’s almost unbelievable. This is the man I had spent my whole life with and never really gotten to know.”

Advertisement

Awards, Accolades, and Recognition

By 1988 Rogers had gotten numerous awards for his work. He additionally had three stars scratched into the Hollywood Walk of Fame – one for TV, one for radio, and one for movies.

Advertisement

Ben Martin/Getty Images

What’s more, he and Evans were also essential for Oklahoma’s Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The star was also accepted into the Sons of the Pioneers in 1995. What a career!

Advertisement

The Awards Just Keep Coming

Rogers additionally made it into the Country Music Hall of Fame twice – once as an individual from Sons of the Pioneers and another time as an independent artist.

Advertisement

Paul Harris/Getty Images

Currently, he’s the sole individual at any point to have this honor. Yet, even that is not all. In 1983 he packed away a Golden Boot Award and in 1996 he received a Golden Boot Founder’s Award.

Advertisement

The Death of a Legend

Tragically, time at last caught up to the spearheading performer. Indeed, Rogers surrendered to congestive heart failure in 1998 at 86 years old.

Advertisement

Ron Wolfson/Getty Images

Such news affected American mainstream society. Even then-President Bill Clinton honored his demise. “Today there will be a lot of sad and grateful Americans, especially of my generation, because of his career,” said Clinton.

Advertisement

Survived By His Extensive Family

At the time of his death, Roy Rogers had an astounding 15 grandchildren along with 33 incredible grandchildren in addition to his wife and six enduring children.

Advertisement

Sons of the Pioneers

Rogers was survived by his children, Cheryl Barnett, Roy Rogers Jr., Tom Fox, Dodie Sailors, Linda Lou Johnson, and Marion Swift. At this point in time, Roy Rogers Jr. became the leading curator of this parent’s museum.

Advertisement

Remembering Rogers

The New York Times referenced the museum in its obituary for Rogers, as well. “Mr. Rogers would often visit the museum and converse with visitors,” the piece read.

Advertisement

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“He continued to wear his white Stetson, his gabardine shirts and his silver-and-leather belts. Even though his legs ached and he would have been more at ease in sneakers, he always pulled on his pointy boots with the high heels.”

Advertisement

The Legacy of Dale Evans

Evans passed on not long after her better half. She died in 2001 at 88 years old. Obituaries for the entertainer called attention to the amount she had accomplished in both her own profession and when paired with Rogers.

Advertisement

Joan Adlen/Getty Images

Most impressively, she was the author behind the well known Roy Rogers signature melody “Glad Trails to You.” She composed the verses only 40 minutes before his show went on air.

Advertisement

Financial Troubles

At this point, the museum remained as an accolade for Rogers and Evans for a couple of years following their deaths. Be that as it may, in 2003 it moved from its unique home in Victorville, California, to another spot in Branson, Missouri.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The choice of the move had to do with cash. After the passing of Evans, the IRS collected a high tax expense on the Rogers estate, and more money was needed to keep the museum open. A more “touristy” region was required in order to keep the museum open and the money flowing.

Advertisement

The Missouri Mistake

However, things didn’t work out. The museum moved to Branson, Missouri, yet the number of tourists the family had expected didn’t show up.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

There was an excess of competition from other tourist attractions, and the sentimentality factor simply wasn’t in Branson the way that it had been in Apple Valley.

Advertisement

Announcing The End

It was in 2009 when Roy Rogers Jr. published a letter to enthusiasts of the museum. “You, the fans, and our Board of Directors are the ones who have kept our family museum going for over 42 years. It has been a wonderful ride,” he reflected.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

“After millions of visitors and countless stories of what Roy and Dale have meant to you, the Board of Directors have voted to close the museum at the end of 2009.”

Advertisement

A Difficult Decision

“This has not been an easy decision. Various emotional and financial issues have been addressed by all of us, as you might imagine,” Rogers Jr. proceeded to announce.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

“The decision to close the Museum has come after two years of steady visitors to the Museum. A lot of factors have made our decision for us.”

Advertisement

A Sad Financial Truth

Rogers Jr. additionally discussed the reasons behind closing the museum. “The economy, for one; people are just not traveling as much. Dad’s fans are getting older and concerned about their retirement funds. Everyone is concerned about their future in this present economy,” he said.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Rogers continues with his explanation by saying, “Second, with our high fiscal obligations, we cannot continue to accumulate debt to keep the doors open.”

Advertisement

Understanding What His Father Would’ve Wanted

Rogers Jr. likewise discussed what his father would have needed him to do. “Dad always said, ‘If the museum is costing you money, then liquidate everything and move on.’”

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

“Myself and the family have tried to hold together the museum and collection for over 15 years, so it is very difficult to think that it will be gone soon,” he stated.

Advertisement

Remembering Two Legends

Rogers Jr. ended his letter with this: “Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

“Remember, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans will live forever in our hearts and minds and will continue to ride across the silver screen through their movies. Every time you think of Roy and Dale, that warm feeling you have always felt will always return.”

Advertisement

Selling The Prized Possessions

The significant things that the museum held in this manner wound up being sold in July 2010. Furthermore, the taxidermied remains of Trigger drew a ton of interest from collectors.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Eventually, the safeguarded horse was acquired by the cable organization RFD-TV, as was Bullet the Wonder Dog. Bullet was sold for $35,000 and Trigger for an enormous sum of $266,000.

Advertisement

Future Plans

In the interim, RFD-TV proprietor Patrick Gottsch conversed with the Associated Press concerning how the company intended to manage its purchases. In particular, the station was preparing to show Roy Rogers films with Rogers Jr. introducing each one.

Advertisement

IMDb

For this special, Trigger and Bullet the Wonder Dog would be in the background. behind the scenes. “The goal is to introduce Roy Rogers to a whole new generation of kids,” Gottsch clarified.

Advertisement

Gratitude For Saving Trigger

Gottsch had additionally gotten an overwhelming amount of appreciation from Roy Rogers fans who had dreaded the destiny of the saved horse after the museum had closed its doors.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

“Over the last 24 hours, I’ve received so many emails of thank you, just wonderful letters, saying, ‘Thank you for saving Trigger,’” Gottsch told the Associated Press.

Advertisement

The Nellybelle

Other popular Roy Rogers-related things sold at significant expenses too. Among the attractions of The Roy Rogers Show was a Jeep known as Nellybelle which Pat Brady’s character owned.

Advertisement

Today

The genuine Nellybelle sold at $116,500 to horse mentor and Rogers fan Pam Weidel, who intended to keep the vehicle in a more private museum.

Advertisement

Happy Trails!

Additionally, regardless of the pitiful reality of the Roy Rogers Museum shutting down, the exchange was clearly a cheerful event. Auctioneer Cathy Elkies let the Associated Press know that the occasion was the “most colorful, emotional and sentimental” closeout she’d at any point seen.

Advertisement

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Also, toward the end of the auction, the audience even joined together to sing “Happy Trails.” Rogers and Evans would have unquestionably admired the sheer joy and fond memories shared that fateful night.

Advertisement