The Roy Rogers Museum has Closed… but, you can buy their stuff!


Now, I have no idea why this fascinated me so… I saw it in this month’s issue of COWBOYS AND INDIANS magazine.  First of all, I don’t think I ever knew that there was a Roy Rogers Museum in Branson, Missouri.  So, of course, I wasn’t aware that it had closed due to lack luster attendance.  But when i saw that all of their museum items were being auctioned to the highest bidder, including the stuffed Trigger, I kinda felt a pang.

Now, I did go to the Liberace auction after his death.  I mean, how could you not?  It was sad that he had died, but it was also sad that all his good stuff wasn’t there at the auction. Or, all the perceived “good stuff”.  What did I know?  Perhaps that was his good stuff.  But, really, it looked picked over.  Anyway, I had the same desire to go to this auction but for different reasons.

Do I sound like a vulture?  Well, I hear you… but I feel totally different about the Roy Rogers Museum than I did about Liberace.  I guess for me, Liberace was known for having a lot of gawdy stuff.  Roy Roger’s stuff was history.

(I guess this is all sort of an insight into myself… I was not around during the Roy Rogers hayday and I only saw Liberace once when my Mom dragged me to his show in the SF area — great, by the way  —  but these types of Americana Icons mean something to me.)

OK, so I wanted to tell you about this auction and also talk about some of the Roy Rogers trivia I garnered during my journey into RRLAND yesterday.

First off, a little about the museum itself…  It was in Branson.  It had a theater called the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Happy Trails Theater and Attraction.  In that theater, Roy Rogers Jr (Dusty) performed with his band twice a day.  Ouch. That musta hurt when there were only a few folks there…  Anyway, the museum housed all of their memorabilia and souvenirs.  And, truth to tell, if this museum has closed in Branson, probably the best place for such a museum, either this is another sad case of our economy or as Hubby says, “no one under 50 knows who they are”.   Is this true?  Is such a cowboy icon just a faint tumbleweed now?

That got me thinking… actually, I know hardly anything about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  I know that Trigger was stuffed.  That is about it.  Oh, and I know that he was famous for singing the song, HAPPY TRAILS.  I also have a pair of earrings with his image.  So, if I know about Roy Rogers, I figure that maybe I know about him because his image is kept alive through my knowledge of Cowboy Culture.

OK, I lost track again.  So, in this museum are Roy Rogers and Dale Evans artifacts.  But, why is the family selling them off?  I figure the kids (6) would take what they wanted and sell the left overs.  But, no one took Trigger.  No one took the stuffed Buttermilk either (Dale’s horse).  They even stuffed Bullet their dog.  (Eech, someone was into taxidermy or else had a reverse commitment issue.)  I have no idea what the kids did or why they are selling everything, but they are spinning it as now everyone has an opportunity to share in the nostalgia and keep the Dale Evans and Roy Rogers spirit alive.  OK.

There has already been one auction.  But, two more are happening.  One is on June 26, during the Brian Lebel’s Old West Show and Auction in Denver.  At this auction, you can bid on Roy’s personal gun collection and hunting gear, some of his famous clothing, his last motorcycle and his canary yellow 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible.

The next auction is the High Noon and Christie’s Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum Sale at Christie’s Manhatten location.  This is where they are selling Trigger and his other stuffed friends.  I’ve pictured several items that will be up for auction…

Then I noticed another ad in the same issue of the COWBOYS AND INDIANS magazine… it is for the Autry Museum.  It seems that the Autry Museum wants to help preserve the Dale Evans Museum.  Makes sense, eh?  The more the merrier…  But they are asking for your help.  So, I think what is going on is that if you donate to the cause, they will purchase as much as they can that will work in their museum (kinda like our Bucket Fund).  So, if you want to help preserve the memory of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans but you don’t want to spread the spirit yourselves, you can become a part of this group who is trying to buy up as much as they can to keep it on view for all.  Here is the link or you can call 323-667-2000.  However, I would call them if you are interested because I went to the site and there was no Roy Rogers info.

It is kinda sad to me that some things are left to die and then only afterward do people wish they had gone to see it…

OK, now for the obscure stuff I learned.  There is a Roy Rogers – Dale Evans Sunset Chapel.  That seems nice.  But, as I read more, it appears that Dale was interested in her cemetery site before she died.  I guess that happens.  And she got into favor with a local mortuary person who is now selling pavers (granite that can be carved) which can emblazon your name around the Chapel.  I found this disturbing because I wasn’t sure if the owner really had Dale’s best interest in mind.  Not that it is my concern.  But, I went to the website to see the “sunset chapel” setting and perhaps understand why it is dedicated to this famous couple, and instead found an Elvis Chapel type of thing…  I mean, I wanted to hear about why she chose this spot and the fabulous view that Roy always loved or something to that effect.  But, instead, I found out how I could purchase a paver and a recorded message from Dale which said nothing about herself.  Hmmmmm.   I’m just sayin’…

I also found out that you could have your own franchise to a Roy Rogers Restaurant. It isn’t healthy food but I doubt anyone was thinking that way when the franchise began.

I also learned that Dusty Roy Rogers is playing at the Mickey Gilley Theater at 10am almost every day.  He may not have the best shift but he does have a gig…

Oh, and if you want to spend a night in a themed cabin decorated by the Roger’s family, you can!  Yup, the Roy Rogers Bunkhouse and Cabin sits in Branson but is not part of the museum.  I was a bit disappointed looking at the photos because to me, knowing about this huge auction and the closing of the museum, I thought perhaps more unique memorabilia would be in the bunkhouse.  But, then I thought that perhaps some yayhoos would steal it anyway.  So, I guess it is either better to pick up a momento yourself or support the Autry in trying to get theirs.

Happy Trails, Roy.  I’m sad to see it all go but I’m just really, really glad that Dale didn’t decide to stuff you…


A reader asked about the Roy Rogers Museum in Apple Valley… This is what I found out:

San Bernardino County Sun features editor John Weeks reports that the Roy Rogers Museum, less than six years after it picked up and moved from its longtime Route 66 home in Victorville, Calif., has shut down in Branson, Mo., and all of its memorabilia will be auctioned in the coming weeks.

Weeks writes:

What a shame. Victorville, in San Bernardino County’s High Desert, was the right home for it. It was an authentic Western setting for a Western-themed museum. It was right on old Route 66, an appropriately nostalgic location for an exhibit hall devoted to nostalgia.

Most importantly, it’s where Rogers and Evans built it, near their own home in Apple Valley. That’s the community they chose for their retirement, after their long careers as stars of hundreds of TV and movie Westerns during the ’40s and ’50s. That’s the community where they lived, where they died, and where they are buried.

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12 comments have been posted...

  1. Terri

    I can’t believe that such an important icon is just wiped out. Why wasnt the museum left where it was! You have tho think, what would Roy and Dale Rogers want. I can’t think this is what they wanted. If the family wanted to move to Branson, why not point a board to see over the museum.
    I saw Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in a parade when I was little and I lived in San Ysidro (where my dad was from) when their little girl was killed on a bus, sharing candy, in the same town. I’ve collected a lot of the DVD’s and have read their books. I read one of them when I was in high school.
    I can hardly think there wasn’t any thing they could have done, but maybe the easiest was to sell, shame!! Just so COL. KORN knows, I live in the same state that Bill Gates lives in and he gives a lot of his money to education and other charities. But I bet it wouldn’t have hurt to ask!

  2. Opal

    I am sorry to see another American icon being shuffled to the past and quietly, yet surely forgotten. I grew up with Roy, Dale. My children had limited exposure to these American legends and my grandchildren will never know the fun of watching and becoming involved in the lives of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans! It saddens me that the family couldn’t have tried to raise the money to move it back to California — I’m sure there are others like me who would have congributed. Happy trails to Roy and Dale.

  3. Cathi in Cali

    Recently there has been resurgence in the western movie and life style, (True Grit 2010, and now a western series pilot being filmed in Pioneer Town, CA.)
    Apple Valley/Victorville, CA should jump back on the band wagon and be one of the new pioneers in reopening a western museum. Only this time, blend the old and new memorabilia, with a movie house, rodeo exhibition, fair, and country dance bar and restaurant…. something for everyone … the perfect staycation!

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  5. Col. Korn

    This is an outrage! Board of Directors INDEED! I am disgusted at the way the so called board of directors acted.

    This Museum could have been self perpetuating and through diverse investments, ever growing and forever financially secure. Proof of this is lesser entities which have consistently grown, ever widening and forever secure.

    I dont blame the Rodgers family but the board of directors. This situation should have been considered out of the question.

    With People like Bill Gates and Ted Turner around (throwin Money into this hair-brained scheme or that come to nothin idea), dont tell me that someone couldn’t have been found to make a one time endowment that could have stabilized the museum forever.

    The Legacy of Roy Rogers and Dayle Evens should have been secured in a Bullet Proof entity that would have freed his family from the worrysome task of seein to its survival.

    No Excuses.

    You So-Called Board o Directors STINK!

    Col. Korn,
    Chief of Mayhem in the Great WW2 an the Cold War,
    Now Chief of Security an Sanitation an What-not,
    OXOjamm Studios.

  6. Phyllis A. Barman

    The family should never moved the museum to Branson, it should been left where Roy Rogers and Dale Evans built it for people to tour. In San Diego they still play his old westerns with Dale Evans occasionaly.

    Roy Rogers and Dale Evens retired in here in California and lived here and had there museum. There is nothing creepy about stuffing animals. People have deer heads, bears, wild animals for there collection.

    I have going to see trigger, bullet, and Nelly the jeep. He was more popular here.

    Clint Black, the country singer, sang with him and could actually be is son, because he looks like him and they where friends.

    Note: I agree with other person the museum should never been move to Mo.

  7. Ann Tierney

    I grew up with Roy and Gene….I feel sorry for our kids growing up now only know what we tell them and not see the real cowboys..

    I’m 73 and I had a Palomino show horse for 34 years that took us to grand championships…I’m sad about the sale.

  8. dawndi Post author

    This is so sad! I loved Roy and Dale when I was growing up. My mother taught us all about them, how they lost a daughter, about Dale’s book, their songs, etc. We used to watch all their movies together, as a family. We also watched Gene Autry, Tom Mix, Hoppalong Cassidy, and The Lone Ranger, among other cowboy movies. Even as a young adult (I’m now in my late 50s), my friends and I used to play “Match the Horse and Rider”. Did you know that Trigger was a Tennessee Walking Horse, and so was Champion (Gene Autry’s horse)?? I thought that was pretty cool trivia, since I love Walkers, and have one myself. Yep, Dawn, you’re right- the old cowboy way has faded into the sunset, and I’m afraid our children and their children will never know they existed, or how much impact they had on our young lives. A couple years ago I bought a copy of Roy’s first movie for my then-16-year-old granddaughter, and we watched it together. She loved it, and so did I.

    Thanks for bringing back such sweet memories!


  9. Nicole

    I agree with Rosemary. Stuffing the animals just seems creepy. Of course, sometimes it does help put things unto perspective. Napoleon’s favorite war horse can be seen in one of the museums in Paris, and you defintely get a sense of how small NB must have been…

    Sad to think that such a prominent figure in Americana is being slowly forgotten. I’m too young to have watched the TV shows, but I do know Roy Rogers’ name and that he was a cowboy in movies, etc. Sign of the times in more ways than one, I suppose.

  10. Rosemary

    I always thought stuffing Trigger,Buttermilk and Bullet was really over the top creepy
    but that’s just me. As a child, I grew up with Roy and Dale,knew all the words to Happy Trails and sang along at the end of each show with them every week. They also had a touring show at most all of the big state fairs. They were wonderful people and stayed after each show to sign autographs and pictures for all us “little pardners”. I guess they are now sadly relegated to simply becoming collectible/memerobilia. We would all be better off if those values and beliefs from “the thrilling days of the west” still mattered. Happy Trails to you….till we meet again!

  11. cocarrot

    So, does that mean that the Roy Rogers Museum in the Apple Valley area of California isn’t open any longer either? (been years since I’ve been by there but you could see Trigger from the highway…).

  12. Maggie

    I’m old enough to remember them. Sigh… I would like to buy Trigger, Buttermilk and Bullet and bury them. That was what should have happened to them. I think stuffing animals is horrible.

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