Television legend Rex Trailer rode off into the sunset for the
last time Wednesday, leaving behind a generation of now-grown cowpokes
who tuned in faithfully each weekend to watch his Boston-based show Boomtown.
The show aired from 1956 to 1974 and featured skits, cartoon shorts, songs performed
by Trailer and demonstrations of the cowboy skills Trailer learned from his childhood
in Texas. Trailer, 84, died in his family home in Florida after contracting pneumonia.
"Rex Trailer left this Earth peacefully last night surrounded in love and song
by his family," the family announced on his website. "While everyone's prayers and
support have been of great comfort to Rex, he decided it was time to go home. Rex and
family thank all of you and love you."
"He was a role model when my kids were growing up," said Anne Dean, 72,
of Fitchburg. "Rex was a cowboy without a gun, with no prejudice against the Indians.
He was beloved by everyone."
Friend and manager Michael Bavaro confirmed Trailer's last public appearance was at the
Leominster home of Jack Hoover on Dec. 14 for a Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program.
Trailer also made a public appearance at Hoover's business, the Halloween Costume
World on Water Street in Fitchburg on Oct. 26.
Hoover said he has only known Trailer a few months, but anyone who knew him became his friend.
"His life was making other people happy," said Hoover. "You couldn't ask for a gentler,
kinder more considerate guy."
Trailer made a lot of public appearances in the area.
Katherine Polis, 73, of Fitchburg, got her photo taken with Trailer at both of Hoover's
events last year.
"(The photos) are going to be something I will treasure for a long, long time," said Polis.
She said she used to watch Boomtown but doesn't remember much about the show these days.
"I thought it was a wonderful show, but it's been more than 30 years," she
"If there was anybody that was ever needed to come back, it's him. That's what
we need to get the young people today off the computers and off the Internet."
Boomtown was aired live.
Richard Doucette, 72, of Ashby recalls watching one episode as a boy where Trailer attempted to
jump over a fence, caught his foot on it and fell flat on his face. Doucette said the
camera cut away right afterwards.
In September, Trailer visited Ayer Town Hall for a celebration of his 84th birthday
where he signed autographs and shared cupcakes.
During that hoedown, Trailer recounted how he worked summers on his grandfather's ranch
as a teenager.
"My grandfather hired rodeo cowboys and they taught me all my stunts, trick riding, trick
roping, guitar and how to use bull whips, rifles and pistols," he said at the time.
"My grandfather had confidence in all these guys."
Trailer hit the road with the cowboys and joined the rodeo circuit at age 15. "I traveled
the country a little bit. The audiences got a kick out of a teenager being out there
and trick riding and roping and bull whips and singing."
The late Gabby Hayes, best known as sidekick to John Wayne and
Randolph Scott in a slew of Westerns, caught Trailer's act at Madison
Square Garden. Hayes recruited Trailer to entertain children at Hayes' Catskills
ranch. "I couldn't refuse," said Trailer.
Trailer remembers Hayes saying, "You ought to be on TV. You're right down the
road from New York. Visit the TV stations down there and see if you can get a job."
"It was not as easy as he made it sound," said Trailer. He struck out
at NBC, CBS and ABC in New York City. He was also initially denied a job at
the now-defunct DuMont Television Network on Madison Avenue.
"I came here in 1956 and everybody was saying, 'A Western show in Boston?' But it was
an immediate success. It was 20 years and nothing but wonderful times," Trailer said.
This story was written by Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise reporter Michael Hartwell
with some material from the Associated Press and Nashoba Publishing's Mary Arata.
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