While we were living in Kingman Arizona last summer, it seemed appropriate in that western setting to find out that Kingman celebrated its most famous citizen – a cowboy movie star named Andy Devine. The town named one of its major roads “Andy Devine Avenue” and held “Andy Devine Day” and an annual rodeo in his honor. We never expected to find out that two thousand miles away here in Cambridge, Ohio – we would find that another famous cowboy is celebrated. Cambridge is known as the birthplace and boyhood home of William Boyd (Bill) – better known as “Hopalong Cassidy”.
Lisa and I discovered this fact as we perused some of the antique stores here in the area. Hopalong Cassidy memorabilia seemed to be everywhere and I finally asked one of the locals why and he explained that Boyd was born here in Cambridge. To be accurate – Boyd’s family actually lived Hendrysburg, Ohio (just east of Cambridge) where he was born in 1895. His family moved to Cambridge when Bill was six years old. They lived in the Cambridge area until 1909 when the family moved to Tulsa Oklahoma. Bill Boyd ended up in southern California with his grandmother after his father was killed while working for the Tulsa Water Company when a water main exploded. His migration west would eventually land him in Hollywood and (as they say) the rest is history.
Today only a few indicators of William Boyd and his “Hopalong” fame exist here in Cambridge. The “Hopalong Cassidy Museum” is a privately owned shrine to his life and movie career that describes itself as both a museum and an antique store. Lisa and I took a Saturday morning stroll through the museum recently and found it both quaint and amusing. There still seems to be great pride among the older citizens in their most famous son and Lisa or I would never want to make light of that. Memorabilia from the early 1950s era in which “Hoppymania” swept the country is showcased in various rooms in the museum (We learned the building was once the Cambridge hospital). His popularity was a little before mine and Lisa’s time and to be honest, I never remember ever watching a “Hopalong Cassidy” movie. Perhaps someday I will find one of his movies on DVD and sit down and watch. I feel connected to him in a way having lived here in Cambridge, Ohio.
It is interesting that Cambridge has very little to say about another famous person born in this town. John Glenn was a famous astronaut and US Senator who was born in Cambridge in 1921. Glenn grew up just down the road in New Concorde, Ohio and there is a high school named after Glenn in New Concorde along with other landmarks that celebrate his life. Perhaps New Concorde worked out a deal with Cambridge that Cambridge could have Hopalong Cassidy if New Concorde could have John Glenn. You can judge for yourself who got the best deal.
Small towns that Lisa and I have lived in or visited have interesting histories and many (if not most) have a famous son or daughter that is celebrated with little museums or festivals. Here are some examples of some we have experienced:
In Addison, Alabama where Lisa’s brother and his family live, they celebrate the life of Pat Buttram – who was famous for his role as “Mr. Haney” the squeaky voiced salesman on the old sixties sit-com, “Green Acres”.
We lived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and, of course, there is no place in America with more history. In Gettysburg vendors sale pen and pencil sets made from wood taken from trees that were alive during the famous Civil War battle. In Gettysburg even the trees are famous.
Our stay in Stone Mountain Georgia was another location full of history. The city of Stone Mountain was destroyed during the Civil War and the area is rich with war history and hero’s. The area played a role in the famous Civil War locomotive chase known as “Andrew’s Raid”. Walt Disney produced his own version of that story in the 1956 film “Great Locomotive Chase” starring Fess Parker. The Confederate Memorial sculpture on the north side of the mountain was designed by Gutzon Borglum, who began the carving but later abandoned the project to complete his most famous work, Mount Rushmore. Borglum is not a native son of Stone Mountain Georgia, but does connect those two famous landmarks. Borglum also sculpted the North Carolina memorial located on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg – another interesting connection of our travels.
While in Loma Linda, California I discovered that a famous person from my childhood had a rather strange connection to that southern California community. Alan Reed, who was the voice of Fred Flintstone, upon his death, had his body donated to the Loma Linda University School of Medicine – where Lisa worked in 2013. I never did find a statue of Alan Reed or Fred Flintstone anywhere on campus. I may start a campaign.
Come to think about it – maybe that would be an interesting angle for small towns around the country to take that do not have anyone famous to call their own. Though they may not have anyone famous born in their little town – perhaps they could get famous people to die there.
Hopping Along! Steve and Lisa