Wednesday, November 29, 2023


My time-trip back to the Hollywood Old West

By Chuck Woodbury
The little boy in the black and white photo below is me — 4-year-old me along with my mother, grandmother and little sister. The photo was taken in Pioneertown in the Southern California desert about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs.

The adult in the color photo below, taken recently, is also me, except instead of a kid I have now reached the “glad I am still alive” age of 76. The older me is standing very close to the same spot as the “little kid” me. Notice the shape of the building to the right with the exhaust chimney poking up from the roof. Yup, same place.

Pioneertown was a very popular Hollywood Western movie set for a decade beginning in 1946. Roy Rogers filmed there. Many Gene Autry TV Westerns were filmed there. Ditto the Cisco Kid and Annie Oakley TV shows, and many movies. It’s still used for commercials and music videos.

THIS PHOTO OF MY FAMILY AND ME was taken in March 1952. I must have been in heaven because like all little boys my age, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the other Western TV cowboys and cowgirls were my heroes. If you are somewhere in my age range, you may recall that Roy, Gene and Hoppy never shot a bad guy to kill him. They surely were among the best shots in history, firing their revolvers at bad guys from their hips without aiming, with the bullet knocking the bad guy’s revolver right out of his hand without so much as scratching him.

The town today is popular with visitors to nearby Joshua Tree National Park. In town, the Red Dog Saloon and Pappy and Harriet’s draw big crowds for meals and entertainment. The latter brings in big-time music acts. The evening I visited, the Pretenders rock group was performing. The no-hookup Pioneertown Corrals RV Park is right off pedestrian-only Mane Street next to the very quaint (but pricey) Pioneer Motel.

My father and me on an old stagecoach that likely appeared in many movies. It’s gone now.

Visiting Pioneertown recently with several old photos in hand, I tracked down the exact spots I had posed 72 years earlier. I spent a little time pausing, trying to comprehend how fast all the years had gone, and feeling sad thinking about the loss of most of my family.

If you are one of our young readers, say in your 30s, then you may be thinking, “Man that guy is old!” Yeah … I would have thought the same thing when I was that age. But wait, you young whippersnappers. If you’re lucky enough to live as long as me, then maybe one day you’ll end up at a place where you were as a child and you’ll wonder, just like me, “Where the heck did all the time go?”

Oh, I know what you are thinking: “Oh, that’s so far in the future it’s almost like ‘forever.'” Hah! Just wait!

All right, a special treat for you. Here’s Gene Autry singing his signature song “Back in the Saddle Again.”


Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.


5 13 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Jeff (@guest_257926)
1 month ago

Alas I too am in the 70 something era, 74, and I grew up watching Roy, Gene, Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, San Antonio, Texas. You are so right, where did the last 70 years go, who stole them? We have seen and lived through so much it is mind boggling, but look at what our parents and grandparents saw in their lifetimes. All we can do is tell our stories to our children and grandchildren and hope we don’t bore them to death.

Marie Beschen (@guest_257900)
1 month ago

I grew up loving those old cowboys! My father helped a lot of them learn how to ride their horses and was their stunt double! He lived in Independence CA, in Inyo County where a lot of those old movies were filmed. Many of them didn’t know how to ride a horse, so Dad had to teach them and do a lot of the trick riding for them. He had wonderful stories of Hoppy Gene, Roy and others. Dad knew all the songs and would sing them to me and my brother when we were growing up. They have a wonderful museum in Bishop that is great to visit if you haven’t been there, to add it to your “list”.

Bill Byerly (@guest_257807)
1 month ago

Thank you for sharing your memories, Chuck!

Butterworth Millicent (@guest_257801)
1 month ago

Hi Chuck, you have my heart ❤️ remembering all the cowboy movies that I saw when I was young. My mother would allow me to walk 8 blocks to catch the city bus to downtown to the Saturday matinee by myself to see the cowboy movie playing, every Saturday, and return afterwards. All by myself! Those were the days! I always wanted to live on a ranch, wore toy cap pistols and boots. Always asked for a horse at Christmas. No telling what the neighbors thought! Luckily I got to visit the Roy Rogers Museum in Branson MO before it closed. Trigger was there!

Tom (@guest_257792)
1 month ago

When I was 5 I ended up in the hospital and Hopalong Cassidy happened to be in town and came to visit us kids. I still have the newspaper article and picture.
nice reminders of years gone by.

DAVID (@guest_257787)
1 month ago

We all had cowboy type shirts in our class photos. I still have my pictures in grade school yearbooks.

DW/ND (@guest_257773)
1 month ago

Time is a perceptive…. I am 11 yrs. older than you Chuck (good grief!). We didn’t have Tv of course but we did have the Princess Theater which aired Roy, Gene, Hoppie and the rest each Saturday afternoon; but alas it cost a dime to get in and a nickel to ride the bus and then there was popcorn too, so we had to run or (ride our mental horses) home about 3 miles. (We were paid a quarter a week allowance for doing chores.) We lived in the best of times Chuck. Also, I always wanted those silver pearl handled cap pistols like Roy’s too – never could afford them tho. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane! Yes, the time has been a mere blink of the eye packed with memories so fond.

DW/ND (@guest_257774)
1 month ago
Reply to  DW/ND

Also, I always wanted those silver pearl handled cap pistols like Roy’s too – never could afford them tho. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane! Yes, the time has been a mere blink of the eye packed with memories so fond.

RoxAnn (@guest_257704)
1 month ago

What a hoot and déjà vu!! Once upon a time, yes, a longgg time ago, I owned property just down the road a stone’s throw from Pioneertown.

John (@guest_257677)
1 month ago

Chuck, thank you for the wonderful article. I am six years younger than you and was born and raised in Texas. Between Dallas and Fort Worth there was an old western town theme park. It was replaced by DFW airport construction in the late 60’s. As a child it was one of my favorite places to go.

In your article, you talked about what a crack shot these cowboy actors were. I just recently finished reading Roy Rogers autobiography and thought I would pass on this story to you. Roy Rogers grew up in Ohio. His family was poor and many times Roy had to hunt for their meals. Even after becoming an actor, he used to take his children and go out and hunt. He really was a crack shot.

DonH (@guest_257663)
1 month ago

Amen, Chuck!

Neal Davis (@guest_257652)
1 month ago

I agree with your observation of the swift passage of time. My 92-years-of-age mother and I usually discuss exactly this, if only in passing, when I visit her each day.

Neal Davis (@guest_257651)
1 month ago

Thank you, Chuck. After reading this, I feel young at age 66. My Saturday morning routine as a child began by watching Gene Autry, probably starting at 7 AM. My routine ended in late morning or early afternoon watching Sky King. Probably Sky King episodes are somewhere on YouTube, but Gene Autry episodes are airing on a cable channel we get. I record them and watched three last night. Then I watched numerous YouTube clips of Gene singing western songs, including Back in the Saddle Again. My favorite is Ghost Riders in the Sky, but this is good too; thank you!

Karen (@guest_257711)
1 month ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Still love that song; Ghost Rider in the Sky

Tommy Molnar (@guest_257642)
1 month ago

Another old geezer here. I’m 77.
When my son was 20-something I told him, “In a month you’ll be 30. In two months you’ll be 40. In six months you’ll be 50. In about a year you’ll be 60, and then 70, Believe me, that’s how fast it goes”. He’s well into his 40s now and brought this up the other day. I think he’s starting to believe me . . . 🙂

Bob P (@guest_257626)
1 month ago

Hi Chuck, I’m 4 years older than you and I ask where did the time go. DW bought a cheap Chinese cuckoo clock that doesn’t do anything but run fast, it gains about 1 minute a day, that may account for where the time as gone. Lol. Between Dr’s appointments and everything else life throws at me I don’t know how I ever found the time to work 12 hrs a day, maintain 15 acres of land plus all the other things required of a homeowner. Maybe I’ve slowed down so much since then that it just seems to fly by. Have a great day.

Evie (@guest_257622)
1 month ago

What a great memory! I am a couple years older and wonder how 3/4 of a century has passed. Do you remember Sky King? That was my favorite TV show.

Karen (@guest_257708)
1 month ago
Reply to  Evie

Sky King and The Lone Ranger!

Evie (@guest_257823)
1 month ago
Reply to  Karen

Those were the best shows!

Evie (@guest_257822)
1 month ago
Reply to  Chuck Woodbury

Thanks so much for sharing the article. I really enjoyed reading about him. What a sad ending to his life. Saturday mornings back in those times were the best. Thanks again.

Ran (@guest_257617)
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing, Chuck! Yes, I’m in my 70’s as well, trailing slightly behind you. I remember those days recently going to Pioneer town. Sure is nice to see where we all used to watch those series on “Black and White” TV’s! Man,,,,,,,,Where did all those days go?!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.