By Jacques Fleury: The Haitian Firefly
Boston’s beloved cowboy and pioneer of children’s television Rex Trailer has re-emerged with the poise and grace of television royalty to take us back to a time of sheer innocence and crystallized beauty.
He was in town to screen “Rex Trailer’s Boomtown,” a documentary made about him and to celebrate the 50th anniversary reunion tour since his show debuted in 1956.
The ubiquitous Rex Trailer is no stranger to many in this town. He once starred in a children’s show called “Rex Trailer’s Boomtown” which premiered on WBZ-TV Channel 4 on April 28, 1956.
A pletho ra of people grew up watching his show including famous Television personalities the caliber of Jay Leno of “The Tonight Show,” Tom Bergeron of “America’s Funniest Videos”, and even popular Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino!
The event took place at Davis Square's Jimmy Tingle’s OFF BROADWAY Theater July 19 with host and comedian Jimmy Tingle, who coincidentally appeared on “Boomtown” as a boy.
Rex Trailer Alewife Photo by Jon Heinrich
The reunion was intended to re-unite Mr. Trailer with his fans, provide opportunities to take pictures and purchase memorabilia with a Texas Bar-B-Q compliments of “Redbones.
Other “Boomtown” cast members like Bill O’Brien, “Sergeant Billy”, Lou Ciarfella, “Chief Black Eagle”, and Sam Donato, “Uncle Sam” were present.
Michael Bavaro, a childhood fan of Mr. Trailer’s, is the director of the documentary film about the television icon which aired as a broadcast special on CBS-4 Boston on June 18.
“I knew if I interviewed enough fans, I could complete the story of ‘Boomtown’ with still photos and all the salvaged footage I could find” said Bavaro.
“As word got out about the project, more and more people wanted to be involved and more footage began to surface. This movie has allowed me to relive a time in my life that wasn’t available at the video store,” he said.
The documentary was nominated for a 2006 New England Emmy Award for best historical drama. It has also been imported as part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City, right along side trailblazers like “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners.” Jim Braude of New England Cable News describes it as a colossal documentary.
The way I came to meet Mr. Trailer was through a rather intricate networking system. Emily Singer, a comedian and publicity agent at Jimmy Tingle’s, came on my local cable television and Internet show “Dream Weavers/w Jacques.” She then put me in touch with movie director Michael Bavaro, who then convinced Mr. Trailer to appear on my show at Cambridge Community Television.
I was genuinely charmed watching, the documentary, this piece of magical history. I wished I were one of the kids who appeared on “Boomtown!” The sugary excitement of the kids on the set was contagious. The wholesome theme reminded me of shows like “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” and “The Lone Ranger.”
“Boom Town,” described as a Western-themed television show, was a weekend staple for the 4 million children who watched it on WBZ-TV 4 in Boston and the 200, 000 kids who came on the show over it’s 20 year run! The show, which was done LIVE with no script, reached into most states of New England. It was also sent to Pittsburg, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
Rex Trailer grew up in Texas and learned his cowboy skills while spending summers at his grandfather’s ranch. Western movie star Gabby Hayes noted that Mr. Trailer was good with kids and advised him to pursue a career in television as an on-air personality.
Soon after, “Rex Trailer’s Boomtown” was an immediate hit despite the apprehension of some who felt that a city audience would never accept a cowboy show! Every Saturday and Sunday morning “Boomtown” was on the air for three hours. The show’s many offerings were entertainment, educational games, films, cartoons, and outdoor adventures. The show went off the air in 1974.
Today, Mr. Trailer is a professor at Emerson College teaching on-camera performance and television production. He is also the president of RTV Productions in Waltham, Massachusetts producing commercials and documentaries.
He received the 2005 Governor’s Award at the New England chapter of the National Television Academy and the MASS IMPACT Award at the 2005 Boston Film Festival for the “Boomtown” documentary.
While interviewing Mr. Trailer, I discovered that not only is Mr. Trailer a great entertainer, he is an even greater gentleman. Talk show host and comedian Jay Leno, who was a childhood fan of the “Boomtown” star, as a child said that if he ever became famous, that he would like to treat people like Mr. Trailer does.
“The things that happen to you and the people you encounter throughout your life are part of your life no matter who they are,” said Mr. Trailer. “I never put anyone down because they are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect.” And that’s how he treated everyone on the set, a behavior that enhanced his popularity and endeared him in the hearts of many.
The evening with Mr. Trailer at “Jimmy Tingle’s” was filled with nostalgic fun and excitement! Trailer and the other members of his cast re-created the premise of “Boomtown” on stage. They invited a group of fans, who went on the show as kids, up to the stage to go back to a time that is gone but not forgotten. Along with the eager crowd, they sang the “Boomtown” theme song, answered trivia questions among other fun filled things!
The most touching moment for me was at the end, when Trailer sang a song he wrote after the 9/11 tragedy called “I appreciate you.” He even encouraged the audience to turn to each other to say how much we appreciate one another. The gesture was simple but endearing. CBS channel 4 was there capturing this magical event and so were other members of the press. The evening was an astonishing success with Trailer signing off and riding into the sunset to the next town to continue this milestone 50th anniversary tour of “Boom Boom Boomtown!”