WBUR

A Remembrance: Boston Cowboy Rex Trailer

Rex Trailer, the beloved former host of a Boston-based children’s TV show, died Wednesday night at the age of 84. WBUR’s Steve Brown offers this remembrance.

In this 1972 photo provided by Rex Trailer Productions & Digital Freeway, Rex Trailer poses with his horse in Boston. (Peter Benjamin/AP)

In this 1972 photo provided by Rex Trailer Productions & Digital Freeway, Rex Trailer poses with his horse in Boston. (Peter Benjamin/AP)

Rex Trailer had long been a legend on Boston TV, even when I first started watching him in the mid-1960s.

Rex galloped into town on his horse Goldrush in 1956, and for nearly 20 years as the host of “Boomtown” he was a familiar face on console TVs from Portsmouth to Provincetown, Scituate to Shrewsbury, and every city and town in between.

This was the time when kid show hosts on local TV were larger-than-life figures.

And when Rex wasn’t on your Zenith on Saturday or Sunday morning, chances were he was coming to a parade or a fair near you.

One of my first in-person encounters with Rex was at the Brockton Fair, probably around 1970 or ’71. He chose me out of the audience to help him demonstrate his skill with a bullwhip.

Rex rolled up a section of The Brockton Enterprise and tucked it in my back pocket. Then, with a deafening crack, he plucked the paper out of my pocket with the whip.

The crowd went wild.

About 10 years later, I crossed paths with Rex again, this time at Emerson College, where he taught TV production and performance.

For local kids like me, having Rex as your teacher was a huge thrill. My classmates who didn’t grow up in the area just couldn’t quite understand why we were starstruck by this man with the western cut shirts and bolo tie.

Rex was a great teacher, not to mention an easy “A.”

Fast forward to 1996. Rex co-hosted a magazine show on NECN I produced aimed at senior citizens.

At first, I didn’t get it. Why was the host of a kid’s show now on a show for older folks?

Then it dawned on me.

The audience watching Rex talk about senior travel and health issues in the ’90s was made up of the same “kids” who watched “Boomtown” in the ’50s and ’60s.

We had grown up, but Rex was still the affable cowboy with the Texas drawl from our youth.

Happy trails, Rex. Thanks for all you’ve done, and thanks for Saturday and Sunday mornings.

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  • Big Al

    Rex was a fantastic man and entertainer I use to watch him all the time with his partners Pablo Billy and one more i can’t think
    Of . I met Rex in 2004 at Spooky world when I worked there. I even have a picture of Rex and I together he would wave to me everytime he saw me. Boom boom boomtown

  • Steve Brown

    Rex’s second sidekick was Cactus Pete

    • Dino Romano

      You’re way too young…Cactus Pete replace the inimitable “Pablo” as his sidekick.

  • Dave D

    The best day of my young life was in 1964. I was in the studio audience and was picked to participate in a lasso demo. Rex twirled his rope round and round and tossed it over my head and it caught around my waist. I am now 56 and still get a thrill remembering all the time I had either watching the show live or on TV. He will be greatly missed by us old “boomers” . R.I.P. Rex

  • Spareparts57

    The first kid to show up for the recorded show was the one picked to go to makeup and be on the wanted poster. I know this because I still have my poster. That was in 1966.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patty.helsingius Patty Helsingius

    Can hardly believe it, after all these years I still remember the words to “Hoofbeats” as if it was yesterday when I sang along with the TV. Sidekick-wise there was Pablo, Sargent Bill, and who else? Rex, you were the best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wingfield/100003291838769 Michael Wingfield

    Yes, the lyrics for ‘Hoofbeats’ are in my bones. I also remember a song Rex sang that went..”oh Pablo, where are you going? Up to take a bath!” In my later adult years I questioned (in my own head) whether there was an adverse cultural inference tied to Pablo’s Latino heritage. I would also question as an African-American youth viewing the Boston TV market during the late ’50s-’60s why the children guesting on the show never looked like me. Don’t get me wrong folks, I have mad respect for the talented Rex Trailer and still relish the countless hours being entertained, just sayin’…

  • Steve Brown

    @facebook-100003291838769:disqus An interesting observation I made while looking for material for Rex’s obit. As you know, a lot of the early shows were not taped, because they were done live, and once shows were taped, they were often recorded over and lost. I found this stretch from a show circa 1960. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS1RiqEwUaQ Scrub forward to around 7:00 in as the camera pans the children singing along with Rex, and you will see some African-American children in the mix. Granted, only a few, but they are there, indicating to me all were welcome on Rex’s set.

  • Bill Ranney

    Rex Trailer set
    many good examples for everyone to follow. The one I remember most,
    and it sure hits home today happened in 1963 – The day President
    Kennedy was assassinated. He took off his guns and never put them
    back on again! He did this out of the true compass of his conscience.
    He did not want children to see him ever again wearing guns. He did
    not make an issue of it; he just took off his guns. He did it at a time when
    the six shooters were as much a part of a cowboy’s attire as his hat.
    He was the only film and television cowboy who refused to wear guns.
    That’s his true legacy. Today those guns lay proudly in the State Police
    Museum never to be worn again by anyone.

  • Bill Ranney

    Rex Trailer set many good examples for everyone to follow.

    The one I remember most, and it sure hits home today
    happened in 1963 – The day President Kennedy was assassinated.

    He took off his guns and never put them back on again!

    He did this out of the true compass of his conscience. He did not want

    children to see him ever again wearing guns. He did not make an issue of it;
    he just took off his guns. He did it at a time when the six shooters were as much a part of a cowboy’s outfit as his hat. He was the only film and television cowboy
    who refused to wear guns. In my opinion -that’s his true legacy. Today those guns
    lay proudly in the State Police Museum never again to be worn by anyone.

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