The 1942 Jeep CJ-2A, known as the NellyBelle, seemed to have a mind of its own for its occasional driver-less romps. The custom-made, high doors hid the stunt driver and the hole in the front allowed room to see where the vehicle was heading.
"Happy trails to you, until we meet again." Who can forget the opening words to one of the best loved sign-off songs in TV-cowboy history? Well, if you don’t remember watching television on a black and white screen, or listening to the radio in the days when audio was the only form of home entertainment, chances are you may not have ever watched, listened or heard of the king of the cowboys, Roy Rogers.
Perhaps you were one of the fortunate ones to see and hear the western crooner at the Sleepy Hollow Ranch back in the 1950’s. If so, you were a member of one of the largest crowds to ever attend a performance at the legendary country-western music capitol of the East coast; a group that numbered in the thousands.
Thanks to the overabundance of channels available on cable TV today, there are a few channels that bring Rogers and his wife, the Queen of the West, Dale Evans, back to us for a nostalgic visit. Once again viewers can see Roy’s trusty horse Trigger and faithful dog Bullet. The re-runs may even gather a new fan or two.
From now through February 28, you have a chance to walk down memory lane at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles’ “Branding Roy Rogers: From Nellybelle to Lunchboxes” exhibit.
In the 1950’s, almost every youngster yearned for Roy Rogers lunchboxes, toys, coloring books or comics. The exhibit has a wonderful assortment of Roy Rogers merchandise and promotional items on display. There was something for everybody in the days before the term “merchandising” became a million-dollar word.
The exhibit is a collection of private and museum-owned items. According to museum curator Kendra Cook, “We wanted to tell the story, with the exhibit, of the Roy Rogers branding; which was pretty revolutionary at the time.” Kendra added that, “Rogers was second only to Disney in merchandise and promotion at the time.”
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the 1942 Jeep CJ-2A known as the Nellybelle. It was actually owned by Rogers and driven on the screen by his sidekick, Pat Brady. The vehicle was easily recognized by its strange, custom-made high doors and small hole just above the fire-wall on the passenger side. Turns out those peculiarities were actually quite functional.
On the show, old Nellybelle had a tendency to operate itself once in a while. Without the modern technology of remote control that we have today, the Jeep was actually operated by a stunt driver who laid across the front seat. Kendra said, “The high doors help conceal the driver and the small hole allowed the operator to see where Nellybelle was going.”
The exhibit is a walk down memory lane and an education on the early concepts of merchandising rolled into one. It is an exhibit you will want to see.
The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, located at 85 South Walnut Street in Boyertown, houses dozens of automobiles, trucks and motorcycles that were manufactured in the borough. The museum was established in 1965 by Paul and Erminie Hafer.
The museum is open year-round on Tuesdays through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on major holidays. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for students. Children age 5 and younger are free.
For more information on the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles visit their website at www.boyertownmuseum.org, email the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (610) 367-2090.