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Notes and Quotes: February 10, 2019

By Tom Morrow

During the thirties, forties and fifties radio was the chief source of entertainment for families. During the daytime, housewives listened to “Stella Dallas,” “Lorenzo Jones,” One Man’s Family, and many more. In the evening we listened to popular programs such as “Bob Hope,” “Jack Benny,” “The Great Gildersleeve,” “Fibber McGee and Molly,” along with Lux Radio Theater,” “Dragnet,” among the many.

But after school hours in the late afternoon and early evening it was programs for kids such as “The Lone Ranger,” “Straight Arrow,” “Sky King,” “The Shadow,” and, of course, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” Many of those old radio favorites became Saturday morning TV fare during the fifties.

“On King … on you huskies!” will be remembered as the opening for “Sergeant Preston,” the famed Royal Canadian Mountie along with his trusty canine companion, King, keeping the peace and pursuing justice in the Yukon Territory

A one-time MGM contract player who had small parts in more than 50 films during the forties and fifties was in the starring role, Dick Simmons was a handsome, square-jawed actor with the pencil-thin mustache who did not become a star until he donned the broad-brimmed hat and red uniform of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman..

Driving a dog sled with Yukon King, the “swiftest and strongest” lead dog, breaking the trail in relentless pursuit of lawbreakers in the wild days of the Yukon,” Dick was Sergeant Preston for three seasons on CBS-TV from 1955 to 1958. He always ended the program with “Well, King, this case is closed.”

The Sergeant Preston show continued to air in syndication around the world for decades During his retirement years Dick lived in Rancho Carlsbad. I was introduced to him by noted Hollywood actress Ruth Hussey, who was his neighbor.

In 1988, I was invited by the Canadian Tourist Bureau to visit the Yukon Territory to do travel articles in and around the cities of Whitehorse and Dawson City.

I immediately thought of Dick and contacted him to tell about my Canadian assignment. He had never been to the Yukon, but I convinced him to give me some old publicity photos with him in RCMP uniform posing with his trusty Yukon King. Dick dutifully autographed several of the photos, which I took with me. I presented an autographed photo to the mayor of Dawson City and the rest to the tourism bureaus in Whitehorse and Dawson City. That small far-north city on the Yukon River was prominently featured in most of the radio and TV episodes.

Those of us in our seventies and eighties will remember that half-hour adventure series, which was shot in color in the mountains of Colorado and on a Hollywood set, which was draped in fake snow at a time when most viewers still had black-and-white televisions. It became a popular, snowbound version of the Saturday morning sagebrush sagas that dominated the era’s airwaves.

In his later years, Dick developed Alzheimer’s Disease. He died Jan. 11, 2003, at the age of 89, in an assisted living home in Oceanside. He’ll always will be remembered as that crime-fighting frontiersman of the Yukon.

SCAG SEZ — Politicians double-cross any bridge they come to. – Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features