June 26, 2013 - The Northeast Oakland Historical Museum's collection of Lone Ranger memorabilia just got four times larger thanks to the generosity of Romeo residents Dale and Judy Lopus.
HI-YO, NOSTALGIA! – Romeo residents Dale and Judy Lopus loaned the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum (1 N. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford three showcases full of vintage Lone Ranger memorabilia. It's all on display now through Labor Day. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Three showcases full of vintage toys, masks, puzzles, lunch boxes, photographs, record albums, kids' costumes, cereal boxes, advertisements, books, puzzles, games, comic strips and more are on loan from the couple.
"I believe it's my responsibility to share this with the public to rekindle those thrilling days of yesteryear," Dale said. "These aren't just toys. These are memories to me. And I'm sure they will be to many people that come here."
Everything's on display now through Labor Day. The downtown Oxford museum, located at 1 N. Washington St., is open from 12-4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The items on loan represent only part of Dale's Lone Ranger collection. The entire thing consists of approximately 1,000 pieces of memorabilia accumulated over 20 years.
"I was a devout follower of the Lone Ranger in the 1940s," he said. He remembers listening to the radio program three times a week on WXYZ in Detroit.
Unlike television and movies, the radio show allowed listeners, particularly youngsters, to exercise their imaginations.
"We became part of that show," Dale said. "We rode with the Lone Ranger. We cheered and hurrahed when he arrested the bad guy or shot the gun out of his hand."
The man voicing the Lone Ranger when Dale was listening was none other than Oxford's most famous resident, Brace Beemer.
"The names were synonymous – Brace Beemer was the Lone Ranger," Dale said. "He lived the life of the Lone Ranger."
Beemer portrayed the masked lawman from 1941-54 in more than 2,000 episodes. His deep, booming, authoritative voice was heard by more than 80 million listeners across 129 radio stations nationwide. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Lone Ranger program's debut in January 1933.
Unlike famous movie cowboys like Tom Mix, Dale said the Lone Ranger reached children in places "where movie theaters weren't readily available," from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the farms of the Great Plains to ranches in the Rocky Mountains.
"Kids could sit there (by their radios), let their minds wander and be part of the Lone Ranger's adventures," he said.
Dale noted that at one point, the Lone Ranger was so popular that when Beemer did a public appearance in 1933 at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, an estimated 30,000 kids showed up when only 3,500 were expected.
Beemer was doing public appearances dressed as the Lone Ranger long before he became the character's radio voice.
"He loved children," Dale said.
Dale got to meet his boyhood hero in 1961 when he was teaching at Lake Orion High School. He was at the Villa Inn on Clarkston Rd., just east of M-24, when he heard a familiar voice in the background. That voice belonged to Beemer, who was wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and sunglasses.
Dale went up to the living legend and chatted with him. Although he doesn't recall the exact details of that exchange, he described Beemer as very gracious.
"He didn't blow me off," Dale said.
For Dale, the most appealing part of the masked lawman is the fact that he lived by a strict personal code of conduct called the Lone Ranger Creed (see below). "The creed speaks for itself," he said.
Dale believes it embodies "all the noble traits" that helped get the United States through the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.
The ideals and values expressed in the creed encouraged folks during those difficult times. It showed them there was "hope for the future – that we could restore a better life to America," he said.
Dale hopes Disney's new Lone Ranger movie, starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, will expose a whole new generation of impressionable children to the masked lawman and all the timeless values he stands for.
"The Lone Ranger's a good role model for any kid to pattern himself (or herself) after – even 100 years from now," he said.
In a world where violence is routinely glorified, particularly in video games, the Lone Ranger represents a different type of hero for kids. He carries a gun, but he uses it to help bring bad guys to justice, not dispense it himself.
"The Lone Ranger, to my knowledge, never killed anybody," Dale said. "I don't believe he even wounded anybody. He was such a good shot, he just disarmed them."
Dale hopes the new Lone Ranger movie, which premieres at the Oxford 7 Theater on July 2, will honor the character's tradition and values.
"I am a purist and I don't want anything to blemish the image of what this guy stood for," he said. "He did such good for children and for me. I think I became a good person partly because of him."
Based on what she's seen, Judy said the new Lone Ranger's appearance seems more consistent with how a real cowboy would have looked in the Old West.
The Lone Ranger depicted in movies and on television during the 1930s through 1950s "never had a wrinkle in his costume and he was always clean-shaven."
"Everything was perfect," Judy said. "It will be interesting to see how he's portrayed (now) as a real person and is he going to have the same standards as the old Lone Ranger had."
The Lone Ranger Creed
I believe . . .
• that to have a friend, a man must be one.
• that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
• that God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
• in being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
• that a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
• that 'this government of the people, by the people, and for the people' shall live always.
• that men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
• that sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
• that all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
• in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.