Bridgton shrine to Roy Rogers featured in new book

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A LIFELONG LOYAL FAN — Betty Horton stands amid a small sampling of her huge collection of Roy Rogers memorabilia, lovingly displayed in her Heritage Room at her Bridgton home. Her collection is featured in an upcoming book about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, titled The Touch of Roy and Dale: The Impact and Influence of Roy Rogers, The King of the Cowboys, and Dale Evans, The Queen of the West, As Only Their Fans Could Tell It.

Few fans of Roy Rogers can lay claim to such devotion as Betty Horton, who has created a shrine of all of the memorabilia she has collected about her childhood hero.

On the second floor of her Middle Ridge Road home in Bridgton, where she also displays her family heirlooms, Horton has recreated her childhood bedroom, with a Roy Rogers bedspread, Roy Rogers saddle, and a framed set of Roy Rogers guns in their holsters on the wall.

Beside the bed is a life-size cardboard cut-out of a smiling Roy Rogers, waving his cowboy hat while his horse Trigger, “the smartest horse in the movies,” rears up on its hind legs.

Her collection spills over into nearly half the space on the second floor, which was added to her ranch home specifically just to display all of the family treasures — she calls it the Heritage Room, and even held an open house for the public a few years back.

On display in a rack is a complete collection of every Roy Rogers comic book ever printed, “times two”; shelves are filled with every Roy Rogers lunch box ever made, interspersed with other collectibles. She has hundreds and hundreds of Roy Rogers pencil boxes, Roy Rogers books, ephemera, toys and trinkets.

She is, in short, a Roy Rogers fanatic.

“He meant the world to me when I was growing up,” said Horton, who lives with her husband William, a site evaluator, next door to her childhood Homeland Farm. She remembers endless hours spent playing cowboy in the woods, proudly wearing her Roy Rogers riding outfit and guns, protecting the homestead from the bad guys.

“As I grew older, I realized what a hero he was,” and wanted to preserve his memory for her children and grandchildren, said Horton.

When The Happy Trails Children’s Foundation, the charity established by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, decided to publish a fan-driven book to raise money, author Tricia Spencer asked for submissions. Horton was quick to respond, and her letter was chosen from nearly 40,000 letters sent to the couple in the mid-1990s. The letter will be published in the upcoming book, titled The Touch of Roy and Dale: The Impact and Influence of Roy Rogers, The King of the Cowboys, and Dale Evans, The Queen of the West, As Only Their Fans Could Tell It.

Horton cannot remember exactly the sentiments her letter contained, beyond recounting how much she has always loved Roy Rogers. She does remember sending photos of her vast collection of memorabilia, which might have been a factor in being selected for publication.

The book is part of a two-year celebration of what would have been Roy’s 100th birthday in 2011, and Dale’s 100th birthday in 2012. A percentage of the book’s gross proceeds benefits the foundation.

Horton’s letter is one of nearly 300 letters or essays contained in The Touch of Roy and Dale, which also includes photos, personal poetry, songs and artistic renderings. It will be published soon by West Quest, an organization that strives to keep the spirit and romance of the American West alive through western events and charitable endeavors.

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