There are phone calls that have little if any effect on your life and then there are those that change your life in ways you could never have imagined. This call was one of those. It came about 9:30 in the morning. I picked up the phone to hear the following, Everette, this is Wendy Foy. I said Fred Foy's daughter? She answered, yes. And this is what followed.
She told me she had promised her Dad that she would preserve his legacy. After his death she had spent four years painstakingly going through all of his memorabilia scanning and organizing with the goal of setting up a website, something he had always wanted to do. With the help of her husband it came to fruition. Having completed that "labor of love", she was then presented with the question of where do all these legacy items go? She wanted to find a "home" for it all. She had been struggling with the thought that down the years it might all be lost. They needed a "home". She told me about a little voice that reminded her of a man her Dad had referred to as the "Professor". Someone he would see at conventions and had made an impression on him. That man was me. Strangely enough, from time to time, I would reach out to Wendy via email to inquire if she would like to send me an item or two that I could use for fundraising at the Lone Ranger Day Festival in Oxford, Michigan that I participate in every year. In one of my emails I had given her my phone number. She decided to give me a call in the hopes that I could provide her with some guidance with her desire to find a "home" for her Dad's treasured memories. I told her about the museum in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, the home of Brace Beemer, and Claudia, the curator there whom I referred to as a "curator's curator". Wendy said her heart was full,. She felt like a prayer had been answered and she told me that I was her "angel". At that point we proceeded together to work out the details of her sending me her Dad's entire legacy collection. Now if a call out of the blue like that does not knock your socks off, nothing will.
What do you say at a time like this? Common sense would have made me take the time to make a rational decision. This, however, was not a time for common sense. When the chance of a lifetime comes your way common sense goes out the window. Who was I, after all, to question the daughter of one of the greatest men in the history of radio. She had just given me one of the greatest honors a Lone Ranger fan could ever receive. The chance to have a part in establishing the legacy display of one of the greatest voices in broadcast history alongside of that of my boyhood hero, Brace Beemer, was being offered to me. Sometimes an opportunity comes along that is larger than yourself and you have to trust the judgment of others even though you realize you will have to grow into the responsibility being offered.
I have worked with the museum in Mt. Carmel, Illinois for over ten years. Brace Beemer was born there in 1902 and the Wabash County Museum has a display of items about him and his role in the Lone Ranger radio program. I had, over the years, acquired a substantial collection of items relating to the program and due to my advancing age had decided to donate them to the museum in 2011. This immediately seemed to me to be the logical location for the Foy collection. After all, these two men worked together for many years and it seemed fitting that their collections be together. When you hear the voice of either man you think of only one thing The Lone Ranger. When I made the suggestion to Wendy she readily agreed. Then came the hard part. For the past year and a half since that call, I have spent from three to five hours on most days working on this project. The following is what he have planned the "we" being Wendy Foy, Claudia Dant (the curator) and me.
The display will have several features. The one that is probably most unique will be the small mock-up of the original studio in Detroit where the first broadcast was made on January 30, 1933. When you enter the studio you will actually enter through the same door the first "Lone Ranger" walked through to do that first broadcast. We have the original door from that studio. It you like, you can even have your photo taken standing in that doorway as a memento of your visit. Will that be neat or what? Over the door will be the "ON AIR" sign we have had made like the original one. It will flash as long as your are in there to warn others that a broadcast is in progress. In front of you will be mannequins of Brace and Fred in their own clothes, standing on each side of a 1940s microphone suspended from the ceiling. There will be little else in the room as they had little in the original studio to diminish the chance of something falling over and ruining a broadcast. The sound effects man was in another room with a window for cuing the sounds. We have one of the actual equipment storage drawers from that room.
Elsewhere the displays of Brace and Fred will be side by side but separate so each will get his own area. cases will be set up to feature areas of interest for each subject of the show. For instance, there will be a case for major awards, an area for the various sponsors over the years, one for the prizes you could send in for, one devoted to various toys that have been sold over the years as well as costumes you may purchase. We have a program set up that will allow you to listen to descriptions of items over your own cell phone. This will eliminate any problems of having to wait until the person ahead of you is done before you can listen.
A library of photos is being established. Since many of the toys and such are no longer available or too costly to obtain, a photographic "library" is being established. It already contains hundred of photographs arranged in binders of subject matter. This area will grow over the years. Eventually, it is hoped that the collection will contain a complete photographic history of all aspects of the program. Visitors will be given the chance to donate items for this display as well as the larger display itself. It is our aim to make this a living history of the radio show so it can grow with time and not be static.
Fred Foy seldom discarded anything he felt may be useful in the future. He assembled several albums of photos from various times of his life. The photos number in the hundreds. Many letters to and from radio notables as well as family members will be in the collection. You will get to know Fred as a person and not just a voice coming over the air. Fred was a dresser. Even though he was on the radio and could not be seen by the audience he dressed well. He felt the high standards of the program should be maintained at all times. Some of his personal jewelry items will be there. You will also see his birth certificate, baptismal certificate, diplomas, degrees, military records and medals.
Outside the museum is a small garden. At the Lone Ranger Festival in 1993 Fred and Brace's daughter, Barbara, had their foot prints cast in concrete. That garden will play a major role on the opening day of the exhibit. A special time capsule has been made and inside are items from the program. The contents of it will be revealed at the opening ceremony and it will be buried in the garden at a short dedication ceremony. The burial spot will be covered by concrete and topped by the bronze plaque that has been provided by Fred's branch of the armed services listing his rand and service. I have been told this is the only time capsule commemorating a radio program that has been prepared. I have not, however, checked it out. Both the families of Brace and Fred have contributed items for the display. Items from fans and friends have also been donated making the collection large enough that it can be changed at various times so if you revisit you will see new items each time. One item that will always be on display is the only saddle owned and used by Brace Beemer which has been authenticated by his son, Richard. Richard was the one that Brace put in charge of cleaning and polishing it for public appearances. The story of how it was obtained will be the subject of a later article in the Silver Bullet (on line magazine for Lone Ranger fans).
For those who want a memory to take home of their presence at the opening, there will be several items to choose from. Among them will be a very limited number of the Carlton Cards ornament, with sound of the Lone Ranger on Silver. Fred recorded a part of the show opening for it. As part of his compensation, he was given several for his own collection. Wendy, Fred's daughter, has made them available for the opening. Each one will come with a certificate of authenticity signed by Wendy. 8 x 10 copies of a painting of the Lone Ranger on Silver that was commissioned about thirty years ago, and now is on permanent display in the museum, autographed by the artist. If possible the artist will be there. If not, she will sign them in advance. There will be a memento for each person which says "I was there". It will be available only for those in attendance on that day. All monies collected will go to the museum to help cover the cost of the display.
The display will be centered on the radio Lone Ranger program. This is mainly because it is the hometown of the most famous person to play the role on radio. This does not diminish the television and film versions and the role of those that played it on those screens. Some items of this display will of course overlap with those versions. The Lone Ranger for the most part had two separate audiences, those that listened on radio and those who viewed it on television. There are fans of each that feel their Lone Ranger was the "only" one. That is fine, for each group of fans has a role to play in keeping the legend alive.
This world could use more programs that portray the standards that the originator of the Lone Ranger, George W. Trendle, set for the program. When he appointed Fran Striker to write the radio scripts, he gave orders that the program should be kept to the highest standards so it would be safe for children to emulate the lead characters. A standard that has, sadly, all but been forgotten in today's programing.
Everette Humphrey June 1, 2019 for The Silver Bullet Newsletter