Fascinating story! Yes the cowboy heroes of that time were much admired. When they renamed Berwyn, OK to Gene Autry, OK 35,000 people attended the ceremony. Pretty amazing for a town of about 200 people during the height of WWII.
My personal experience with Hopalong Cassidy happened during a Rose Parade in Pasadena. I was a young boy around 5 or 6 years old. The parade had come to a brief stop, which it frequently did. During the pause, Hoppy came riding up. He saw me, reached down and pulled me up and sat me there with him on top of Topper. We rode around for a couple of minutes waving to the crowd. The parade started up again. He returned me to my parents and then rode off. Such a big event in a young boys life. I remember it like yesterday, and that was over 70 years ago.
I believe that one of the things that made the cowboy heroes of that time special is that they all had Creeds or Codes they published and encouraged children to live by. These creeds included respect of parents, country, hard work, studying hard, being clean and courteous, going to church, being truthful, helping others . . . and on and on. Hoppy had the "Hopalong Cassidy Creed for American Boys and Girls". Gene Autry - "Gene Autry Cowboy Code of Honor". Roy Rogers - "Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules". Lone Ranger - "The Lone Ranger's Creed". . . and many others had their Cods of Conduct including Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Wild Bill Hickock. It is no wonder these matinee heroes we so admired and respected, they promoted simple life values our country once strongly believed in.
Thanks again for your insightful William Boyd story.