Submitted by Don Doman
Most people today don’t know about the big craze of the mid-fifties, Davy Crockett. There were five one-hour episodes shown on the Disneyland television series. They ran on ABC from 1954-1955. The series stared Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, who later also starred as Daniel Boone; and Buddy Ebsen, who later starred as Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies as his friend, George Russel.
The success of the series caught everyone by surprise, but Disney quickly adjusted and produced a number of Davy Crockett products from coonskin caps to cork shooting rifles. Fess Parker’s original contract with Walt Disney gave him a cut of licensed products, but it was a personal contract and not with the Disney corporation, so he lost millions of dollars.
I remember having a coonskin cap, but not a rifle. The coonskin cap didn’t last long, but I did retain a lesson from Davy Crockett: “Be sure you are right — then go ahead.” I always take time to consider my actions and reactions. I question my own decisions and those of others. Crockett was elected to Congress thanks to Andrew Jackson, but once he was in office, Crockett was his own man. I liked that . . . and still do.
Crockett was elected and defeated a couple of times and after the last defeat chose to head further west and wound up fighting for Texas independence from Mexico. He was a legendary figure of western expansion. His own words give you a good idea of the man.
“I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the white house, no matter who he is.”
“We must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living.”
“I concluded my speech by telling them that I was done with politics for the present, and they might all go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”
By 1836 Texans had chased most Mexican troops out of Mexican Texas. Some Texans fortified the Spanish mission, the Alamo. The co-commanders were James Bowie and William B. Travis. On March 6, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. The Texans fought off two attacks, but the third attack was successful. Historians figure the Mexicans lost about 600 men, while the Texans lost between 182 and 257 defenders. The battle of the Alamo was the third Davy Crockett episode. All of my buddies with television sets watched that show. It was the classic standing up for what you believe in story, even against overwhelming odds, that caught the imagination of the audience.
Bob Thompson, author of Born On A Mountaintop: On The Road With Davy Crockett And The Ghosts Of The Wild Frontier reveals, “Probably Alamo is the reason we remember him today because it’s a hugely important event both in the history and the mythology of Texas—and Crockett was, at the time, the most famous person there.” The Alamo is now “the most popular tourist site in Texas”.
Native Americans and early trappers and frontiersmen wore hats made from skunks and raccoons. The coonskin hat became an iconic headgear as western expansion reached Tennessee and Kentucky. Meriwether Lewis wore a coonskin hat during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is associated with both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, even though Boone didn’t wear them. Estes Kefauver, United States Senator from Tennessee wore a coonskin cap during the 1956 campaign, as the presidential running mate in Adlai Stevenson’s bid for president against Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
Fueling the Davy Crockett craze was the song from the TV show, The Ballad of Davy Crockett. There were multiple versions recorded, but I recall watching “Your Hit Parade” and it seemed like the song was #1 for weeks. I can still sing and hum verses of the song. Of course I still question myself about being right . . . and I usually am.