My own attachment to Red Ryder began long before Ralphie’s mom responded to his Christmas wish, “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” with “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.” When I was a little girl, my dad collected films from the 1940’s and 1950’s. He owned an extensive collection of serial Westerns, like Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Gene Autry, Zorro and Lash LaRue.
During a trip to Rogers, Arkansas last year, we visited the Daisy Airgun Museum which houses decades of Daisy memorabilia. Displays chronicle the company’s early days of manufacturing windmill blades in Plymouth, Michigan at the end of the 19th century before switching to making air rifles in 1886. The company enjoyed the success of manufacturing BBs and selling promotional novelties as the age of Hollywood gave them a national audience not to mention their part in manufacturing for the war effort in the 1940s. The small museum is located in the lovely downtown square at 114 South First Street, the address the museum has called home since 2000. The company’s ties to Northwest Arkansas began in 1958 when manufacturing moved from Michigan to a Rogers plant.
Times, they do not change, even in the 1930’s when movies like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century were popular, kids and adults bought up toys, lunchboxes, books and novelty items based on the movie. That included the Atomic Pistol, made by Daisy. The company continued its close relationship with Hollywood producing the Red Ryder BB gun during the 1940’s, except for the three years when Daisy used their metal and manufacturing expertise for the war effort. In 1949 the company sold more than a million Red Ryder BB guns, a phenomenal sales record for the time. As I walked through the museum’s display of movie posters and models, I was transported back to my own childhood. Ralphie wanted to be like his hero from the big screen. I watched the movies with my dad, wanting to be like his hero from the big screen.
I went for a run through town the day after we visited the museum. I couldn’t help but stop to snap a photo of the Red Ryder window mural, one more moment of nostalgia, reliving those Saturday nights when we’d set up the retractable projector screen and pop the corn.
Spring Break is coming up. If you’re planning to be in Northwest Arkansas, perhaps visiting Crystal Bridges, take a couple of hours to visit the historic downtown square in Rogers and the Daisy Airgun Museum. Find more to do on the Visit Rogers Blog. Share your memories with the young ones and build a few new ones.