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  THE CRIMSON CORRAL: Western Memories
Charles John Holt III 
Born: February 5, 1918 - Died: February, 15 1973

By Jim Davenport

Like many other "B" westerns and serial fans, I have a multitude of memories of my favorite cowboy stars. But one particular memory sticks in my mind very well. I guess because it was the one and only time I had opportunity to meet one up close and personal.

The year was 1952, and it was late August. Being a young person, many things about summertime weather always inspired and motivated me.  And, of course, since I was still fairly "new" to going to school, having off during the summer months was a thrill that could only be equaled to the long Christmas holidays that followed in the Fall. But this one August weekend, with only a couple of weeks left before school started again, was to be a very special one for me. My dad had announced that a cowboy star was going to appear IN PERSON at our local drive-in theatre on a Saturday night all-night long movie marathon that was to start at dusk (usually about 9 p.m. or so in the summer) and continue until early sunrise Sunday morning. My mother wasn't thrilled at this news, of course, since she had never been a real true cowboy fan-but then, who's mother really ever was a true cowboy fan? But nonetheless, she agreed to go with us to see this cowboy star and watch his movies at the "all-nighter at the drive-in" theatre. 

This cowboy star, I must confess, was not my favorite, but he was one I enjoyed watching on TV shows quite a bit. Tim Holt's westerns have always appealed to me; I'm not so sure it was Holt personally or his sidekick, Cheeto, or the stories that I liked. I just knew that I liked Tim Holt westerns, and that was all I needed to know.

HeadshotWell, even though the movies didn't start until a little after 9 p.m., we had to be at the theatre by 7 p.m., as that would be the time Tim Holt, and another cowboy entertainer, name of Fuzzy Knight, would be appearing "on stage". On stage in this case meant on the roof of the refreshment building, located in the middle of the drive-in. Of course, dad also wanted to arrive in plenty of time to get a stand with a speaker next to or as close to the snack center as possible. We arrived Ok, and while I was sitting on the roof of my dad's car, 4 or 5 people had gathered on the roof of the snack center, and the theatre manager had introduced himself to the crowd. Did I mention the theatre filled up quickly? I don't remember how many cars that drive-in could have in it at one time, but it was plenty full this night. In my neck of the woods, in a small out of the way place near Easton, Maryland, we don't have too many real-life celebrities appearing too often. You can only imagine the crowd that had jammed this theatre in very little time. Well, Mr. Fuzzy St. John had been introduced first. This was a big disappointment to me, actually, as I had hoped since Tim Holt was there in person, maybe his sidekick would be there, too. But no, this guy was another cowboy hero's sidekick, Larry "Buster" Crabbe.  Al " Fuzzy" St. John. Fuzzy did some very funny routines, and talked about working with the likes of Buster Crabbe, and Lash LaRue. While I can't be sure, I seem to recall him making a bit of sport about Lash LaRue. He seemed to enjoy talking about Buster Crabbe, and most of his time was spent reflecting on his pictures with Crabbe. But then he had the theatre owner pull on his whiskers, as he finished his "act" with the statement that many people had asked him if his whiskers were real. When the theatre manager pulled on Fuzzy's beard, Fuzzy's gun in his holster went off. He was holding his hand on the gun when he asked the theatre owner to pull on his beard. Somehow, even as young as I was, I knew what he was going to do. A cloud of smoke and a quick jump, and Fuzzy was off the roof. The theatre owner seemed to be having a good time.

Next up, Tim Holt walked on stage, appearing apparently from a ladder going up to the roof behind the side of the building I could not see. You could hear everybody cheering. He looked just like he did in his movies; except to me he appeared to be a little fat in person. Tim Holt spoke of his movies as well, and even talked about working with Richard Martin, his sidekick in his films. He didn't say why Cheeto couldn't make it that night, only that he was unavailable. He didn't speak too long, maybe a half-hour or so. He talked mostly directly to us kids, telling us how fair play and honesty was always the good guy's way of doing things. He showed his two guns, and he showed us his fast draw. It was said Tim Holt had the fastest draw of all the movie cowboys. He sure could draw very fast. 

He said he would be down near the popcorn stand for autographs for about a hour before the movies started. Well, dad I were one of the first in line when Tim Holt came around the front, and when he came around front, so did Al "Fuzzy" St. John.  I asked Tim if I could hold one of his guns.  They were the prettiest things I had ever seen, but he said no, he couldn't do that, as he was afraid to let any kids play with his guns.  He was really very nice, and seemed to have a nice laugh. But I swear he looked fat to me.  He sat on a stool, and I noticed his rolls of fat on his stomach bunching over his shirt, but it didn't seem to bother him, nor me. 

I got a big glossy picture of Tim Holt, signed by him personally, and had a little longer talk with him than most of the kids. He patted me on the head, and man, did that make me feel good. I will always remember that hot August night, not so much for the movies, because I can't recall any of the titles of Tim Holt's westerns that played that night. I do recall the last film shown, about 4 a.m.  I was the only one still awake in our car, and lots of other cars had cleared out-it was the TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE. This was my first exposure to this classic movie, and even at such a young age that film had me mesmerized from beginning to end. I watched it all. But I remember-just barely-my sister kicking me on the backseat to move over or get on the floor so she could stretch out and sleep. But I couldn't do that. I fell asleep with my head on my hands leaning across the front seat just as THE END was coming onscreen. I can only assume my dad woke up and drove us home, as I can't remember leaving the theatre at all.

I woke up late Sunday evening with Tim Holt's picture beside my bed, and Al "Fuzzy" St. John's as well. I kept those pictures for years, until during a move, they were somehow lost. But my memory of that meeting and that night will last forever. From that time on, I was an even bigger fan of Tim Holt westerns.
Jim Davenport

Click HERE for more info and a Filmography on Tim Holt


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