“Here they are, America’s favorite family, The Nelsons”(07/26/1958)

So opened a family sitcom phenomenon which launched on radio in 1944 and entering the upcoming TV season would begin their 15th season. Of course, Ozzie and Harriet were mostly the brains of the operation(Ozzie, notably), but it would be David and Ricky who would carry the family ball, even giving up their summer hiatus to concentrate on their flourishing careers. David, under contract to 2oth Century Fox, was working on a movie, while Ricky fulfilled his Warner Bros. contract with a Western blockbuster called Rio Bravo before hitting the concert trail at the Michigan State Fair, then shooting for the new season. While Ozzie and Harriet were rolling right along, a “soap opera in Conestoga” was just starting it’s second season.

That show was Wagon Train, which rolled into TV living rooms in 1957 to huge success. Ward Bond was the cantankerous wagonmaster, but Robert Horton was the one who had the girls swooning, especially glamorous actresses he was giving poolside line readings to in his spare time. He was giving one such reading to an Hollywood hottie for the TV WEEK cameras, when wouldn’t you know it, it broke out into a romantic session of… fencing. Don’t know if that was in the script for the new season, in which Horton took over as temporary wagonmaster for a few episodes while Bond was recuperating from an appendectomy. But when that line reading bogs down, en garde!

For TV stories from the past, archives.chicagotribune.com or news.google.com/newspapers

 

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