On a perfect day, the school bus would pull up to our stop at 3:12 in the afternoon. A fast dash into the house would find the television flipped to channel four just as the commercials were ending and the second half of the old black-and-white western adventure “The Lone Ranger” was beginning.
Like many of the early television shows, “The Lone Ranger” actually had its start as a radio serial program. The show first aired in 1933 on station WXYZ in Detroit. The idea came from station owner George Trendle and Fran Striker, who became the primary writer for the show.
Trendle had wanted to fill a 30-minute time slot aimed at children, but adults actually made up more than half the audience, causing the program to be an immediate success. The series was soon picked up by radio’s Mutual Broadcasting Network, allowing it to be simulcast to stations across the country. In 1942, NBC’s Blue Network, which later became ABC, began airing the program. The last new episode was broadcast on Sept. 3, 1954.
The Lone Ranger, his horse Silver and his faithful Indian companion Tonto made the transition to television in 1949. The series starred Clayton Moore as the Ranger in most of the adventures, with Jay Silverheels portraying Tonto. The show was broadcast for eight seasons, though only five touted new episodes. The final season was shot in color.
The basic storyline has stayed the same in its various incarnations. A posse of six Texas Rangers is pursuing a band of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. An ambush occurs, leaving five of the Rangers dead, a lone lawman barely clinging to life.
The gruesome scene is stumbled upon by an Indian who recognizes the survivor as the man who had befriended him earlier. After the gang is brought to justice, the Ranger and Tonto continue to fight evil and crime under the alias of the Lone Ranger.