Hoppy to Albany: “You’re all swell.”
The biggest thing to happen in Albany in 1951 was the visit by movie and TV western star William Boyd, more commonly known as Hopalong Cassidy.
The official crowd estimate was 31,000 spectators, causing Albany’s biggest traffic jam in history, backed up as far as Troy. Likewise, it represented the largest group ever assembled for a single event in this area.
The celebration was held in two Menands venues: Hawkins Stadium (attendance 23,000) and nearby Empire Raceway (attendance 8,000). Fully half the youngsters were dressed in “Hoppy” attire, with lots of six-shooters in evidence. At both places, the complete Bar-20 Ranch Revue, with a cast of more than 30 juvenile stars, was presented under the direction of Tommy Sternfeld of WRGB.
Hopalong, atop his horse, Topper, was escorted into the stadium by a contingent of U.S. Marines. The Yankee Doodle Band and the Mount St. John Bugle and Drum Corps played.
Hopalong spoke: “I do want you Albanians to know that this is the biggest and happiest year of my life, and that you all contributed to it. I have been all over America, South America and Canada and I’ve never seen a finer bunch of people and kids.
“You know, you children seem better looking and better behaved than many I have seen. And I just want to say you’re all swell.”
The event was organized by the Times-Union, which gave away tickets via a daily coupon-collecting contest.
(Written and compiled by Al Quaglieri)