From the snowstorm that trapped Jimmy Stewart for a couple of days in 1940 to the reminiscent tour of Old Route 66 that brought Paul McCartney to town two summers ago, Tucumcari has long been a magnet for traveling celebrities.
Brenda Lee, Morgan Freeman and Willie Nelson are among the well-known entertainers said to have spent time in the city through the years.
But the summer of 1959 was a star-watcher’s dream come true. That’s when Clint Eastwood moseyed into town and brought Hollywood heavyweights with him to film five episodes of TV’s “Rawhide.”
Actors and technicians arrived in Tucumcari on Aug. 10, 1959, for six weeks of work, the Tucumcari Daily News reported.
The show’s stars included Eastwood, Eric Fleming and Sheb Wooley. Guest stars also popped in and out of town for brief appearances.
The paper reported scenes were filmed at three Quay County ranches. The cast and crew, about 65 in all, were seen regularly around town and became regular patrons at Del’s Restaurant.
Joe Thomas, Clovis’ city manager who grew up in Tucumcari, said he remembers an autographed photo of Eastwood hanging for years in the eatery that remains popular today.
Thomas, 8 years old at the time, was already a big fan of the show and familiar with its characters.
“I remember one occasion when my parents loaded me up in the 1952 Plymouth one afternoon and we went to the A&W root beer stand and had a hamburger and a 10-cent root beer and then drove out to the Five Mile Park and saw all of the ‘stars’ coming back to town.
“I didn’t see anyone personally that I knew, but felt confident that I saw the cars they were in.”
The action scenes filmed near Tucumcari proved dangerous at times.
Actress Kipp Hamilton was hospitalized for two days after accidentally stabbing herself in the foot with a knife she was supposed to stick in the floor.
Actor Stewart Randall was also hospitalized after breaking his ankle during a fight scene.
The series first appeared on CBS TV on Jan. 9, 1959, and continued until Jan. 4, 1966.
Tucumcari’s Charles Dunn was 8 when the stars came to town.
“I had a friend (Rick Dickinson) who went out with his dad and they got to meet Clint Eastwood and they let him handle one of the guns. And I remember my friend commented how heavy the gun was. Of course it would be heavy, an 8-year-old handling a Colt peacemaker.”
Tommy Bogart, a former Texas Panhandle police chief who grew up in the region, is another with Rawhide memories tied to Tucumcari.
“My dad, Ted Bogart, was a cowboy for many years on the Bell and the Spade ranches north of Tucumcari,” he said. “I remember him telling me about ‘Rawhide’ being filmed there. He was cast as an Indian in one episode and a cowboy in another.”
David Stevens writes about regional history for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org