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We lose two of our 1950s icons

Way before Baby Boomers lost their innocence back in the turbulent 1960s, they had Fess Parker and Peter Graves.

We never lost our affection for the two stars, no matter how jaded or cynical we might become in later years.

They debuted in what would prove to be iconic TV programming in 1954. Parker in “Davy Crockett” and Graves in “Fury.”

Graves may have been the third banana behind a horse and kid, but he provided a solid and reassuring adult presence in “Fury.” He was the grown-up, and he was there to back up the kid and the horse to make sure things didn’t go too far wrong.

Later on, he became better known as a super spy in “Mission Impossible,” and for his unlikely but hilarious comedic turn as a pilot in “Airplane.”

Walt Disney created a sensation with Fess Parker as Crockett, and Buddy Ebsen as Davy’s sidekick.

At 6-foot-6, Parker certainly had the physical presence for the role, and his Texas drawl made him believable as a Tennessee backwoodsman. Somehow, we trusted Fess Parker, that he would prevail over keel boat captain Mike Fink or Santa Ana’s army as it marched on the Alamo. He wore the role as well as he did that coonskin cap.

We were enthralled by his Crockett dialogue, as he claimed to be part snapping turtle and to have the ability to grin a bear out of a tree.

Crockett might have been an action hero, but he was also likeable and funny. Kids wanted to be just like him.

Strangely enough, Parker is also known for his portrayal of another coonskin-cap wearing hero, Daniel Boone. It’s not everyone who has the gravitas to pull off wearing a coonskin cap without looking silly.

There was rerun this week of a TV interview with Parker from about 20 years ago when he said he was just an actor waiting for another role to come along. It never did, so he became a multi-millionaire real estate investor and wine maker.

His sidekick from the Crockett days, as it turned out, had an even longer run than Parker. Baby Boomers didn’t realize it back in 1954, but Ebsen would have been the Tin man in “The Wizard of Oz” except for his allergic reaction to silver-colored face paint.

Of course, Ebsen went on to become Jeb Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies” and to play the title role in “Barnaby Jones.”

Ebsen died in 2003, and this past week, we lost Parker and Graves.

It was a sad week that brought back fond memories from a time long ago.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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