Some of you reading this who are old enough can close your eyes right now and hear the exciting music of The William Tell Overture at the start of a show introduced by an announcer who said, "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, The Lone Ranger rides again!" When the medium of black and white television was still new and rapidly growing from 1949 to 1957, Illinois-native actor Clayton Moore had a huge base of young fans across America for his role, adapted from radio, as The Lone Ranger on ABC-TV. The role of The Lone Ranger was popular not only as an action adventure but also for the values of honesty and fair dealing that the former Texas Ranger stood for.
Clayton Moore was born on Sept. 14, 1914 in a home at 6254 N. Glenwood in the Edgewater neighborhood on Chicago's north side. He attended Hayt Grammar School, Sullivan Junior High, and Senn High School. He was the drum major at Sullivan and an accomplished gymnast and acrobat at Senn. His family liked to engage in winter sports such as skiing, skating, and tobagganing in Palos Park. In later life Moore attributed his happy childhood and foundation of midwestern values to his success on television, in movies, and in a second career of personal appearances on college campuses, in western shows, and in parades.
According to a 1996 article for the Edgewater Historical Society by J.D. Meacham, and a 1992 Chicago Tribune article by Norma Libman, Moore had many fond memories of his Chicago upbringing. Libman quoted from her interview with Moore about his childhood:
"I remember the Granada Theater at Sheridan and Devon. I used to go there on Saturdays and take my cap guns with me. We'd get there at 11 o'clock or noon and stay all day, watching the serials and the westerns. There was William F. Hart and Tom Mix and George O'Brien. We loved watching the movies and then playing cowboys and Indians."
"And we had our groups of friends. My group was called the Glenwood Middies. I had no idea what that word meant or how we could have spelled it if we ever wrote it down, which we didn't. Another group was called the Wayne Avenue Middies. We weren't gangs, just groups of fellas who did things together. We were always having contests: baseball games and prairie football, ice skating races - that sort of thing."
In 1933, Clayton joined a group of acrobats who performed two shows each day at the Century of Progress World's Fair. The fair grounds included three miles of Lake Michigan shore line along the IC tracks on both sides of Burnham Harbor where Soldier Field, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, The Shedd Aaquariam, and the late Meigs Field were features then as now. At 19 Moore went to New York to work as a John Robert Powers model.
By 1938 Moore was in Hollywood where he had won several speaking parts in the Western serials he loved to watch as a boy in Chicago. When he was hired to play The Lone Ranger on TV, Moore had to learn how to imitate the voice of The Lone Ranger on radio to make the transition to TV smoother for fans. Moore and his good friend and co-star Jay Silverheels, who played The Lone Ranger's Indian companion Tonto, made many personal appearances and cameo roles in character in other films and commercials after 1957. In 1979 the owner of The Lone Ranger character and the producers of a new film on the character went to court to stop Moore from appearing in costume because they felt Moore would detract from the new film. But the movie flopped and the actions against Moore backfired with bad publicity for the producers. Moore he eventually won the court case when the suit was dropped in 1984 and he returned to making personal appearances in his original costume. Even the Illinois General Assembly passed a resolution praising Moore as a role model for young people. Moore died in California in 1999. Moore's auto-biography is available from Amazon and other online book sellers. The title, in answer to a perrenial question asked in each episode, is I was that Masked Man. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the only one to include the name of his most famous character in addition to the actor's name. It reads: "Clayton Moore - The Lone Ranger."