By Julie Huss
---- — Auburn resident Wendy Thomas lost a little piece of her childhood last week with the news that Rex Trailer, the popular cowboy star of TV’s “Boomtown,” died Jan. 9.
“I used to get up on Saturday morning and ride on the arm of the rocking chair like it was a horse,” Thomas said, “while singing, ‘Boom, Boom, Boomtown!’”
So, too, did thousands of other area residents, who grew up watching the show on Boston station WBZ-TV from 1956 to 1974.
Trailer, 84, died at his home in Florida.
“Boomtown” entertained millions of children for three hours every Saturday and Sunday.
Maureen Heard of Derry was one of those children.
“I always watched the show,” she said last week. “I always thought the kids that got on the show were the luckiest in the whole world. It brings back sweet memories of a simpler time.”
There were more than 1,000 episodes of the show and more than 250,000 children appeared on it.
Londonderry High School musical director Andy Soucy got close enough to see the set.
Soucy, who grew up in Nashua, sang on “Community Auditions” at WBZ.
“We went to WBZ studios for the broadcast and, at one point, saw the ‘Boomtown’ set in another room aside from where we were performing,” Soucy said. “I know it’s silly, but I became really excited and I found myself gazing at all the different items. So I guess looking back, he touched a lot of us.”
Long after the show went off the air, Trailer continued to entertain local fans.
He appeared in several Labor Day parades in Derry and entertained the crowd at Derryfest in 2005.
Barb Ellingwood led the Derryfest Committee for many years. She said Trailer made many people happy that day in MacGregor Park.
The TV icon invited adults who had watched him as a child to share the stage with him.
“He was a really wonderful and delightful man,” Ellingwood said.
Trailer joined rock-and-roll legend Chubby Checker at MaryAnn’s diner in Derry in 2008.
Diner owner Bill Andreoli yesterday remembered how excited people were to see him there.
Andreoli, who grew up in Lawrence, was an avid fan.
“I watched him every day when I was a kid,” he said. “He was a big part of my life.”
MaryAnn’s waitress Susan Ingalls grew up in Somerville and was one of the lucky ones who actually appeared on Trailer’s show.
“It was exciting to go on there,” she said. “I got to go on a lot.”
Trailer’s popularity extended throughout Southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley.
In 2007, he helped dedicate a monument in Methuen recognizing the horse’s role in early firefighting. Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi remembered the event on his blog last week.
“He was every bit of the gentleman that we had all come to know from the show,” Manzi wrote.
A year later, Trailer made an appearance with Andover native Jay Leno at Lowell’s Memorial Auditorium. Leno reportedly was a longtime fan.
In later years, Trailer taught on-camera performance at Emerson College and had his own production company.
He was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007.
Trailer made numerous appearances on the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons hosted by his friend Jerry Lewis.
Derry resident Joe Versackas grew up in Cambridge.
He and his five brothers all wanted to be cowboys when they were young, thanks to Trailer.
“We always watched,” he said last week. “They said he was a really nice guy.”