Boomer Nostalgia, Part Two: Classic TV Westerns

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this “Boomer Nostalgia” series, this past New Year’s Eve, the neighbors on the block where my partner Dan and I live gathered for our annual year-end celebration. Between appetizers, main courses, and beverages, several of us who are of the Baby Boomer generation got into a conversation about the impact of television on our lives as children and teenagers, and, as would result, many of us became nostalgic about the characters and stories that informed our youth. We discussed a variety of programs we had so dearly loved, and, among the diverse themes, we chatted about television cartoon shows (from Yogi Bear to The Flintstones, from Rocky and Bullwinkle to Underdog), classic westerns (from Rawhide to Wanted Dead or Alive, from Gunsmoke to Bonanza), and, interestingly enough, science-fiction programs (from The Twilight Zone to The Outer Limits, from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Star Trek). Needless to say, we covered a lot of televised territory.

Because there is such a diversity of vintage card and board games that Dan and I collect and sell, and not wanting to compose a blog that goes for 20-plus pages. I have decided to discuss each of the three categories previously mentioned: TV cartoons (see Part 1), classic TV western (this blog), and science fiction (Part 3 soon to come) as these are the most requested from my buyers.

So, on to classic TV western board games! Here are three of my personal favorites.


Gunsmoke Game 0448 A 1116For me, as well as for many of my siblings, Gunsmoke remains one of the most enduring and endearing TV western shows ever produced. In the corresponding board game, players share the exciting adventures of Marshall Matt Dillon of the Gunsmoke television show. This action-packed western game was manufactured by Lowell Toy Manufacturing Corporation in 1958, after the release of the TV show itself, which was the longest-running show in television history — 20 years.

Gunsmoke is an American radio and television Western drama series created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston. The stories take place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West. The central character is lawman Marshal Matt Dillon, played by William Conrad on radio and James Arness on television.

The radio series ran from 1952 to 1961. John Dunning wrote that among radio drama enthusiasts, “Gunsmoke is routinely placed among the best shows of any kind and any time.” The television series ran from 1955 to 1975 and lasted for 635 episodes. At the end of its run in 1975, Los Angeles Times columnist Cecil Smith wrote: “Gunsmoke was the dramatization of the American epic legend of the west. Our own Iliad and Odyssey, created from standard elements of the dime novel and the pulp western as romanticized by [Ned] Buntline, [Bret] Harte, and [Mark] Twain. It was ever the stuff of legend.”

In the Gunsmoke board game, Fort Riley is about to be attacked. A small band of cowboys is trying to hold the Indians off until help arrives. Players take the part of the cowboys and Indians. To win, the cowboys must get one playing piece from the Fort, through Indian Territory, and into Dodge City (where they can get help from Marshall Dillon and his deputies); whereas, the Indians must take over the Fort with six of their men.

A very exciting family board game at that!

The Legend of Jesse James

The Legend of Jesse James 0457 A 0917Maybe it was the proverbial “bad boy” in me when I was a child, but I always found televised western shows that depicted the exploits of outlaws to be oddly alluring. Needless to say, my parents and grandparents always kept a watchful eye that things didn’t get to violent on these shows. Jesse James, his brother and fellow outlaws were some of my favorite TV western characters.

The Legend of Jesse James was a western television series starring Christopher Jones in the title role of the notorious outlaw Jesse James. The series aired on ABC from September 13, 1965, to May 9, 1966. Allen Case joined Jones as Jesse’s brother, Frank James.

In a surprising twist, Jesse and Frank James come across as “good guys” as they went about their outlaw ways. The series portrayed James as a 19th-century Robin Hood in Missouri, who robbed trains and banks to repay local residents whose property had been confiscated by railroad barons or greedy Northern bankers. Jesse was depicted as a devilish scoundrel with an eye for the ladies, while Frank concerned himself with more practical matters.

This very rare board game of the same name as the television series and portraying the James brothers was produced in 1966 by Milton Bradley. The board game is overall in great vintage condition for being over 50 years old. The box top has beautifully illustrated and vivid graphics, though the top does have one split corner. The box bottom is free of any split corners. The game board and interior liner are also in great condition with wonderful graphics. The game components are in mint condition, sealed in their box with the original plastic.

Scoundrels or saviors? You decide.

The Restless Gun

The Restless Gun 0456 A 0917If Jesse James and his gang of outlaws weren’t enough, there was always The Restless Gun, a favorite western show of one of my older brothers.

Based on the western television series The Restless Gun that appeared on NBC from 1957 to 1959, this board game of the same name was manufactured by the Milton Bradley Company of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1959. Like the television show, The Restless Gun Board Game depicts the adventures of Vint Bonner (played by John Payne on TV), a wandering cowboy in the era after the American Civil War. A skilled gunfighter, Bonner is an idealistic person who prefers peaceful resolutions to conflict wherever possible.

On The Restless Gun Board Game, a colorful illustration of Vint Bonner, taken from the television series, adorns the box top. The box, both its top and bottom, are free of split corners; however, one side panel, where a price tag may have once appeared, does have a slight removal of the original paper. The game board with spinner is beautifully illustrated as well, and both are in great vintage condition. The game components are in mint condition, sealed in their box with the original plastic. Instructions for the board game and a rare advertising flyer for other Milton Bradley games are also included.

There are many more examples that could be provided of wonderful family entertainment games based on 1950s and 1960s televised western shows, these three are just some of them. But, if you’re interested in collecting vintage card and board games based on Boomer generation shows, come visit us at Dogbotz Boneyard.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC


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