"Day-Vee, Daaay-vee Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." Did you used to sing that song? Most of us did. Writer Mike Petrie tells BoomerCafé about the day not long ago when he sang it one more time.
Beatlemania, Elvis, Woodstock … all Baby Boomer icons. But, perhaps the hugest icon of all for the Boomer generation was Davy Crockett and the coonskin cap. I know I had one of those furry headpieces as a kid. I must’ve been around age four when it was on my must-have list. Every boy I knew was sporting that pile of fur on his head. We all dreamed about being the “king of the wild frontier.” Davy Crockett was the most popular TV show of its day … and playing the part of Davy made Fess Parker television’s biggest star. He later went on to play Daniel Boone on TV … coonskin cap still intact. So, whether it’s Crockett or Boone you grew up with, odds are the coonskin cap was part of your childhood regalia.
In 2005, my wife and I stayed at a small boutique hotel called The Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, about thirty miles north of Santa Barbara, California. With us was Robert, one of my closest boyhood friends, and his wife. As we were checking in, I asked the concierge, a young man of 23, “Does Fess Parker, himself, frequent here? Any chance I might be able to meet him?”
The young concierge looked at me with a knowing smile. “Seems like every guy around your age always asks the same question. Yes, Mr. Parker does stop in from time to time. You just might bump into him if you’re lucky.”
Robert and I gave each other a look, mentally conveying our thoughts: That would be sooooo cool!
Each time we walked through the hotel lobby, we were on the lookout for Fess “Davy Crockett” Parker. But no luck. Until one morning, as my wife and I were returning from our morning jog along the tree-lined country roads leading to and from the inn, I spotted a VERY tall man standing outside the hotel. I immediately recognized him, which brought me to an abrupt halt. “Go introduce yourself,” my wife encouraged.
Living in California, I’ve met, and even socialized with, a number of “stars” over the years, but had never felt so awestruck before. Rather timorously I approached this grandest of Boomer icons, my boyhood television hero. Fess Parker was truly a huge man, at least a foot taller than I, which left me feeling like a small boy once again, extending my hand upward to meet his as we shook hands. I stammered something about it being an honor to meet him. His eyes seemed to twinkle as he responded, “Well, thank you, son. I truly do appreciate it.” Son? I’m in my fifties and he called me “son?” He would forever be the grown-up hero and I the little boy. Somehow, that seemed exactly as it should. We chatted for a few moments. He asked if I was enjoying my stay at the inn that bore his name, and suggested I pay a visit to his winery nearby. I promised that I would.
Later I told Robert about my meeting Fess Parker. Robert was totally bummed out that he had missed meeting Davy Crockett … I mean seriously bummed; he grumbled about it the entire rest of the day. But that afternoon we visited the Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard, where we donned coonskin caps and reveled in the spirit of our childhoods for a few moments … reveling aided by a buzz from some very good vino. By the way, in the hit movie Sideways, when Paul Giamatti slurps from the swill bucket at the fictitious Frass Canyon winery, that scene actually was filmed inside the tasting room at Fess Parker Winery.
Sadly, Fess Parker, the man who became known to millions of us Baby Boomers as “Davy Crockett,” and stayed well-known for his California winery and inn, died (March 18, 2010) of natural causes. He was 85. Sadly, another Boomer icon is now gone, but never to be forgotten. I certainly will never forget the day I met the king of the wild frontier. Rest in peace Fess Parker.
Tracy says: March 19, 2010 at 11:40 am Cute, funny foto. Luv the coonskin hats guys! Robert & Mike look to be 3 sheets to the wind from all that wonderful Fess Parker wine and Robert looks like he might be in the process of belting out a rendition of the song: Day-vee, Day-vee Crockett, king of the wild frontier! LOL Nice to see that Mr. Parker continued to bring such joy to all us boomers. May he rest in peace.
Connie says: March 19, 2010 at 12:36 pm Great story! And so timely with the passing of the original Davey Crocket actor just yesterday! So glad you took the time to stop and write out such a fun story about your long time hero!
Strider says: March 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm In nearly every photograph of me from age 6 thru age 11 I am wearing that darn coon skin hat!! Maybe the reason I still wear my hair long in a ponytail today is because I became accustomed to feeling that coon skin tail on my neck during formative years. Hey don’t laugh, I’m serious … sort of. Could it be that we have Fess Parker to thank for a generation of long hairs????
Jennifer S. says: March 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm Another great story, Mike! I loved Davey Crockett too. My little sister was the one in the coonskin cap, though. Keep up the good work.
Robert Humphreys says: March 20, 2010 at 2:28 am lets be clear. Max of 2 sheets to the wind. My rendition of the theme song would be mind numbing without the vino. I apologize for the rendition portrayed in the photo. The real mans men of early TV are an American Treasure. Today we get cute little runway dress makers and fat little pastry chefs. Regards, Robert That was a great time Mike!
Michelle Humphreys says: March 21, 2010 at 10:32 am That was such a fun day! Great story Mike – I really enjoyed reading it – brought back good memories. The photo – yikes!
Mike says: March 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm Lesson to be learned from this photo: Do not ever allow yourself to be photographed whilst imbibing!! Ha ha …. Yes, it was a fun day. Any day spent with good friends, consuming good wine, and getting to wear a coonskin cap once again is always a good day!!
BMinPA says: March 23, 2010 at 10:38 am Good writing! Yeah, I distinctly remember October 1956 when I was lucky enough to get my coonskin cap for my birthday. I even slept with it on for a few nights.
Greg Walker says: March 23, 2010 at 11:25 am Hey Mike, this is very close to me, as Fess is the man that got me into the SEG when I was 18 and couldn’t get in the guild. My dad was standing-in for Fess on Daniel Boon the TV show and wrote a letter to the Pres. of the Guild in my behalf. A great loss….!
Gary March 23, 2010 at 11:54 am Great article! Wife and I were just talking about my “old” coon skin hat! I wish I still had it. But I know I’ve got some old pictures of me wearing it when I was a kid.
DR says: March 23, 2010 at 2:22 pm I could really relate. In the 50s Davey Crockett was the king of the wild frontier, every kids hero. I remember I even went to bed wearing my hat with the tail. The only time my hat was removed was at the dinner table or while I was sleeping when my mother took it off my head while sleeping as it made me perspire. I remember the tail falling off and i put it back with a diaper pin. Oh those were the times when America was truly America for Americans…… thank you for the memories
Craig says: March 23, 2010 at 5:36 pm Thank you for the story, love the picture, unfortunately there is nobody like Davie Crockett for our children or grandchildren.
Cheryl says: March 24, 2010 at 10:27 am Nice article Mike. UR a great writer. What is the title of your mystery book? I’d like to order a copy–I love mysteries. I enjoyed watching Daniel Boone as a kid also and was saddened by this death. The great ones are dieing off. I enjoy reading your articles–keep them coming!
Jan says: March 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm That was wonderful. Thanks for sharing the story (my husband loved it too). You are a gifted writer.
Mike says: March 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm Thank you to all BC readers for your wonderful comments. Much appreciated. Fess Parker was a true Boomer icon and wonderful role model for an entire generation … not to mention being a true Santa Barbara, California legend. What an amazingly small coonskin cap world it seems. Greg Walker’s comment indicates that Greg’s father was the stand in for Fess Parker on the Daniel Boone TV show and that Fess Parker was responsible for getting Greg into show biz. Amazing! I did not mention this in the article, but as Boomers may remember, Buddy Ebsen was Fess Parker’s co-star in the Davy Crockett TV show that we all watched as kids – playing the part of Georgie Russel, loyal sidekick to Davy Crockett. In the 1970s I became friends with his daughter, Bonnie Ebsen. We shared an interest in horses, and Bonnie was an excellent horsewoman & cowgal. She and her dad lived in Agoura, California. I used to enjoy talking with Buddy when I visited. Who would’ve thought when I watched the Davy Crockett show as a 5 year old child that someday I’d actually be friends with Georgie Russel’s (Ebsen’s) daughter and get to spend time talking with Davy Crockett’s sidekick? VERY small world indeed..
John Marshall says: March 31, 2010 at 1:56 pm Oh, this was absolutely the most fun thing I’ve read all day or all month for that matter. Sad about Fess Parker’s passing, but thank you for stirring up great old memories of youth and coonskin hats!
Dave Williams says: April 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm A wonderful story, well told! I not only had the coonskin Davey Crockett hat, I also had the double-hammered frontier style pistol with the orange-brown plastic grip. So, there!