Wonderful, complete set of cards published by H-Bar-O Ranch c.1930s, called the “Game of H-Bar-O,” which can be used to play 18 different games described in an accompanying instruction sheet. The cards feature illustrations of characters of a Western radio show officially titled “The H-Bar-O Rangers” but which came to be known simply as “The Bobby Benson Show.” The show aired from 1932-1936 during the Golden Age of Radio, pre-dating The Lone Ranger, Tom Mix and Jack Armstrong, and the publisher was a company formed to distribute its promotional items.
The show is described at an excellent website called “The Vintage Radio Place”:
“The creation of this remarkable Western series rests in the genius of a British citizen in Buffalo, NY who had never been west of Chicago. Herbert C. Rice, an energetic immigrant from England, had been working since 1928 at what he termed ‘the American BBC’ (Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation consisting of WGR, WFBL, WKEN, and WKBW, all under one roof in the Rand Building.)
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“In 1932 the Hecker H-O Company of Buffalo approached Rice and offered to sponsor a kid's radio series to promote their cereal products. The ‘H-O’ in their title suggested a cattle brand to Rice and he quickly drew up a story about an orphan named Bobby Benson who inherits an H-Bar-O Ranch in Texas. Rice not only sold his idea to the Hecker advertising people, he also convinced CBS to give his new show a network slot.
“This new series, called The H-Bar-O Rangers, began on October 17, 1932 at WGR with a cast of Buffalo actors. Richard Wanamaker, an 11 year old son of a local attorney, played Bobby while Rice, in addition to writing and directing the show, was also the voice of Buck Mason, the foreman, and Wong Lee, the Oriental cook. Others in the cast were Fred Dampier and Lorraine Pankow (whom Rice had married the previous year.)
“The success of the series was nothing short of phenomenal. Within months, the Hecker Company had to assign twelve women full-time to answer the fan mail and process the box tops of H-O Oats that were arriving daily in exchange for premiums advertised on the show: Bobby Benson code books, cereal bowls, drinking glasses, card games, etc.
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When the first season of 78 episodes ended in March 1933, the series was so popular that CBS ordered the production moved to New York City where they re-cast the entire cast and crew. When it resumed that fall, 12 year old Billy Halop, later to achieve fame in ‘The Dead End Kids,’ became the new Bobby. The show was still officially The H-Bar-O Rangers, but most of the listeners (and the broadcasting publications) were calling it ‘The Bobby Benson Show.’
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“This 15 minute show enjoyed substantial success and logged over 700 episodes before it went off the air in December 1936. (By this time Halop had left the radio show to join the Broadway cast of ‘Dead End’ but the identity of the boy who replaced him is unknown.) Despite the length of the series, not one recording from this 30s program is known to exist today.”
The show would be revived in the early 1950s with a different sponsor (and a different ranch!), but the game here for sale is a promotional product of the earlier series.
The game is complete at 36 cards – 9 sets of 4, each set featuring a character in the show. It is accompanied by an instructional booklet with the rules for 18 games that can be played using the cards, and certainly the cards can be used to play any of the “Happy Families” group of games. The cards are large, measuring approximately 95mm x 65mm – approximate because they have been cut by hand from a larger sheet and are not a precisely uniform size. They are on uncoated, sturdy stock. Also included the original mailer envelope for the cards, with a return address for the H-Bar-O Ranch in Buffalo! I do not know if this set of cards ever had a box, but there is none now.
The cards are in excellent condition, with very slight soiling consistent with light use, but otherwise without issues. The instructions are in excellent condition, without issues of any kind. The mailer is in good condition, but there are some tears and one exposed area at the bottom.
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