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Daughter of a legend: The legacy of Roy Rogers

StoryCorps/Utah Public Radio

Daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Cheryl Rogers Barnett talks with her husband Larry about her famous parent's legacy of not only fame but fighting against social norms and loving their family's differences.

Cheryl: I was just a few months old when he and his first wife Arlene adopted me. Dad said that when he wiggled his fingers in front of all of the babies faces that they all cried or screamed and I just reached up and grasped a hold of his finger and he called mommy in California and said "I found our baby." Mommy's health wasn't great and after they adopted me she was sick so much so dad started taking me to work with him when she died. I grew up on the republic lot. The ladies and gentlemen in the wardrobe and make-up department and hair department..they were my baby sitters. I got to into the wardrobe. Oh that was incredible for a little girl to be able to go do that. That was fairy land. So everybody there, they were like a big family on that lot.   

Larry: The thing that I've always found interesting and i think other people have as actually met your steop mother at republic.

Cheryl: Yes, she started working with dad in 1943. They made their first movie together "Cowboy and the Senorita." I just thought she was fabulous. Most of the leading ladies that worked with dad were teenage girls. But women's role in westerns were either the ranchers daughter, the school marm or they worked in a saloon. I mean that was about it for western movies. 

Larry: Your mom said they weren't much more than decoration until she came along.

Cheryl:  She really changed women's role in western movies. She was just a physical force to deal with. She was so vivacious and so gorgeous, so talented. And they wrote scripts for her, wrote parts that were much more meaningful. She and dad were really partners. They had a baby together a couple of years later and that was my little sister Robin Elizabeth. When she was born she had down syndrome and they were one of the first people I've ever heard of that refused to hospitalize Robin. They brought her home. It was really different back then. If you had a child born with a handicap you were told by doctors "don't bring them home, it will break your heart, just put them in a facility somewhere. "

Larry: As you dad said they were going to bring her home and raise her with the other kids.

Cheryl: Again, back then it was so different. So, we got mumps at school and of course living in a house eventually Robin got it as well and she passed away right at her second birthday. So, mom was just heartbroken and she wrote her first book called "Angel Unaware" and that little book has just been incredible. It's gone around the world it's been reprinted in a whole bunch of languages, teachers still use it today to teach empathy to her students. It's really wonderful.

Larry:  Also, with their visibility and popularity at the time they contributed probably as much if not amore than anybody to research into down syndrome and the strides that they've made. You know your dad tells a really an interesting story about that. We were watching some DVD's, they were recently made, converted form film. It was something in Madison Square Gardens. They were performing and there was...(?) coming into the stadium shaking hands, you know, patting hands with little kids and there was this one section...there was all handicapped, disadvantaged children. And he turned to me and said "you see that? until she wrote that book you never saw that."

Cheryl: Ya, true, you never did.

Larry: And that was a legacy of theirs. You know, your moms faith and what they did for down syndrome and the adoption. I mean that is more of their legacy than the movies they made.

Cheryl: Ya, mom ended up...she wrote 28 books and she wrote books about everything that she was interested in. But she was, she was in charge right up to the very end and I miss her everyday.

Larry: Ya, she was quite a lady.