Even though you probably
don't recognize his name, you've seen his creation. It wasn't an
invention, but since copyrighted characters are covered in this
column, we feature him in this week's story.
He was a writer and producer who brought us one of the West's
most popular characters. Trendle is not the lone producer to be
featured in this column; last year we introduced you to
Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond character.
No one would ever accuse Trendle of having a heart of gold or
even a heart of Silver; in fact, he was a ruthless business owner --
the kind who would make Dilbert's boss look good by comparison.
Trendle created a show around his character in order for his WXYZ
radio station to compete with the other stations in the Detroit
area. His show began in 1933, during the golden age of radio, in the
thrilling days of yesteryear.
Trendle was known for his refusal to pay his employees a fair
salary. Despite large royalties flowing in from sales of the radio
show's spinoff products, including a weekly TV show, books, movies
and merchandise, the writers and actors never received a dime of any
In fact, Trendle was such a skinflint that he hired many of his
employees for no wages, promising them that they would someday get
paid when things got better. Even the writer who created the
character, Fran Striker, was refused any royalties and had to scrape
by on the meager salary that Trendle paid him.
In a move that would make Scrooge jealous, Trendle fired 26 of
his employees on Christmas Day in 1936.
Why would his employees tolerate all of this mistreatment?
Because it was during the Great Depression, when people would take
-- and hold on to -- any job they could find.
So what character did George Trendle produce? Now that you know
the background of the owner, let's Scout out the facts so we can
unmask this mystery.
[to top of second column]
The radio show was adapted for TV in 1949 and the series ran
until 1957. It was made into a movie in 1981. The main character's
name was John Reid, but that's not much of a clue, because his name
was never revealed in the show (in the same way that no one ever
called Gilligan by his first name). In fact, none of the other
characters on the show even knew his name. His brother and four
other colleagues in law enforcement were shot by the evil Cavendish
John Reid was the only one to survive. He was found by an Indian
friend and nursed back to health in a nearby cave (in these Western
shows there always seems to be a cave nearby when you need one). His
friend became one of the stars of the show, along with their horses.
John Reid was "The Lone Ranger."
Now that you know the mystery behind George Trendle's idol, the
answer could be found in the clues given above:
"the lone writer"
"heart of Silver"
"the thrilling days
"let's Scout out the
facts" (Scout was the name of Tonto's horse)
"so we can unmask
The Lone Ranger and his loyal friend Tonto recognized each other
because the Lone Ranger saved Tonto's life after his family was
killed when Tonto was a boy. As the Lone Ranger was recovering from
being shot, Tonto dug six graves in order to mislead the Cavendish
gang into thinking that all six rangers had died. He wore a mask to
hide his identity from the Cavendish gang, and he made his mask out
of his dead brother's vest.
In case you're still trying to figure out what Gilligan's first
name was, it was Willie.
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006