Buffalo Bob – Howdy Doody Memorial
Buffalo Bob Smith died in Hendersonville, North Carolina
on July 29, 1998. He was 80 years old. Although certainly he will be
missed, he can never be truly gone. He lives within the hearts of all who
came to know his smiling face and affable manner.
This is a personal recollection. A difficult one. My
Father, Calvin Rich, died in February. And, he and Buffalo Bob were
But you came here to remember Buffalo Bob, so let me tell you about the
man. Maybe give you a fuller image of him and share some things you may
He was married to the same woman, Mildred (Millie) for 57 years. A
sweetheart of a gal who gave him three sons, Robin, Ronald and
Buffalo and Millie loved football. Before Joe Robbie Stadium, when
teams played in the Orange Bowl, folks who were wise parked in a Federal
housing project across the street. Many a trunk party was held on these
grounds. A lovely area full of trees and shady areas.
My Dad used to tell me what it was like to enjoy pre-game festivities
with Buffalo. Dad called him the Pied Piper because throngs of people
followed him everywhere. I thought Dad had exaggerated until I saw it
for myself one Sunday.
Today we have gotten used to the idea of celebrity as deity. Not so
with Buffalo Bob. He was generous and giving with his fans, and you
don’t see much of that anymore.
What a gift and joy to be a person held with such affection by so many.
I watched the faces as folks came up and said “Howdy” to
Buffalo Bob. People became light in step and demeanor. Just for a
moment, all the years faded away.
He hadn’t changed much in appearance. Oh, the hair was gray, but the
smile was the same. And, the voice was unmistakable.
Hey, kids, what time is it? (Wav – 39K)We grew
up hearing those words. Thirteen seasons worth of wishing we could be
the lucky ones sitting in the Peanut Gallery.
Buffalo Bob was a great musician. Dad used to talk about how he’d
entertain guests in his Fort Lauderdale home by playing this fancy
electronic keyboard. Dad also mentioned the photos on the walls. Not
your average stuff. Pics of Buffalo with all these American Presidents.
Signed, no less! Plus celebrity photos galore.
He was heavily in demand. Everyone wanted Buffalo Bob to make an
appearance. And, collectors were keen for his signature! All those
highly prized Howdy Doody collectibles are a direct result of Bob
Smith’s business acumen. He saw television’s huge marketing potential
right from the beginning.
In 1991 the Smiths moved to Flat Rock, North Carolina. My Father still
saw him on occasion as he summered nearby in Highlands, N.C. Why the
move to North Carolina? Golf, dear friends.
To call these men avid golfers, is to call Howdy Doody just a puppet.
They were passionate devotees of the game. I like to think that now that
Buffalo Bob is putting on Heaven’s greens, maybe he and my Dad can
wander over to the 19th Hole and see down here.
Buffalo Bob Smith, we hate that you are gone because you carried in you
a part of our innocence. Some of what is best about us – we learned from
you. We will never allow you to be forgotten. To do so would be to deny
a piece of our hearts.
And Dad, always.