Great State: Town and Museum named for Gene Autry Proclaims Itself Back on the Map

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GENE AUTRY, OKLAHOMA -- They were the residents of Berwyn, Oklahoma until 1941.

That's when Gene Autry, who had a ranch nearby, accepted an invitation and a name change in his honor.

35,000 people showed up to see him when he came.

Thousands more have come through to see more Gene Autry memorabilia than just about anywhere.

"We have just about everything you can think of for Gene Autry here," says the new Gene Autry, Oklahoma Museum director Leslei Fisher. "Belts, spurs, jackets, jeans..."

The old Berwyn school closed a long time ago, but if you want an education in all things Autry then Fisher is glad to show you around.

On a tour she states, "If you were a kid growing up in the 40's or 50's then Gene Autry might have decorated just about everything you owned from guitars, to bobble-heads, to record players."

Another local historian, Elvin Sweeten, is chiefly responsible for gathering all this stuff.

Fisher helped clean the place up recently after it had closed for a few months.

After all the dusting she knows as much as anyone else.

"It's one of the world's largest collections of Gene Autry memorabilia," she says. "We're very proud of it and we're doing what we can to preserve it.'

From the 1930's through the 1950's Gene Autry and his horse Champion were 'it'.

Gene sang on the radio and rode in the movies.

He was the first performer to ever sell out Madison Square Garden in New York.

"He actually made his fortune from merchandising and his properties," says Fisher.

Old Gene rode into his last sunset at the age of 91 after one of the most successful careers in entertainment history.

In his day he used to visit his town once in a while.

Gene Autry is still on the map, along with a lot of his stuff, right where he put it.

On Saturday, September 26th the good people of Gene Autry, Oklahoma will celebrate the grand re-opening of the Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum.

Activities will include chuck wagon cooks, Autry film screenings, and lots of western music.

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