Roy As An Entreprenuer
Roy Rogers was an entrepreneur in his own right. Below are a few of those adventures.
The *Yellow Jacket* Wood Boat Company
The Yellow Jacket Boat Company was in business for 10 years from 1949 to 1959 and was considered to be a very popular molded plywood boat known for it's speed and durability. In the beginning the hulls were molded by a company in Canada and shipped to Denison, Texas for assembly. Later, they were moved to Dennison, TX, where there was manufacturin' and distribution operations set up.
Yellow Jacket/ Sears/ Elgin
The company's founder was R. A. McDerby. He past away in January 2004. Shirley Duke, Buffalo Jim and I had the pleasure of havin' a conversation with Mr. McDerby back in 2002. Mac, as he asked us to call him, had many interesting storys to tell us and you could see his eyes light up when we started talking about the Yellow Jackets. We had a few pictures and articles to show him, while he showed us several pictures of boats and custumer satisfaction letters they had sent him). We all miss Mac.
Mac and Roy Rogers (also part owner for awhile) saw many speed records broken with the Yellow Jacket Wood Boat and a pair of outboard motors. The horse power varied depending on the year, the earlier the year the less the horse power. The boat really became popular in 1953 when two men drove their 14 foot runabout from New Orleans to St. Louis in a record time beating the old record with speeds averaging 28 to 44 M.P.H with a pair of 25 horse power Johnsons.
Some features that the Yellow Jacket Boat Company are known for are the bent wood spring seats(for a better ride), stronger transoms that could take larger outboards, and toward the end years the transoms had no knee bracing (this led to the transoms of today). They also developed deeper hulls, for a safer and dryer ride.
Fageol Products Company produced two different types of inboards available, one engine was horizonal and the other had a vertical mount engine. As I understand, there were less than 100 of these inboards made.
(Courtesy of Denise Goodwin)
Here is a exert out of a document I have on the Angler/Penn Yan boat company:
(Roy Rogers & R.A. McDerby - 1951, settin' on the hull of "Little Miss Yellow Jacket II".)
During WWII, Mac worked in New Orleans for the Higgins Boat Co., his job was to train the coastguardsmen who operated the landing craft that were manufactured by Higgins. It was a surprise to find that the guys that operated the landing craft were Coastguardsmen, not Navy, not Army. Mac trained hundreds of these guys on the proper technique of beaching the boat and backing it out, the training was conducted in the marshy areas around New Orleans.
During the late 1950s, Sears bought boats from a company called Yellow Jacket based in Texas. These boats were made from molded mahogany veneers. Their distribution of the finished boats from Texas to the Northeast posed quite a problem and Sears asked Angler to assist in the program. Yellow Jacket shipped train carloads of molded mahogany "skins" to Angler. These skins had no transoms and were nested like spoons with up to a hundred or more per car. During that period there was a four-story warehouse on the corner of Liberty and Lake Street, which is the present location of Pudgie Pizza. The first and second floors of this warehouse were rented by Angler and the mahogany skins were completed into finished boats. This operation was under the direction of Earl Newcomb, foreman. The parts for these boats were made in the Angler mill. The finished boats were shipped out to Sears by rail freight and by Angler trailer. This production was for one year only. During the season that Sears was taking both Angler cedar boats and the molded mahogany boats it became necessary to put on a second shift.
Mac McDerby owner of the Yellow Jacket Boat Company
During WWII Mr. Higgins asked Mac to pilot a landing craft up the Red River as part of a war bond drive, he was to stop in all of the small towns, show the folks the boat and generate interest in the purchase of the bonds. He was told to take it as far up river as it will go, then turn around and come back as far as it would go, ended up being Denison, Texas, where Mac met a girl who he ended up marrying after the war. She wanted to live in Denison so Mac decided to build his boat business there.
Mac said that he settled on the name Yellow Jacket because they were small and fast like the boat, he never mentioned that the Denison High School football team was named the Yellow Jackets.
Mac operated his boat company like an automobile company, in September he brought out the next years new model, he sold distributorships (the only people who he would sell boats to) such that they were not too close together, he had special trailers designed and built to transport 10 boats at a time from Dennison to the dealerships, his new model brochure was sent along with the shipment of boats.
Roy Rogers was a partial owner in the Yellow Jacket Boat Company. and he was an avid boater who really liked to go fast. Yellow Jackets were used on his show several times and he set a speed record in the California to Catalina Island race in one (Cheryl Rogers - Barnett, his daughter held the stop watch for this race. Mac later broke the record).
Mac had the Mercury people build him a counter rotating motor to use as one of the two on his Catalina Island race boat thus eliminating the torque steer problem with two outboards that rotated in the same direction, Mac felt that this improved the top end speed of the boat and he didn’t tell anyone about it until years after they set the California to Catalina Island speed record.
"If ya have a Mark 78 on your boat, one of the boats claims to fame is that you can’t turn it over, it will skid/skip across the water prior to turning over and that is true with most outboards on it, 35HP, 40HP, 55Hp. etc, but I was demonstrating a boat in the Harvey canal (just outside of the New Orleans city limits) with about 50 potential dealers watching, I had the new Mercury Mark 78 on it and in a hard turn I turned it over. I came up inside of the overturned boat, thought about just staying there, but finally came out to face the embarrassment."
The Yellow Jacket Company had only one salesman, he carried with him scale models (about 24 inched long, made exactly like the real thing, stained and painted like the original) of each new model of Yellow Jacket. The problem was that each time he came back from sales calls he no longer had the models, it seems that every potential distributor purchaser begged him for one of the models and more than one distributorship was sold, contingent on the purchaser getting the model. Mac said that he would typically spend $1000. a year replacing the models which were built by one person in Texas.
With the building and opening of the "D-Day Museum" in New Orleans, Mac was on a team to build an exact replica of a Higgins boat (landing craft) for the museum and was featured on several local programs once the museum was opened (interviews, old films of him operating a Higgins boat). The History channel has a program on Mr. Higgins about the building of landing craft, PT boats, etc. in the old films Mac can be seen operating the boats.
The PT 309 was the last PT boat to see action in WWII. It's still around. It was traveling from New York to Texas and stopped in New Orleans. From the dock, the hull was made just like a Yellow Jacket with angular strips of wood. In the engine room the hull appears to be the cross laminated strip design. Mac worked for Higgins Boat Co. who built PT boats, Mac designed the Yellow Jacket hull, had it built in Canada. He eventually had the manufacturer move to Dennison, TX and absorbed him. Could it be that the PT boat hull design was the inspiration for the Yellow Jacket design?
Roy, in 1951, co-owner of the Yellow Jacket Boat Company, puttin' Mercury's HP to the test.
Model - 1959
Exquisitely-styled walk-thru center deck model with storage compartments. This special model has Flote-N-Ride spring seats. Terriffically fast. A super performer. This boat will make you the envy of everyone.
Same lengths and hull as the specifications as the Deluxe model minus the upolstery. Weighs 25 lbs. less.
Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the children; with the family's 6 cylinder 60 HP Mercury Mark 75).
The Apple Valley Inn was built in the 1940s by Newton Bass and Bud Westlund. It was advertised as America's Favorite Vacationland. At that time you could buy a breakfast for $0.85, lunch for $1.50 and dinner for $2.50. You could rent a cottage for $10.00. A Deluxe Bungalow could be rented with two bedrooms, a fireplace, and a private pool for $36.00.
Apple Valley Inn America's Favorite Vacationland
This is an ad for the Apple Valley Inn from the Los Angeles Times - 1954.
When Apple Valley developer Newton T. Bass found out the Rogers family was putting down roots in town, he approached Roy about lending his name to the Apple Valley Inn. Rogers agreed. Ads for "Roy Rogers' Apple Valley Inn" brought fame to the town and boosted local pride.
This picture of Roy Rogers hung in
the lobby of the Apple Valley Inn.
Nearly 60 years ago, visitors to the newly-opened Apple Valley Inn basked in the sunshine and applauded the virtues of the High Desert.
The celebrity rush really got under way with the opening of the Apple Valley Inn, in 1948. The guest list included Bob Hope, John Wayne, Janet Leigh, Dick Powell, June Allison, Gene Autry and Billy Graham. Bob Hope said it was "a little saucer of land" that reflected "pure relaxation, pure joy and untroubled happiness."
"The day was borrowed right out of paradise," said movie critic Louella Parsons, a guest at the inn.
Many other "showbiz folks" came to the Apple Valley Inn to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and get away from the rat race of Hollywood.
Roy & Dale - Apple Valley Inn stables with Trigger Jr and Buttermilk.
Late in the 1960s Roy entered the restaurant business with the chain of Roy Rogers Family Restaurants. The 1960s were a boom period for restaurant franchising. There was Minnie Pearl Chicken, Johnny Carson's Here's Johnny chain, Trini Lopez Mexican food, Mickey Mantle restaurants, and many more. The one thing that almost every one of these had in common is that they failed. The exception was the Roy Rogers Family Restaurants. Unlike most of the other franchise operations that had been started from scratch on limited capital, Roy had associated himself with the Marriott Corporation, which had a long history in the restaurant business. By tying in with a well-established company Roy avoided the problems so many other celebrities encountered when they entered the franchising business.
Roy Rogers Restaurants
The Marriott Corporation had wanted to grow its restaurant division. Pete Plamondon Sr, an executive in charge of restaurant divisions, developed the concept for Marriott. They chose to license the Roy Rogers name at the suggestion of a friend of Marriott CEO J.W. "Bill" Marriott. In 1968, when the Marriott Corporation launched the first Roy Rogers Restaurant, it chose the popular film cowboy Roy Rogers as its namesake because he personified the honest, wholesome image desired for the Roy Rogers brand. Moreover, the West’s reputation for good beef and 'down home cooking' fit the strategy of offering guests roast beef sandwiches, fried chicken and hamburgers with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Rogers agreed and signed on. The chain took on all three of the major fast food concepts under one roof, burgers, roast beef, and fried chicken. Marriott himself is said to have created the fried chicken recipe.
The first location opened in 1968 in Falls Church, VA. Under Marriott, Roy Rogers flourished into a chain of nearly 650 stores nationwide by 1990, some through expansion, some through conversion of chains Marriott had picked up.
Marriott sold the chain to Imasco, the parent company of Hardee's, in 1990. Imasco converted several company stores to the Hardee's brand. This proved to be a bad idea. A customer revolt that cut sales in half resulted in the conversion of locations BACK to Roy Rogers Family Restaurants, but the damage was already done. Imasco eventually worked on selling off locations to other chains, who then converted the stores to their own brands. Imasco sold off Hardee's in 1997, but kept Roy Rogers. Franchisees who remained loyal to the Roy Rogers brand were allowed to remain in business with minimal or no support. They didn't need much anyway. Existing customers were fiercely loyal to the brand.
One of those franchisees was Plamondon himself, who opened stores in the 1980's. Sons Jim and Peter Jr, who had purchased Plamondon Enterprises from their parents in 1998, purchased Roy Rogers from Imasco in 2003. The company owned 14 of the 63 operating locations as well as several Marriott motel brand franchises. They have initiated a revitalization of the brand dubbed "Roy Rogers Rides Again!". They want to double the size of the chain.
The core menu is roast beef sandwiches, burgers, and chicken. Sometimes there's a fish sandwich, a Hot Ham n' Cheese, and maybe something else. The burgers include the "Double-R-Bar Burger", which is a quarter-pound cheeseburger topped with a slice of ham. There's fried chicken, chicken tenders, and some chicken sandwiches. You can choose from several sides including fries, baked or mashed potatoes, cole slaw, baked beans, and baked apples. There's a full line of salads as well, a recent addition to make Roy Rogers more upscale than typical fast food.
Some of the restaurants were independently owned and still survive, particularly in western Maryland and Northern Virginia, as well as some highway service plazas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and other locations along the East Coast of the United States.
ROY ROGERS RIDES AGAIN!
Popular Restaurant Chain is Revitalized by New Owners
Frederick, MD ..... In an aggressive franchising move that harkens back to its glory days, brothers Jim and Peter (Jr.) Plamondon have announced their purchase of the Roy Rogers restaurant trademark and franchise system, and an aggressive new franchising program beginning in the Mid-Atlantic region. In an era when discounted pricing and decreased food quality has shrunk the profits of most quickservice chains, the Plamondon’s newly formed Roy Rogers Franchise Company promises to maintain Roy Rogers superior quality and choices for adult tastes.
Despite years of neglect, Roy Rogers has held onto a loyal following in its remaining 63 stores. According to the Plamondons, the concept itself never failed; the management of the chain was simply mishandled as it was sold off in various markets.
The chain has come full circle 30 years after Peter Plamondon, Sr., as a company executive vice president, helped Marriott International, Inc. develop and implement the very first Roy Rogers in Bailey’s Crossroads, Va. Later, he left Marriott and eventually opened 16 of his own Roy Rogers franchises along with three Marriott Hotels with his sons, Jim and Pete, Jr. Today, more than 60 of the "pioneer" franchised Roy Rogers Family Restaurants still exist, mainly in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia.
The Plamondons have already outlined their plans for an ambitious "Roy Rogers Rides Again" franchising program that includes marketing programs, operations systems and a comprehensive training program. Additionally, they opened a restaurant for the revitalized Roy Rogers Family Restaurant concept in 2001. Located in Germantown, MD, it is currently generating close to $2 million in annual revenues. Plans are underway to open a second Montgomery County location in nearby Gaithersburg, MD.
For further information and locations, please go to the Roy Rogers Restaurants website at
~ Buffalo Gal ~