By: Mary Fran Bontempo

I wanted to be a cowgirl.

Not just any cowgirl, either. I wanted to be Sally Starr.

Any kid who grew up in the Philadelphia, PA area between 1955 and 1971 knew Sally Starr, or, as we knew her, “Our gal, Sal.” Actually, we didn’t just know her, we loved her. She came into our homes every day, and we loved her.

Sally Starr introduced Philly kids to cartoons and the Three Stooges as host of Popeye Theater on what was then known to all of us as Channel 6. But I didn’t care about the cartoons. Popeye and the Stooges were just filler for me until my favorite cowgirl appeared back on the TV.

Actually, Sally Starr was my only cowgirl. We weren’t exactly surrounded by prairie riding ranch hands while growing up in Northeast Philadelphia. Sally Starr was our only window into that world.

And what a glamorous world it was, at least as presented by our gal, Sal. Sally was always impeccably dressed in high cowgirl style, with either a red or blue outfit, or my favorite, the pristine, all-white costume, and a matching hat. Now, I’m pretty sure cowgirls didn’t tend their horses adorned in sparkles and sequins on their clothes, but I didn’t know it then, and then, there was nothing more gorgeous to me than Sally Starr in her spangly duds, platinum locks, red lips and lush, fluttering lashes.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure she was my one and only girl-crush.

Sally was always happy, offering cheerful expressions like, “All-righty, roony!” and “I hope you feel as good as you look, ’cause you sure look good to your gal Sal.”

But after she lost her show in 1971, it wasn’t all roses for Sal, as one tragedy after another knocked her down again and again. Yet local fans rallied to help her, and after living in Florida for a time, she returned to the Delaware Valley, much to the delight of her adoring no-longer-young public, who welcomed her in parades and special appearances through the years.

I’ll probably never get to be a cowgirl, but then, I couldn’t compete with Sally Starr’s perfection, anyway.

Blessings to you, Sal. And as you used to say, “Love, luck and lollipops.” I’ll miss you.