When Gene Autry brought his show to the Toledo Sports Arena the evening of April 2, 1948, the crowd broke an attendance record. About 8,900 cheered and applauded as Autry performed audience favorites, including “Back in the Saddle Again” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Autry’s horse, Champion, helped close out the show as he rode the steed through the aisles, to the delight of those stationed far from the stage. Earlier in the day, Blade photographer Carl Gifford was at the Sports Arena for the matinee performance that was attended by more than 6,500, mostly children, including 300 youngsters who were guests of the Lions Club. From left to right are William Smith from the Lucas County Home, Bill Fischer from the Lutherans’ Home, C. Gaylord Bancroft from the Lions Club, Gene Autry, and Dorothy Wexel from St. Anthony’s Orphanage. The singing cowboy was in Toledo as part of a 60-day tour that included more than 50 cities. Sports Arena officials said attendance at the evening performance topped a previous high set by the Spike Jones Orchestra. An estimated 1,800 people were turned away at the door, as tickets were sold out.
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