Andy Hogan may have met people from more places in the world than anyone else in Claremore. Since 2004 he has been the face of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum for the thousands of visitors who have crossed the threshold of the entrance.
Now, for the first time since the age of 14, interpreter and historical guide Will Rogers will have more free time. He begins the new year by stepping down from his post at the museum and passing the reins to a new generation (watch for more on Bart Taylor later.)
While this is a new job for the longtime educator and retired principal of Claremont Elementary School, the cowboy dress code was what he was born into, as well as a love for Will Rogers and Will’s folklore.
“I have always had a respect for Will Rogers”, he declared, the one he inherited from his father, Turk, born in 1901 in Indian territory and “who often quoted Will”.
He grew up in a bucolic setting, but not on a farm. The Hogan place was “about 100 yards west of what is now East Central High School.” We had a cash cow, about as close to farming as we have been. Now he “cultivates” a small area outside of Claremore, raising chickens instead of a cow.
Hogan grew up the son of a bulldogger and traveled with his father to Wild West Shows. He loved this life, but obtained a diploma that took him to school, the last in Claremont, where he retired in 1999. Like many educator-administrators of the time, he also drove a school bus and was well known as a referee of sporting events.
An avid runner and exercise advocate, it was natural after “school” that he worked at the Claremore Recreation Center. His flair for the cowboy life and dress code led him to play the role of Will Rogers in the Gridiron productions of the Claremore Chamber of Commerce.
After one of these performances, Michelle Carter, then director of the Will Rogers Memorial, “came to me and said ‘you have to come and work for us.’ “I think I’m ready to try this.”
Hogan said he never “tried to be Will Rogers. My goal is to let people know that Will has a message. Humility, humor and perseverance – humility is my favorite attribute and my favorite quote is “No man is great who thinks he is,” although I don’t necessarily quote him verbatim.
He learned a few tricks of the rope, at the insistence of his wife, Jan, and with the help of a ropemaker from the Wild West Arts Club.
“I’m not a good stringer,” he said, “I have a good idea of what Will did, but I’m not trying to be him.”
His post at the Museum included many venues, meeting and welcome buses, buses loaded with schoolchildren, being available to special visitors … “always on call, like a doctor”, he came when needed. from him.
Although his career has been with school children, he said it was easier to talk to “the elderly because they know who Will is.”
But the teacher that he was, he could mold his visits to his audience.
Reflecting on the past 17 years at Will’s Hill, he said, “This is one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had and I have met people from all over the world who have come to the Museum. And it was not uncommon for a visiting family to introduce him to their children as their “principal.”
He has represented the Museum on visits to several states and presentations to tourism groups. At the top of her list of special visits should be the Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV and, in Fort. Worth it for the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering. Oh, and the Illinois Historical Society. This group had visited the Memorial and asked it to make two appearances in their home country.
The greatest compliment Hogan ever gave was when a man said, “If he (Will) was alive, he would have a personality like yours.” One natural, another said, ”Hogan accepting with the humility he admired so much in Will Rogers.
For the first time, the octogenarian will have more free time to exercise as a hobby and for his health (he no longer pursues the high level running he once did), bow hunting and look after his two acres. “There is always something to do, either tear something up or mend it.”
Then there’s his wife, Jan, also a retired teacher, and the dedication they have to their family – and we’ll likely see that on the Hill every now and then.