return to articles The Buick Bugle, Vol. 32. No. 7. November 1997.

Highway Patrol : The Series

by Gary Goltz, BCA #30962, Upland, CA

This syndicated television series, starring academy award winner Broderick Crawford, premiered in October, 1955. There were 156 episodes produced, 25 minutes in length. All filmed in black and white. Most episodes were shot on location, usually in the San Fernando Valley, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Each episode opened with the Highway Patrol theme, "The March of the Highway Patrol", composed by Ray Llewellyn, along with narrator Art Gilmore's memorably stirring introduction.

TV Guide ads for the series boasted that stories were "based on the experiences of Highway Patrol officers in all 48 states". Episodes were filmed over a period of two days at a cost of approximately $20,000. The exception was when a Bell Model 47 helicopter was incorporated into the script. These episodes would take slightly longer to film and were much more expensive. Many actors who would become Hollywood stars appeared in various episodes including, Clint Eastwood, Dyan Cannon, Robert Conrad, Barbara Eden, Leonard Nimoy, Stuart Whitman, and Paul Burke.

Broderick Crawford's character was Highway Patrol Chief, Dan Mathews. His call sign was 21-50, which was the then California Highway Patrol Commissioner, Bernard Caldwell's, actual ID number. Mathews always appeared in plain clothes, packing a snub noise .38 revolver bolstered on his left hip for a right-hand draw. The emblem displayed on the patrol cars was a generic design. The uniforms worn during the first three seasons were that of the CHP. The arm patch and badge were slightly altered, deleting the word "California." At Highway Patrol's debut, the real California Highway Patrol loaned its support and prestige to the series. However, after the first year or so, "creative differences," as the old Hollywood saying goes, with the TV producers caused the CHP to withdraw its official support to the show.

Among the many cars used on Highway Patrol during its four-year run were:
1954 Olds 88* , 1955 Buick Century* , 1955 Ford (4 door) , 1956 Mercury* , 1956 Dodge Coronet* , 1956 Olds 88* , 1956 Buick Super (4 door) , 1956 Buick Special , 1957 Buick Special , 1957 Dodge Coronet , 1957 Mercury , 1958 Buick Century , 1958 Dodge Coronet , 1959 Dodge Coronet , and 1959 Plymouth (4door). Cars marked with a * were real CHP loaner cars.

Highway Patrol was one the highest rated syndicated series in television history. It was translated into many languages and distributed worldwide. After the last episode was filmed in March 1959, Highway Patrol re-runs could be seen daily throughout the 1960s. The re-runs continued to be seen sporadically in some cities in the 1970s and even the 1980s. Broderick Crawford died in 1986, but will long be remembered for his role as Chief Dan Mathews, the no-nonsense leader of TV's Highway Patrol. And for his famous sign-off, "21-50, Bye!" - Gary Goltz, BCA #30962