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April 21, 2021

The Story of Buster, the Rooster Who Can Skate in the 1950s

If you’re strolling along the sidewalk and a big red rooster whizzes past on roller skates, don’t rush to the nearest eye doctor. It’s only Buster, out for his daily spin.

In 1952, Times photographer Leigh Wiener was sent to the scene of a reported hit-and-run car crash on South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles. He found little of note at the scene, only a man who asked him to take his photo, a relatively frequent occurrence. Wiener later wrote that he joked to the man, “Sure, I’ll take you picture, Mister, if you have a dog that can roller-skate.”

The man didn’t have a dog, but he did have a rooster — specifically, a skating rooster. Wiener agreed to meet the bird, named Buster, on his day off, August 17, 1952. When he arrived, Buster wore “a clean pair of “You Can't Bust ’Ern” overalls, and his custom-made roller skates simply shined.” Wiener took Buster’s photo and later photographed him again at an ice rink. Buster could apparently ice skate, too.

Buster, whose owner was teaching him to be a roller-skating rooster, glided under a playmate’s legs during a practice run on a Los Angeles sidewalk.

Billy Lehr has put Buster on ice skates, and he glided along clad in his special skating trunks to the amused astonishment of Cathy Henderson at Pasadena, California.

Buster the Rooster

A lively potful of Rhode Island Red, Buster was one of several chickens owned by William Lehr, a retired circus clown. The August 22, 1952 issue of The San Bernardino County Sun from San Bernardino, California, reported:

“Buster uses five-inch long baby skates, made of aluminum and taped to his big feet. Lehr usually gives Buster a push to get him started. Once under way, the bird makes out all right. He uses his wings to push himself forward and to keep his balance.

“Buster, who is three years old, has been skating for six months. Lehr is grooming him for a stage debut. The ex-clown figures his pet has a great theatrical career ahead of him. While Buster may get the bird, at least he can’t lay an egg.”


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