Monday, February 18, 2013
Lum and Abner
Norris Goff and Chester Lauck as Lum and Abner in 1949.
Lum and Abner was an American radio comedy network program created by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff that was aired from 1931 to 1954. Modeled on life in the small town of Waters, Arkansas, near where Lauck and Goff grew up, the show proved immensely popular. In 1936, Waters changed its name to Pine Ridge after the show's fictional town.
Jot 'em Down Store
Created by co-stars Chester Lauck (who played Columbus Edwards "Lum" Eddards) and Norris Goff (Abner Peabody), Lum and Abner was as low-key as Easy Aces, as cheerfully absurdist as Vic and Sade, and exaggerated The Goldbergs' ethnic focus by amplifying the protagonists' regional identities. As co-owners of the Jot 'em Down Store in the fictional town of Pine Ridge, Arkansas, the pair are constantly stumbling upon moneymaking ideas only to find themselves fleeced by nemesis Squire Skimp, before finally finding a way to redeem themselves. Lum and Abner played the hillbilly theme with deceptive cleverness. The hillbillies knew that the slickers would get what was coming to them sooner or later and either didn't mind or knew more than they let on that the slickers getting theirs was a matter of fortunate circumstance.
In addition to the title characters, Lauck also played Grandpappy Spears and Cedric Weehunt while Goff played Abner, Squire Skimp, Llewelyn "Mousey" Grey, Dick Huddleston, and most of the other characters.
Lauck and Goff had known each other since childhood and attended the University of Arkansas together where they both joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity. They performed locally and established a blackface act which led to an audition at radio station KTHS in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Prior to the audition, the two men decided to change their act and portray two hillbillies, due to the large number of blackface acts already in existence. After only a few shows in Hot Springs, they were picked up nationally by NBC, and Lum and Abner, sponsored by Quaker Oats, ran until 1932. Lauck and Goff performed several different characters, modeling many of them on the real-life residents of Waters, Arkansas.
When the Quaker contract expired, Lauck and Goff continued to broadcast on two Texas stations, WBAP (Fort Worth) and WFAA (Dallas). In 1933, The Ford Dealers of America became their sponsor for approximately a year. Horlick's Malted Milk, the 1934–37 sponsor, offered a number of promotional items, including almanacs and fictional Pine Ridge newspapers. During this period, the show was broadcast on Chicago's WGN (AM), one of the founding members of the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1936, Dick Huddleston of Waters petitioned the United States Post Office to changed the town's name to Pine Ridge. Postum cereal sponsored Lum and Abner in 1938–40, before Alka-Seltzer picked up the duo. Miles Laboratories, manufacturers of Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day Vitamins, became the longest-running sponsor, backing the program from 1941 until 1948. Over the course of its life, Lum and Abner appeared on the two other major radio networks in addition to NBC and Mutual: CBS and ABC (formerly NBC Blue), .
In 1948, the show changed from a 15-minute "comedic soap opera" to a 30-minute self-contained show. New writers were added, including Flying Tiger ace Robert T. Smith, along with an orchestra and a live audience. The new format was unpopular and the series came off the air in 1950. Lauck and Goff experimented with other formats during the hiatus, finally changing back to the original format in 1953, but the revived show was discontinued the following year due to competition from television and Goff's failing health. The team broadcast more than 5,000 shows, of which over 1,630 episodes exist today.
As well as inspiring the program and its characters, Pine Ridge is also home to the Lum and Abner Museum, which opened in the 1970's and currently features on the National Register of Historic Places. A replica of the Jot 'em Down Store stands adjacent to the Museum.
The National Lum and Abner Society
The National Lum and Abner Society, formed in 1984, published a bimonthly newsletter, The Jot 'Em Down Journal, until 2007. Between 1985 and 2005 the organization held 20 annual conventions (skipping 2004) in Pine Ridge and Mena, Arkansas, playing host to numerous veterans of the Lum and Abner radio programs and motion pictures. Since 2007, the NLAS has existed as an organization with free membership with its Jot 'Em Down Journal transferred to the NLAS website. The first NLAS "Reunion" took place in June 2011 as part of the annual Lum and Abner Festival in Mena, Arkansas to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Lum and Abner show as well as the 7th anniversary of the changing of the name of Waters, Arkansas to Pine Ridge. The NLAS has released the first two CD volumes of Audio Jot 'Em Down Journals for blind members, working through the Helping Hands for the Blind organization in California. These contains readings of the 1984-87 printed issues of The Jot 'Em Down Journal. A third volume is in production at present.
Lum and Abner comic strip
Early in 2011, negotiations between Ethan C. Nobles of, the Chester Lauck family and cartoonist Donnie Pitchford resulted in a new comic strip series based on the classic radio programs and its characters. Beginning June 5, 2011, "Lum and Abner" officially began appearing at http://firstarkansasnews.net in a "Sunday strip" format with a new installment each Sunday. Additionally, each strip is accompanied by an audio dramatization with voices, sound effects and music, a feature designed with blind fans of "old time radio" in mind, but one that any reader may access. Readers may sign up for a free e-mail subscription by visiting GoComics. The comic strip made its newspaper debut in "The Mena Star" of Mena, Arkansas on Thursday, July 28, 2011. It has since been signed by two more Arkansas papers, "The Saline Courier" of Benton and "The Standard" of Amity.
Posted by Palmer at 11:12 PM