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Lum & Abner… A History

(MENA) How often does it happen when two boys from Polk County get noticed and hits the bigtime?

For these two longtime childhood friends, Chester Lauck and Norris Goff, their lives were immensely changed between 1931 and 1954.

Success from this era in the early days of radio, related to much of America, especially after the Depression and during the days of World War II.

Columbus “Lum” Abner, played by Lauck and Abner Peabody, played by Goff, owners of the Jot ‘em Down Store in the fictional town of Pine Ridge, Arkansas. The town was originally known as Waters, Arkansas until local residents petitioned the town council to change its name to Pine Ridge in 1936.

Only two distinctive buildings still stand in Pine Ridge, The Huddleston Store and McKinzie Store, both of which serve as The Jot ‘em Down General Store and The Lum and Abner Museum.

The duo constantly came up with “crazy hair-brain” ideas to making a quick dollar, inspired by Squire Skimp’s fleecing them, before finally finding a way to redeem themselves.

The two radio actors played multiple roles on the show. Common for most radio programs back in the day. They also had a LIVE house band, pretty much a string band, that kept with the show’s theme of hillbilly humor.

The premise behind each episode was to emphasize that the “city slickers” would get their “just due” sooner or later and didn’t mind that they knew that they would be getting paid back in a matter of circumstances.

Lauck was born in Alleene, Arkansas in 1902 and died in 1980, at the age of 80. Lauck was raised in Mena and graduated from Mena High School in 1920. Lauck was buried in Hot Springs. Lauck is a member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame – Radio Division.

Goff was born in 1906 and was nicknamed as “Tuffy” and was born in Cove, Arkansas. Goff appeared in other comedies in the 1960’s, on The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Ironically, the two characters attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where they honed their craft before landing an audition on a Hot Springs radio station, KTHS.

After appearing in just a few shows, the program was picked up NBC Radio. The show was sponsored by the Quaker Oats Company and ran on NBC until 1932.

Afterwards, the show ran independently on two Dallas / Fort Worth stations, WBAP and WFAA.

One year later, in 1933, The Ford Dealers of America became their principal sponsor for a year. They saw various sponsors become associated with the program, as was typical back in the day.

During this period, the show started picking up affiliations with some of the nations largest radio stations, WGN – Chaicago, WLW – Cincinnati, KNX – Los Angeles and KFRC – San Francisco.

Then, the program found a permanent home on the former Mutual Broadcasting System. This was the radio network that was airing The Lone Ranger, and after picking up Lum and Abner, became one of their all – time popular programs on the network. The radio program appeared on all four major radio networks, including CBS Radio and ABC (formerly known as NBC Blue).

Other notable sponsors of the radio program were Postum Cereal, Alka – Seltzer, and One – A – Day Vitamins.

The dynamic comedy duo broadcast more than 5000 shows. However, only 1630 shows exist today. Most radio programs were not recorded for posterity sake, compared to today. Especially, with fifteen minute programs.

In 1948, the program changed its formula to a 30 minute version, but, the new format was extremely unpopular and eventually changed back to its original 15 minute format and landing with the ABC Radio Network, before concluding its run in 1953.

The duo even produced seven films between 1940 and 1956. The last film was produced in Yugoslavia.

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