What is the first thing you think of when you here of the 1930s, Amos and Andy or how about Lum and Abner? Lum and Abner werent really expected to do anything with their lives; they were just having fun trying to make something of them selves. They became two of the most famous people from Polk and Montgomery counties: Chet Lauck- Lum, Norris Goff- Abner, and the history of Lum and Abner.
Chester Lauck was born in Alleene, Arkansas, February 2, 1902. (Alleene, Arkansas)
(www.mu.net/stemple/page1.htm) His parents were W.J. and Cora Lauck. (Cate, Micheal, 190) Chet moved to Mena in 1911, where he met Norris Goff. They became very good friends. Chet lived on Port Arthur Avenue in Mena. His father owned the sawmill and was the Union Bank president. Chet went to Mena high school. He played baseball, basketball, football, and track. He had two older brothers and one younger sister. He graduated from high school in 1920. After high school, Chet went to the University of Arkansas and got a degree in advertising. He was the co-editor of the Universitys humor magazine and was a Razorback cheerleader. After the University of Arkansas, he went to study at Chicago Institute of Fine Arts. (Stucker, Kathryn Moore) In 1926, Chet married Harriet Wood. He had three children: Shirley, Nancy, and Chet Jr.
Norris Goff was born in Cove, Arkansas, May 30, 1906. (www.me.net/stemple/ page1.htm) His parents were Rome and Dora Goff. (Cate, Micheal, 190) He lived on Reine Street. His father worked as a wholesale grocer. (Williams, Troy, 70) When Norris was in high school, he was quarterback for the football team. He graduated in 1924. He then went to the University of Arkansas and the University of Oklahoma.
After college he worked at his fathers company. In 1929, Norris married Elizabeth Bullion. They had a boy, Gary, and a girl, Gretchen. (Stucker, Kathryn Moore)
Waters was the name of the town Chet and Norris got started in. Waters sounded like a swamp so they changed the name of the town to Pine Ridge, because of the woods and valleys of the Ouachitas. In Pine Ridge there was a sawmill, post office, blacksmith shop, gristmill, and other necessary services to the farm community. The community started in the early 1900s. Lauck and Goff lived close to each other.
By 1931, they became Amos and Andy imitators. Chet and Norris liked clowning around at the Elks Lodge and Possum Club Banquets. On July 27, 1931, they made their national radio debut on NBC radio network from Chicago. The program Lum and Abner aired from 1931 to 1953. The programs were fifteen to thirty minutes long. The first sponsor was the Quakers Oats Company. Other sponsors were Ford Motors Company, Horlicks Malted Milk, Alka Seltzer (the longest lasting association), and General Motors.
Their philosophy was simply best summed up in one piece of advice: Never put your faith in seed catalogues. That thing with the double barreled name always turns out to be radishes. (Williams, Troy, 71)
Chet Lauck once said during the 1930s, Were sort of like Mussolini. Weve created Pine Ridge and people in it, the mayor, the justice of the peace, the fire chief, the
grocer. Were dictators by remote control. Its our town and we run it to suit ourselves. (Williams, Troy, 71)
The personalities of the people they swapped stories with, while stopped at rural stores, were to become the characters they created for their radio programs. Grandpappy Spears was based of Cling Wilhite, from one of the earliest Waters families both wore floppy hats and rode a white mule. Cedric Wehunt was based on Lester Goble, slow of speech but humorous. The real Ola Hooper became Elizabeth Peabody, large of heart and stature but stern of voice in hand. Eva May ONeal became Little Pearl, each planned on becoming a nurse but Miss ONeal died at age 18 from injuries received in a fall from a horse. Margaret Wilhite became Sister Simpson, Anna Risenhoover became Aunt Charity Spears and Aunt Chat Lawrence was Widder Abernathy. (Williams, Troy, 70) Lauck and Goff carried the show mostly by themselves, doing different characters. Occasionally there would be other actors playing guest roles. Chet Lauck played Lum Eddards, Cedric Wehunt and Grandpappy Spears. Norris Goff played Abner Peabody, Squire Skimp, Dick Huddleston, Mousey Gray, and Usysses S. Quincy. (www.nidlink.com/lrcook/ lumabner.html)
The Lum and Abner Scripts were Etiquette Tips from Abner Peabody, A Grammar Lesson, Lums Family Tree, Mail Call, Cedrics Root Beer Stand, The Perils of Being Rich, Cedric- The Voter, Cedrics School Days, Pine Ridge on Parade, Counting Sheep, Abner and Cedric Work a Crossword Puzzle, and Trip Sixteen-B. (www.nidlink. com/~lrcook/lumabner.html)
Heres an example of one of their scripts, Etiquette Tips from Abner Peabody:
-If you mix your peas with your mashed pertaters they wont roll off your knife.
That a way you dont have to chase em all over your plate tryin to scoop em up neither.
-If you mix butter with syrup, it stays on your bread a heap better.
-If you chuck a handful of crackers in your soup it makes it a heap easier to handle. Dont spill half as much that way. Its neater. Theres one of the first things a feller ought to know if hes takin supper outBe neat!
-When you butter your bread and fold it over, be sure and get the edges of your bread even. Dont have one corner stickin out. It just aint neat!
-If you spill somethin on the tablecloth just sorta gradual ease your saucer over it right away. You have to be a little sly about it. Point at somethin on the wall and get em to turn around, and while theyre looking just slide your saucer over the spot, and theyll never see it.
-Put the buttered side of your bread down if youre eatin on a slantin table. That a way shell never slip off the tablecloth. Ive found that awful handy.
-When youre eatin corn on the cob, gnaw in a direct line. Keep the rows straight.
-When youre eatin pork chops dont never pick up with your bare hand. Always wrap your napkin around it and then pick it up. Special when youre away from home. Just recollectbe neat!
-When you go to somebodys place, when you pour your coffee out in the saucer, never blow it. Thats the worst mistake you could make. Fan it with your hat. Always fan it.
-Always pull the chair out from the table for a woman. If you pull it out fur
enough that gives you a chance to get set down and get your favor-ite piece of chicken before they can draw up to the table.
-Dont ever reach with your bare hand out into the middle of the table for somethin neither. Youll bring back a nub!
-Dont tuck your napkin in your collar. Tie a hard knot around back of your neck so it wont slip.
-Thats enough for you to work on right now. (Etiquette Tips from Abner Peabody)
When Chet Lauck and Tuffy Goff moved to Hollywood in 1937, the issue of movie making had to have come up. They wanted to make a movie that will represent Pine Ridge and its in habitants as they really appear. Lum and Abner fans submitted photographs and sketchers of streets, houses, and scenes to help create the most perfect small town in America for the first Lum and Abner movie. It was to be slightly larger and different in some ways from the Pine Ridge of western Arkansas, and ended up being a cross between Pine Ridge and the boys hometown of Mena. The seven Lum and Abner motion pictures are again popular, now on television and videocassette. Lum and Abner had become a part of motion picture history almost as soon as they got to Hollywood. In 1938, Columbia Square was to be opened in ceremonies led by Cecil B. DeMille with Al Jolson, Martha Raye, Parky Parkykarkus, Ken Murray, George McCall, Frank Parker, Jean Herscholt, and newcomers Lum and Abner taking part in the
Program, written by Hal Rourke. Our boys told about magic of Hollywood with the following lines:
-DeMille- What is this? Were you two sitting up their rehearsing?
-Abner- No sir. We were sitting up there thinking how much good music and good fun and constructive thought will originate from here for the whole world…
-Lum- And how many good friends we all make broadcasting from these studios.
-DeMille- Exactly. Its impossible for one to fully imagine all the fondness America has for the people who entertain it and how pleased listeners are to see on the screen those they like on the air. (Stucker, Kathryn Moore)
The movies that they were in was: Dreaming Out Loud, The Bashful Bachelor, Two Weeks To Live, So This Is Washington, Goin To Town, Partners In Time, and Lum and Abner Abroad.
By 1953, television had become one of the hottest means of advertisement, but health problems stopped Lum and Abner from expanding far into this media. On June 12, 1978, in Palm Springs, California, Norris Goff passed away. Soon after, on February 21, 1980, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Chester Lauck died too. Although their genre may forever more be remembered as Old Time Radio, it will surely always be remembered. Lum and Abner endorsed several products throughout their career, and entertained millions of fans. The Lum and Abner show will always be a part of both Arkansas and American History. Their retirement came after twenty-four and a half years of thirteen week contracts. (http://asms.k12.ar.us./armen/crouch/lumab.htm)
Hollywood was the center of the entertainment industry, whether you were in radio or motion pictures, and soon television was to become bigger then either. Despite the efforts of many people, Lum and Abner never became a television series. However, Chet
and Tuffy appeared on the home screen many times, and their motion pictures are now seen on public, cable, and satellite television stations.
Very few people are left who can tell, first hand, the stories of what they saw and did in the general merchandise stores in Pine Ridge when the town was an important cog in the wheel of local farming and commerce. Until just a few years ago, the stories were told and retold on the front porch of the post office or around the pot-bellied stove of the store. Many of those stories were used on the Lum and Abner programs, and some were too unbelievable to be used, but were true, nonetheless. There are also very few left who can tell, first hand, the stories about Chet and Tuffy growing up in Mena. Their schoolmates told of parodies of teachers in classrooms, and of street corner routines. Merchants told of them sharing stories with old-timers instead of working, and of Mr. Lauck asking Mr. Goff to give his son a job to teach him to work, as he had given up. Few left can tell of hearing the first marathon charity broadcast on radio- it was by Lum and Abner. The first international broadcast by a radio team was between Lum and Abner, talking across the Atlantic Ocean!
The history that is preserved in the Lum and Abner museum, and through the people who maintain an interest in Pine Ridge, is unique but is universal. The Lum and Abner museum opened in 1971, through the efforts of Ralph and Dorothy McClure who had brought the Huddleston Store in 1969.
They had retained the country store atmosphere by displaying what was left of the stock and fixtures in the back half of the building while selling antiques and souvenirs in
the front. As materials were acquired from Chet Lauck and others, in an attempt to restore the Pine Ridge of Lum and Abner broadcasts, more room was needed.
For Christmas of 1970, Ethel Huddleston Graham gave the McClures the shell of the old McKenzie Store, smaller and older than her fathers store, and the basis for many of the ideas and stories used on the radio programs. The museum displays found a new home in that building after it was positioned next to the Huddleston store. Over the years, more rooms have been added as the collection has grown. The Lum and Abner museum is open to the public and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Dorothy McClures son, Noah Lon Stucker, and his wife, Kathryn Moore Stucker, now own and run the store and museum. (Stucker, Kathryn Moore)
NLAS, National Lum Abner Society all started in 1982. George Lillie put Donnie Pitchford and Sam Brown in contact with each other.
The next step came in 1983, when Tim Hollis was put in touch with Donnie and Sam. Between the three of them, the plans for a national organization to reach the history of Lum and Abner programs were formulated. NLAS became a reality in 1984 when Chester Lauck, Jr., who owns the registered trademark Lum and Abner, gave permission to use the trademark. The first issue of the clubs newsletter of the Jot Em Down Journal was mailed on July 30, 1984 to twenty charter members. By October, the membership had surpassed one hundred and continued to grow. The society continued to grow and prosper, with over 600 current members, as it works to preserve artifacts from a by-gone era in radio history.
Chester Chet Lauck (Lum Eddards) and Norris Tuffy Goff (Abner Peabody), were the creators, the actors, the writers, the sound effects men, the directors, and the life of the Lum N Abner Program. They were two of the most famous citizens from Polk and Montgomery Counties and will never be forgotten. They received more fan mail than any radio program of the times, one and a half million letters in one special week! (www.lum-abner.com)