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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Lum and Abner

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
If you’re an older East Texan, the chances are good that you remember Lum and Abner, the lovable proprietors of the Jot ‘Em Down Store in Pine Ridge, Arkansas.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Lum and Abner radio show was one of America’s most popular radio shows, often outranking Amos and Andy and Jack Benny. On the first weekend each June in Mena, Arkansas--where Chet Lauck (Lum) and Norris Goff (Abner) grew up and started their careers--the Lum and Abner Festival pays tribute to the duo with musical performances, reenactments of their radio shows, the showing of some of their seven movies, music of all types, and special events like baby-crawling contests and antique tractor shows.

You will always find at the festival an ample crowd of East Texans who have driven up Highway 41 between New Boston, Texas, and Mena, a distance of about 90 miles.

Lum and Abner started their careers with an imitation of Amos and Andy and in 1931, they were scheduled to appear in Hot Springs. But on their way they passed through the small town of Waters, stopped at a local store, and decided at the last minute to appear as two old-time Arkansas storekeepers. They invented the names of “Pine Ridge” and “the Jot ‘Em Down Store.”

Their popularity took off and just three months later they made their national radio debut on NBC Radio from Chicago with Quaker Oats as their first sponsor.

For the next 25 years they delighted American audiences. Their radio show was lengthened from 15 to 30 minutes.

By 1953, television was the rage in America and Lauck and Goff developed a television plot, but Goff’s health problems were too much for him. So Lum and Abner retired.

Lauck moved to Houston, worked as a public relations man for Conoco Oil Company and continued to speak throughout the U.S.

One night in the 1960s, while I was working for the Houston Chronicle, Doris and I drove from Lufkin to Crockett to report on a chamber of commerce banquet where Lauck was speaking.

When the event ended, the chamber’s manager asked us to drive Lauck back to the Lufkin airport in our car.

So, for the next hour, Chet Lauck joined us in our Volkswagen, his six-foot frame folded in the front seat, and talked about Lum and Abner.

Lauck had the ability to do all of the voices on the old radio show: Cedric Weehunt, Grandpappy Spears, Squire Skimp--and even his partner Abner Peabody. It was a marvelous, one-man radio show that Doris and I will remember the rest of our lives.


Bob Bowman's East Texas May 23, 2010 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 43 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Vol. I
By Bob and Doris Bowman
 
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