Friday, December 22, 2006
"Hello, Jot 'Em Down Store. This is "Lum 'N' Abner"
That was one of the most welcome greetings on radio for nearly twenty-five years. Chester "Chet" Lauck ( Lum Eddards) and Norris 'Tuffy" Goff (Abner Peabody) were the creators, actors, writers, sound effects men, directors, and the life of the "Lum 'N' Abner" Program. They received more fan mail than any radio program of the time- one and a half million letters one special week!
Their budding careers began as young, amateur performers in Mena, Ark., where they grew up together, teaming to entertain at many school and civic functions. On April 26, 1931, representing Polk and Montgomery Counties on station KTHS in Hot Springs, Ark., they tried out their old country storekeepers routine. The names, "Lum Eddards" and "Abner Peabody", were a spur of the moment addition and the format was more conversational than situational, but the performers showed so much talent that they were invited back. Then, offered a 13 week contract with NBC and obtaining Quaker Oats as a sponsor, they were off to Chicago for "temporary" show business careers.
Pine Ridge is only slightly smaller now than it was in the early 1900's when it was called Waters, the site of a post office, saw mill, blacksmith shop, and the other services necessary to a farm community. Dick Huddleston built his store in 1909 and bought groceries from a wholesaler named Mr. Goff. Mr. Goff's son, Norris, was learning the grocery business delivering to many Polk and Montgomery County general stores. Mr. Lauck owned the big sawmill in Mena so all of the residents of this logging country knew his son, Chester, checking the trucks of logs being delivered.
Dick Huddleston was a friend to them all and a leader in the community of Waters. The general store of any small town was its hub of activity, especially on a Saturday afternoon when everyone from the surrounding farms came to town to trade goods and stories. That was the inspiration for the Lum 'N' Abner program. By the mid-1930's the radio program was well-known nation-wide and the listeners were asking where Pine Ridge was, so the name of the town was changed in an elaborate ceremony on the steps of the State Capitol in Little Rock in 1936, on the fifth anniversary of the program. Pictures in the LUM 'N' ABNER MUSEUM show all of the participants - the Governor greeting Lum, Abner, and the real-life counterparts of Grandpappy Spears, Cedric Wehunt, Dick Huddleston, etc.
Chester Lauck was born in 1901, in Aleene, Ark., and Norris Goff was born in 1906, in Cove, Ark. Both moved to Mena in 1911 and lived there, marrying and starting families, until the big move into show business. The various sponsors throughout the years required many moves leading to a final jump to Hollywood in 1939 to make motion pictures. Those sponsors were Quaker Oats, Ford Motor Co., Horlick's Malted Milk, Alka Seltzer (the longest lasting association), and General Motors. From the late 1930's to the early 1950's, seven movies were made, with a radio studio provided behind the set to continue broadcasting the daily programs. Retirement from this hectic schedule came after twenty-four and a half years of 13-week contracts! The Goff's stayed in California where Norris Goff died in June of 1978. The Laucks eventually returned to Arkansas and aided in the development of the LUM 'N' ABNER MUSEUM. Chester Lauck died in February of 1980.