I Doggies, Folks!

"Hello, Jot 'Em Down Store. This is Lum and Abner." For nearly 25 years, that was the most welcome greeting on radio. Chester "Chet" Lauck (Lum Eddards) and Norris "Tuffy" Goff (Abner Peabody) were the creators, actors, writers, sound effects men, directors and the soul of the Lum and Abner program. They received more fan mail than any other program at the time - 1 1/2 million letters per week! You've been exposed to their influence on popular culture whether you know it or not. When you hear Jed Clampett say, "Eee doggies," you're hearing an echo of Abner Peabody. When you watch reruns of Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, the Andy Griffith Show or Hee Haw, you're seeing characters based on Lum and Abner characters.

Wax Lum 'N Abner figures in the Museum
Their careers began as young, amateur performers in Mena, AR where they grew up together and performed at school and civic functions. In early 1931, while doing a skit for radio station KTHS in Hot Springs, Arkansas, they tried out their old country storekeepers routine. The names "Lum Eddards" and "Abner Peabody" were just spur of the moment additions and the format was conversational, but the guys were so talented, they were invited back. After a short while, they were offered a 13 week contract with NBC and soon thereafter, their show obtained Quaker Oats as a sponsor and they headed to Chicago for "temporary" show business careers.

Inside the store - the Pine Ridge Post Office
Pine Ridge, Arkansas is about the same size now as it was in the early 1900's when it was called Waters. Located here was a post office, sawmill, general store, grist mill, blacksmith shop, and the other services needed by a farm community. The general store of any small town was its activity hub, especially on Saturdays when everyone from the surrounding farms came to town to trade goods, stories, and get caught up on the latest news. Chet and Tuffy based their program on this interaction they had experienced in Waters, modeling the dialect, phraseology and customs after the citizens of the remote community who "lived lives as their forefathers lived theirs, unaffected and unspoiled by modern progress; who are content to eke out an existence and live their lives undaunted by the depression's hardships."  Many of the fictional characters in the fictional town of Pine Ridge were based on actual residents of Waters and the surrounding area, but only the many voices of Chet and Tuffy were heard on the radio. Chet was Lum, Grandpappy Spears, and Cedric Wehunt. Tuffy was Abner, Squire Skimp, Mousey Grey, Dick Huddleston, and most of the other characters they developed over the years. They kept in touch with the folks in Waters, especially Mrs. Homer Graham (known as Ethel in the program)  who worked in one of the general stores and took notes while customers shopped for shoes, cheese, harness, and other necessities. She would then send these to Lauck and Goff and they used the news, sayings, and phrases in their act.

By the mid-1930's, the radio program was well known across the nation and the listeners kept demanding to know where the town of Pine Ridge was located. Finally, the town of Waters officially changed it's name to Pine Ridge in an elaborate ceremony on the steps of the state capital in Little Rock in 1936 on the 5th anniversary of the program. Pictures hanging in the Lum and Abner Museum show the governor greeting Lum, Abner, and the real-life counterparts of Grandpappy Spears, Cedric Wehunt, Dick Huddleston, and several others.

The original pot bellied stove in the
Jot 'Em Down Store.
The stores that were such an integral part of the program are still in business today and are on the National Register of Historic Places. The original Huddleston store, built in 1909, is now the Lum and Abner Museum and holds the souvenir and gift shop. The A.A. McKinzie Store, built across the street in 1904, has become the Jot 'Em Down Store which gained fame in the program. It has been moved next door to the museum and in addition to selling a few souvenirs, hand-made knick-knacks and snacks, contains the old post office, many pieces of the Lum and Abner program and the original pot bellied stove where the residents would gather around during those cold winter Saturdays so long ago, swapping tales, getting caught up on the news, and laughing at the stories Chet and Tuffy were telling about them.

Many of the original items sold in the store are
in the museum.
In the early 1950's, after almost 25 years of 13 week contracts, 7 movies and thousands of radio shows, Lum and Abner retired. Norris Goff, surrounded by his loving family, died in California in June, 1978.  Chester Lauck and his family moved back to Arkansas after he retired and later aided in the development of the Lum and Abner Museum. He passed away in February, 1980.

Located at the corner of Old Waters Highway and Hole In Ground Road (Highway 88 in Montgemery County, Arkansas - a county that is so rural it doesn't have any traffic lights), Pine Ridge is still a very small, very rural town little changed from the days of the show. 911 service was finally introduced in 2000 and it was just a couple of years ago that anything other than party telephone lines became available. As you pass the community along the 2-lane blacktop highway, the 2 old general stores, an outhouse, and a couple of homes are visible, but the community stretches beyond what you can see. The gravel roads link many farm houses where log buildings can still be found. Two church buildings and a cemetery are out of sight a quarter mile down the "old highway" road, the road to the right of the outhouse.