Sunday, May 6, 2012
Keeping It Real at The Jot 'Em Down Store with Lum and Abner
Lum and Abner's fictional exploits stem from the unusual characters that they are. Lum, pretentious with dreams of being a big man, considers himself president of the Jot 'Em Down Store and serves as the town's justice of the peace. Lum often ventures into new enterprises with the hopes of making a big splash on the world. Often his schemes are attempts to make a lot of money, attempts which are usually foiled by Squire Skimp, local flim flam man. Other schemes are attempts by the old bachelor to woo the newest in a long line of school marms with whom he has fallen hopelessly in love. In one series of episodes within the span of a couple of months Lum falls in love with Miss Fredericks, opens a library, becomes a lion tamer and a fight manager, and starts a bakery. His side kick Abner is a simpler sort with a literal turn of mind and a much more practical nature than Lum. It is Abner's misunderstanding of most of what Lum says that drives much of the humor, humor that is more innocent than that of contemporary drama, but is actually quite hilarious and surprisingly stands up to the passage of three-quarters of a century.
Lum and Abner originally aired before I was even born, but the old radio program began playing in syndication on radio stations around the country back in the early seventies when we were living in Pennsylvania. My father, who had listened to radio shows in his boyhood, introduced me to Lum and Abner. When we moved to Illinois a few years later, we found several southern Illinois stations that aired the syndicated Lum and Abner, and we followed the show as faithfully as any television sitcom. Years later, in 1989, I moved to Ohio and found a station in Portsmouth that was still running Lum and Abner.
In the nineties I became a card-carrying member of The National Lum and Abner Society and bought up all of the extent Lum and Abner episodes on audio cassettes. The episodes run for about 15 minutes a piece, and I like listening to one or two of them while cooking or driving. Today anyone can listen to the program online: For some good old-timey fun, click here. To get the flavor of Lum and Abner, I recommend starting with episode #261 (10/9/41) "Lum's Infatuated with Miss Fredericks" and listening through at least episode #290 (11/27/41) "The Petition of the Lion." By the way, grade-school children (being less jaded than their older siblings) will probably love Lum and Abner. My own daughter used to listen to the program at bedtime.
This you tube link is the traditional Lum and Abner Christmas story that aired every Christmas of the show's run beginning in 1933. The story takes place in Pine Ridge, but reflects Bethlehem's nativity story.