When Donnie Pitchford of Carthage was in college, the campus radio station played old time radio programs. Donnie became a big fan of Lum and Abner, a radio show that was on the air from 1931 to 1954. The program began with the ringing of an old timey telephone. Lum picks up the phone and says, “Jot ‘em Down Store. This is Lum and Abner.” It dealt with life in the small town of Waters, Arkansas near where the two creators of the show, Chester Lauck and Norris Goff grew up. In 1936, due to the popularity of the program, Waters changed its name to Pine Ridge, the name of the fictional town in the series.
For ten years Donnie has produced a Lum and Abner comic strip, syndicated to newspapers and magazines nationally. “I do it weekly, “ says Donnie. “It’s a traditional pen and ink comic strip. We started out producing an audio version for our blind friends, using character voices, music and sound effects. So we re-create in audio what the comic strip depicts every week.” His comic strip and audio version are on lumandabnercomics.com. “We’ve got people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, not just the people who remember the old radio show. We’ve got young people who are discovering these characters,”
Of the 5,000 programs, two have stood the test of time and are now repeated over some media outlets. One is the Thanksgiving episode. The other is the Christmas program which originally began with the announce saying, “We invite you to listen to Lum and Abner’s Christmas story.”
Donnie says it is classic radio. “In 1933 the Lum and Abner program had been on the air just 2 years. They wrote a little story for Christmas and broadcast it on Christmas Eve. It was designed around the symbolic story based on the birth of Christ. The program featured a poor man and his pregnant wife that had sought refuge from the winter weather in an old barn and Lum and Abner heard about it, called the doctor and headed for the barn, which was hard to find. “Where about is the east star,” asked Lum. Abner replied, ”It’s right ahead of us. We’re going in the right direction.“ Lum said, “We’ll just follow the east star, that’ll lead us to it.” Donnie says instead of the 3 wise men it is Lum, Abner and Granpap going to an abandoned barn to help this young couple. At the end of the program the doctor comes to the door and tells the 3 men waiting outside, “It’s a fine baby boy.”
Donnie says that show was so popular they re-performed it every year live until they went off the air. You can find it easily on line. Donnie, an artist and sculptor, was honored to write some Dick Tracy strips and introduced Lum and Abner to Dick Tracy. Donnie does all the production on the audio version, using voices sent to him by email from actors in several states. Donnie taught audio and video production in high schools for several years.