recreation of that script, with (alphabetically) Sam
Brown as Honeyboy Davis, Tim Hollis as Lum and
Mose Moots, Verla (Mrs. Eddie) Huckaby as Widder
Abernathy, Donnie Pitchford as Abner, and Laura
Pitchford as Zasu Pitts. For announcer, who could
ask for better casting than Fred Foy as Wendell
Niles? (Mr. Niles, who passed away in 1994, was an
NLAS Convention guest ten years ago - another
anniversary. See the August 1989 issue of the
Journal, or the 1989 videotape!)
"The doggonedest thing..." Opie Cates was
portrayed by Robert Cates - Opie's son!! When it
came time for Opie's hilariously horrid rendition of
"Glow Worm," Robert produced his father's actual
clarinet as a prop! (The taped version Robert
pretended to play was performed by Laura Pitchford,
but he surprised us by actually squeaking out the first
phrase!) Other NLAS "firsts" were the performances
of the ladies in the cast (Mrs. Huckaby had played
"the Widder" in the aforementioned Mena stage
shows), Tim's flabbergasting impersonation of Andy
Devine (Mose), and Donnie's version of Abner
singing "'I Grannies, I Love You" to a newly created
backing track. (See our June 1999 issue for the script
to this program.)
|Doy Grubbs greets Chet (Lum) Lauck at the
dedication of the Lum and Abner Monument in
Mena, June 1979.
|Donnie Pitchford (left) and Sam Brown (right) present
Doy Grubbs with one of the 1999 Lum and Abner
|15-year Convention veteran John Knuppel
with his newly-created Lum and Abner necktie.
The Saturday evening program was devoted
entirely to the multi-talented Opie Cates. As the
"ossifers" joked, this convention could have been
renamed "the Cates Family Reunion," because all of
Opie's children (Bob, Dixie, Dinah, Linda and Liza)
were present, bringing with them their spouses,
children and grandchildren! Never before has the
NLAS been honored with such a large ensemble of
family members paying tribute to their patriarch.
Robert Cates led us through Opie's life via photos
projected onto two large monitors, and audio clips of
his musical and comedic performances.
Other incredible anniversaries were observed!
We listened to Opie's own audio "demo" of "I
Grannies, I Love You," which was recorded June 26,
1949, exactly 50 years prior to our Saturday programs!
The July 1949 half-century old, half-hour Lum and
Abner CBS TV pilot was offered on videotape, and it
proved nostalgic in more ways than one. Introducing
it, thanks to a 1985 convention clip, was Roz Rogers,
one of our first-ever guest stars (the other being
Clarence Hartzell). Be sure to see our October issue
for a special salute to Opie Cates!
What a sight it was when all of Opie's children
came forward to accept (and pretend to fight over)
the third 1999 Lum and Abner Memorial Award,
engraved to "The Opie Cates Family." The support,
enthusiasm and generosity of the Cates family would
make Opie proud. The "distance prize," for the
person traveling the farthest to attend, went to a
member of the Cates family, Richard Cates Hayes of
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Ted Theodore (also a member of the fine OTR
organization SPERDVAC, P.O. Box 7177, Van Nuys, CA
91409) once again provided the guitar
accompaniment to L&A's favorite song, "They Cut
Down the Old Pine Tree," the traditional closing to the
NLAS conventions. This year, we dedicated the song
to Mr. and Mrs. Troy Boyd of Sulphur Springs. Texas.
Mr. Boyd has often played the melody on his
hand-crafted fiddle, but the couple was unable to
attend this year due to illnesses. Get well soon, Mr.
and Mrs. Boyd!
The NLAS extended the best wishes of Helen
Hartzell, widow of Clarence "Ben Withers" Hartzell.
"Auntie Helen" was sorely missed, and we hope to
see her back next year!
We were pleased to again have Scott Lauck,
"Lum's grandson," in attendance for our Saturday
evening meeting. The Mayor of Mena, Henry
Sunderman, honored us with his presence during the
weekend as well. The sad task of "striking the set" in
the Lime Tree Inn meeting room was accomplished by
the "ossifers" and members Chuck Anders and Jim
There was a classic moment that would have
made a perfect concluding shot for the 1999 video
highlights. Sadly, no cameras were rolling! Imagine if
you will the Sunday morning departure of
silver-haired Fred Foy, about to step into Sam
Brown's silver automobile, raising one hand skyward,
smiling warmly, and issuing that hearty cry... "HI YO
- "Uncle Donnie" Pitchford
Only one NLAS member holds the distinction of
perfect attendance to our 15 conventions: John
"Grand-pappy" Knuppel of Yukon, Oklahoma! "I
wonder what's in this tie box?" quipped "Grandpap,"
as he opened his commemorative gift. Mr. Knuppel
received the fourth in a series of hand-painted Lum
and Abner ties, which matches the three worn by the