|Mena, Arkansas: After an absence of six years, the
"Ossifers" of the National Lum and Abner Society returned
to Mena, and were pleased to see several longtime NLAS
members present for the annual Lum and Abner Festival!
Perhaps we need to, as Abner would say, "Rack 'em up an'
shoot ag'in." Let's look back so those reading about this for
the first time will get a better picture.
The NLAS Conventions began in June 1985, and were held
annually in Pine Ridge and Mena through 2005, with a break
in 2004 when the organization was part of the REPS
Showcase in Seattle. An even 20 NLAS Conventions
brought numerous celebrities of Old Time Radio to the
home town of Lum and Abner to celebrate the radio and film
series and their creators. The passage of time robbed us of
continued possibilities for guest stars. Additionally, the
Ossifers began to have other conflicts relating to work and
family. It was decided to take a break.
2008 saw the Ossifers invited to perform a Lum and Abner
script at the Memphis Film Festival (click to read related
With 2011 being the 80th anniversary of the first Lum and
Abner radio show and the 75th anniversary of Waters,
Arkansas changing its name to Pine Ridge, it was only
natural to schedule our first NLAS Reunion! Was this NLAS
Convention number 21? Sure, why not?
Larry Block, director of the Ouachita Little Theater in Mena,
invited the NLAS to participate in their presentations held at
the Lyric Theater building, the site of L&A movie screenings
in the 1940s as well as the business referred to in several
Lum and Abner radio programs.
Tim Hollis, Sam Brown and Donnie Pitchford met in Pine
Ridge on Friday, June 3 to reunite with Lon and Kathy
Stucker of the Jot 'Em Down Store and Lum and Abner
Museum. (Click here to visit their site!) Along to assist was
charter NLAS member Raymond Keese of Longview, Texas,
the retired educator who donated the classic Shure 55S
microphones used annually at the NLAS Conventions.
The Ossifers presented 15 minutes of video at the 7:30 p.m.
Ouachita Little Theater program. This consisted of a
"Welcome" video containing several slides representing the
earliest photos of Chet Lauck and "Tuffy" Goff as Lum and
Abner, progressing through the 1930s and 1940s and
concluding with a few video clips from early NLAS
Conventions. After this, the OLT performed their production
entitled "The Adventures of Lum and Abner," which the
Ossifers abandoned without seeing.
What!? The NLAS Ossifers left?? Yes, it's true. They hadn't
eaten and couldn't wait to chow down at the Chopping
Block in Mena! But forgive these misguided souls. They
announced to the audience they'd be certain to stay for the
performance Saturday night!
Various meetings with members took place Saturday
morning and before long it was time for the NLAS to present
a couple of hours of special video at the theater. A shorter
"Welcome" slide show was screened to greet everyone,
after which Ethan Nobles of First Arkansas News (click here
to visit their site) was introduced. Ethan explained an
exciting new project - the Lum and Abner comic strip! After
this, a panel-by-panel video of the first strip was projected,
accompanied by a synchronized sound track containing
music, voices and sound effects.
The major portion of the 2:30 program was reserved for a
screening of the ultra-rare documentary Two Boys From
Mena, produced in 1973 by the Arkansas Education
Television Network. NLAS member Ray Nielsen was the
writer for this fascinating program which was hosted by
AETN's Elbert Hardcastle. The NLAS contacted Mr.
Hardcastle by mail. He was kind enough to reply with a nice
letter, but was unable to attend due to prior commitments.
The documentary contains fascinating color 16mm sound
film of interviews with Chet Lauck in Pine Ridge, Andy
Devine, and Chet Lauck and Tuffy Goff reunited in
California. This was the first screening of this program in
probably 35 years. (If anyone reading has any information
on this production, please contact us. We'd like to know of
its various broadcast dates.)
Among the attendees was John "Grandpap" Knuppel, the
only "perfect attendance" member, and Ben Combs, an
associate and friend of Chet Lauck. We didn't even realize
Mr. Combs was in the audience until the program had
concluded and wish to apologize for failing to introduce him.
Sadly, we failed to make available a sign-in sheet. If you
attended and are reading this, please know how much we
appreciate your being there!
Saturday evening at 7:30 the Ossifers again presented 15
minutes of video, including the shorter "Welcome" slide
show and the Lum and Abner comic strip video. (Click here
to see the comic strip.) After that, the "Four Stooges" (the
Ossifers and their "roadie" Raymond Keese) settled in to
enjoy "The Adventures of Lum and Abner," directed by
Larry Block and performed by the Ouachita Little Theater.
What an impressive performance! The script was a
seamless adaptation of several from 1935 and one from the
half-hour series of programs, and the cast displayed a
wealth of energy and talent. Congratulations! Be sure to
read about their play by clicking here.
We were asked by some of the faithful NLAS members if we
would be returning to participate in Mena's annual Lum and
Abner Festival, or if we might be conducting future NLAS
Conventions at other times. The answer is the fact that we
simply do not know! It is certainly possible, and the
members of the NLAS may hold the answer. Please keep in
contact and let us know what you would like to do!
-"Uncle Donnie" Pitchford
In the video frame at right, Chet Lauck and Norris Goff are
reunited for a 1973 interview during the final segment of
Two Boys From Mena. The NLAS offered the first screening
of this documentary in many years.
The Mena Lum and Abner Festival was packed with
activities for the entire family.
What kind of line-up is this? No, this wasn't something
going on at the Mena Police Department! Left-to-right,
Donnie Pitchford, Tim Hollis, John Knuppel and Sam
Brown pose with the Bobb Lynes portrait of Lum and
Abner on the stage of the Lyric Theater. John
"Grandpap" Knuppel is the only "Perfect Attendance
NLAS Member" there is! See the 1999 Convention
article to see him when he received that tie! (Photo by
Larry Block, Ouachita Little Theater director, playing
the part of announcer Wendell Niles in "The
Adventures of Lum and Abner." Mr. Niles was our 1989
NLAS Convention guest. (Photo by Jo Ann Gill.)
The Ouachita Little Theater is housed in the historic
Lyric Theater on Mena Street.
Elbert Hardcastle hosts Two Boys From Mena, a 1973
production of the Arkansas Educational Television