Rural Missouri - December 2012 - (Page 29)

Screenwriter Paul Henning included the state he loved in popular TV shows He landed a job singing jingles on Kansas City’s KMBZ radio and began writing copy in a career that eventually led him to “the place you oughta “Hold It! I think you’re gonna like be. . . swimmin’ pools. . . movie stars.” this picture...” Even today, nearly everybody can sing the words to Henning’s most famous hat phrase launched every song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.” episode of “Love That Bob,” He not only wrote the song, he a 1950s sitcom that featured created “The Beverly Hillbillies” televia trendy photographer who sion show and a pair of spinoffs, “Petmigrated to Hollywood from Joplin. ticoat Junction” and “Green Acres.” The star of “The Bob Cummings All have roots in Missouri. But as a Show,” as it was originally called, flew fledgling songbird at KMBZ, those an airplane that readily converted hits were still over the horizon. They into a car. The role was a natural for might not have happened at all if it the dashing Cummings, who was weren’t for the inspiration of his life, born and raised in Joplin. a young singer who shared a microWhile the show rarely makes anyphone with Paul at the body’s top 10 list, this station. Her name was story of a modern day Ruth Barth, and much Lothario became a of her family heritage fountain of success for springs from the hills one local screenwriter, around Tuscumbia. who produced a gushEarly on, Ruth er of subsequent hits encouraged Paul’s career, with more footprints even while she pursued in Missouri than a her own. It was Ruth cement pond full of who found out about opossums. The scripts the opening that led to came from the fertile Paul’s big break: He landmind of Paul Hened scriptwriting stints ning, born on a farm for Fibber McGee and near Blue Ridge, outMolly, and Burns and side of Independence. Paul Henning Allen. That led him to There’s a legend Los Angeles and, yes, to matrimony. around the Independence square that He convinced Ruth to join him in back in 1929, Harry S. Truman sat L.A., and that partnership produced at the soda fountain at Pendleton’s three children, two grandchildren and Drugstore and offered advice to Hena succession of hits that dominated ning, who was earning some extra the TV ratings during money as a soda jerk after the school bell released the students at William Chrisman High School. Truman’s advice: become a lawyer. Henning tried law school. But his heart followed another script. by John Robinson info@ruralmissouri.coop Area is not the only wildlife refuge in the 1960s and sewed dozens of lasting the area, but it may boast the most images and phrases into America’s culintriguing history. tural fabric. The summits and hollers along this Missouri connections show up rugged stretch of the White River were throughout his stories. Paul’s brotherhangouts and hideouts for the Baldin-law, Petey Childers, was a pharmaknobbers. Dewey Bald and the Signal cist in Independence, so when Granny Tree and Sammy Lane’s Lookout are Clampett needed medicine, she called immortalized in “The Shepherd of the Petey Childers. When Ellie May fed Hills,” Harold Bell Wright’s cautionary her chickens, she called them by the tale about vigilante justice. names of Paul’s sisters. Nearly a century later, Ruth and Some folks even claim Paul donated this historic land that the first piglet to to the Missouri Department star as Green Acres’ adorof Conservation for future able Arnold Ziffel came from • generations to enjoy. They Union Star. Paul entertained Tuscumbia felt a need to give back to Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan the area that spawned and other cast members in their creativity. Independence. Scenes in five Sure, the Hennings episodes of the “The Beverly borrowed bits and pieces Hillbillies” were filmed at Branson’s from Texas and Tennessee to weave Silver Dollar City. into the fabric of “The Beverly HillbilHenning often credited the idea lies” quilt. Black gold. Bug Tussle. But for “The Beverly Hillbillies” to his Boy there’s little doubt that the cultural Scout camping trips in the Ozarks. uniqueness of Branson provided the And several of the characters are based creative spark. As testament, Paul on Missourians. donated one of “The Beverly HillbilThrough it all, Ruth was his muse lies” most enduring icons — the 1921 and inspiration. She fascinated him Oldsmobile jalopy that carried the with tales of her Miller County roots, Clampetts to Hollywood — to the and he wove many of those stories Ralph Foster Museum at the College of into scripts. The Hooterville happenthe Ozarks near Branson. ings and the song, “Petticoat JuncBack in Tuscumbia, most locals tion,” sprouted from Paul’s hand, can tell you about their two most inspired by Ruth’s childhood. famous permanent residents. For all Even the Shady Rest Hotel, centertheir worldly success, the Hennings piece to the set of “Petticoat Junction” came back home for eternal rest. and often featured in “Green Acres,” They’re buried near a giant cedar tree is based on the Burris Hotel in Eldon, that shades the oldest part of what owned by Ruth’s grandparents. Now was originally called Burris Cemetery, only a memory, the hotel was where named for Ruth’s family, now Tusthe old Rock Island Railroad would cumbia Cemetery. Some years ago, deliver Ruth for summer visits. Paul donated money to fix the cemePaul and Ruth created hits in Holtery wall. It was a simple act, symbolic lywood, but they never abandoned of the wholesome neighborliness that their Missouri roots. he portrayed in his television scripts. Visitors can find Although the Hennings made their lasting proof in a mark in Hollywood, they made their 1,534-acre parcel of final resting place in the state that conservation land produced the rich fabric of their stowest of Branson. ries, with roots set deep in Missouri. The Ruth and Paul Henning Robinson is a freelance writer from Conservation Columbia. He recently finished driving every mile of every road on Missouri’s highway map. His book, “A Road Trip Into America’s Hidden Heart,” will be available later this month from e-book sellers and bookstores online. Notable Branson hunting and fishing guide, Jim Owen, poses between “The Beverly Hillbillies” characters, Elly Mae and Granny. The show ran from 1962 to 1971 and gained Paul Henning popularity. Ratings were said to rival those of Super Bowls. Rooted in Missouri T photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City photo courtesy of Lyons Memorial Library, College of the Ozarks

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - December 2012

Rural Missouri - December 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Faith in fruitcakes
Best of rural Missouri
Pursuing dreams
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Beauty from math and metal
Spreading the Masonic message
Hearth and Home
Rooted in Missouri
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - December 2012

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