The show notes today are provided by the Jot ‘Em Down Journal of December 1998.
With apologies to our NLAS members who prefer the half-hour L&A series, this writer finds them less enjoyable than those of the 15-minute format Years before the reintroduction of these 1948 recordings, the ”ossifor5- of the NLAS jokingly suggested that a 30-minute adaptation of the annual. Christmas classic might have been a disaster! We imagined the insertion of gags and slapstick, suggesting there might be scenes of Abner or ,Grandpap falling on their faces in the snow – or perhaps the wailing cry of our friend Jerry Hausner as the baby, breaking up the live audience with his appearance on stage! Instead of venerable old Doc Miller greeting the three bearers of gifts, imagine the surprise utterance of ”fine!” as Ben Withers pops out of the barn door to announce the baby boy’s birth!
It was with great relief that we -ossifers” finally listened to the 1948 Christmas program! Mr. Niles informs the audience that no commercial interruption will mar the evening (we feared our heroes might meet him en route to the barn, standing by his faithful Frigidaire, surrounded by snow). No unwanted material was added to the ”traditional” story we’ve all grown to love. Instead, as a prologue of sorts, we are gently guided by Niles into the parlor of Abner’s home, where Lum, Ben Withers and Ezra Seestrunk (Horace Murphy) are enjoying the singing of carolers (the Mitchell Boys Choir), and decide afterward to hold their awn sing-along session, with Sister Simpson (Vivian Lasswell) accompanying them on organ.
All concerned deserve immense praise for the handling of the singing sequence. What could have become an audience snicker-festival (with comical singing and wailing by this Pine Ridge quartet) is instead handled with believable dignity, as the characters perform beloved Christmas hymns. As a matter of fact, the studio audience seems rather reserved, and the humor is toned down considerably, quite befitting the season.
For the first time, the listeners were able to hear the receiving of the oft-mentioned phone call from Grandpappy Spears, requesting the assistance of Lum and Abner to tend to a ”real Christmas mission.” Thus we neatly weave into the beloved Christmas script, by that time celebrating the 15th anniversary of its original 1933 broadcast.
No doubt the studio audience was asked to remain silent during this segment (certainly no house microphone was open, as was usually the case to ”sweeten” the laughter). Lauck and Goff once again present this holiday classic with all the warmth we have come to expect. (”Classic” has become an overused word, but in this case is more than appropriate.) Praise is due the cast and crew of this particular program for keeping it in the spirit of the earlier renditions!