Petticoat Junction is one of the best situation comedy (sitcom) shows aired in the early 60s. American screenwriter and producer Paul Henning created this sitcom. The Petticoat Junction’s storyline mainly focused on the Bradley family, who owns the Shady Rest Hotel. Kate Bradley is the proprietor of the hotel. Her three daughters, Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo, Billie Jo, and her uncle Joe Carson also help her manage the hotel.Betty Jo was a redhead, Bobbie Jo a brunette, and Billie Jo a blonde.
The Shady Rest Hotel is located near a water stop in a remote portion of C. & F. W. Railroad, where the Hooterville Cannonball train takes its course from Hooterville going to Pixley town.
Another character, Uncle Joe, is usually seen idling the time away in a porch chair. He also dreams about getting rich quick with various scheme and promotions regarding the hotel. Eventually, these schemes and ideas backfire and make him look like a fool.
During its pilot airing on September 24, 1963, on CBS, the sitcom mainly featured funny skits in Hooterville Cannonball. These especially included the misadventures of Homer Bedloe, who failed several times in shutting down the Cannonball’s operations. In the succeeding episodes, the show’s story gradually shifted, with its plot highlighting the going-on in the Shady Rest Hotel. There are several misadventures in the Shady Rest Hotel as well; courtesy of Kate’s three beautiful daughters. The three usually get into trouble, but fortunately Kate always came to settle the mess.
The Petticoat Junction ran for seven seasons and aired a total of222 episodes. Its final airing was on April 04, 1970.
Below are some fun facts about Petticoat Junction that might interest you.
- Superstar Dog – Nobody predicted that the mainstay dog in the show would also rise to fame. It wasn’t any ordinary kind of fame either; the dog became a real superstar! The dog, which Betty brought from school, was actually unnamed in the show. But the unnamed dog was very adorable and smart, making the execution of every punchline easier and funnier. The dog really captured the people’s hearts, and it enjoyed a whopping 14-year career in Hollywood. The unnamed dog in the Petticoat Junction, called Higgins in real life, even top-billed in the 1974 box office hit movie, ‘Benji.’
- Reused Train – The Cannonball was a Sierra Railway No. 3 locomotive built in 1891. Rogers Locomotive & Machine Works of Paterson N.J. originally built the famous train for the Prescott & Arizona Central Railroad Company. Aside from the Petticoat Junction, the same train was also used in the ‘The Virginian’ TV series and ‘High Noon’ movie. Even in the 90s, the train was still in superb condition and was reused in the hit movie ‘Back to the Future III.’
- Change in Occupations:In the early days of the show, the train called the Hooterville Cannonball used to make several unscheduled stops at the hotel. The crew would then go fishing or pick some fruit for Kate make pies and apple butter. Afterwards, the conductor and engineer of the train were seen as retired employees receiving pensions.
- Fictional Band – Did you know that a fictional band was formed at the height of the Petticoat Junction’s popularity? Billie, Bobbie, and Betty Jo created the fictional singing group named The Ladybugs. The band released a total of 45 singles. Due to its popularity, the band was invited to perform live on The Ed Sullivan Show.
- 3-in-1 – Frank Cady played the role of Sam Drucker, the owner of Drucker’s General Store in the Hooterville. Aside from the Petticoat Junction show, Cady also appeared simultaneously in the show’s spinoff series- Green Acres and Hillbillies.
- Secret Title. There was no junction in the Petticoat Junction. The show’s title was actually taken from the nickname of a water stop near the Shady Rest Hotel. The water stop was called ‘Petticoat Junction’ because the Bradley sisters are fond of swimming in the water tower, leaving their petticoats on the railway’s side.
- The Import – Bea Benaderet, who played the role of Kate Bradley, was just an import from the animated TV series- The Flintstones. Bea was the voice of Betty Rubble, the wife of cave dweller Barney Rubble, from 1960-1964.
- The ‘Finale’:The Petticoat Junction did not manage to have a series finale. Some might choose to regard the fourth-to-last episode, called ‘Last Train to Pixley’ as a sort of finale as it tied up many loose ends. Here, the residents of the hotel as well as Sam Drucker went on a ride on the Cannonball train. There were several flashbacks of fishing, driving the train, and other cherished memories.
Brief History of the Petticoat Junction
The famous American screenwriter and producer Paul Henning created the Petticoat Junction. This sitcom was aired on CBS from 1963- 1970. Based on the Nielsen Media Research survey, the Petticoat Junction’s pilot airing gained an enormous 30.3 rating, making it the 4th best program in its timeslot- Tuesday, 9:00 PM.
But during the sitcom’s fifth season, a major setback happened. This was after the 61 years old actress Bea Benaderet (Kate Bradley) was diagnosed with lung cancer. Bea immediately took a six-week radiation treatment to recover from her illness. While she was out, a couple of actresses entered the show to somehow fill in the gap, including Shirley Mitchell and Rosemary DeCamp. These actresses played the cousin and sister of Kate Bradley, respectively.
The fifth season finale (Kate’s Homecoming episode) was dedicated to Bea’s rejoining to the show. It was indeed a heart-warming episode. However, at the outset of the sixth season, Bea again experienced a lot of fatigue and was advised to take a break. Bea planned to recover and come back to the show as fast as she could, but her body could not hold on anymore. Bea died on October 13, 1968.
The Petticoat Junction suffered a great loss without the main character, Kate. But the show must go on. June Lockhart gave her best shot tofill the big shoes left by Bea. June portrayed Dr. Janet Craig, a healthcare worker who rented a room in Shady Rest Hotel. In 1968, it was a rare scenario to see a female doctor on T.V. This was one of the reasons why the show gradually increased its ratings again.