The hotel was run by Kate Bradley — played by actress Bea Benaderet, also known for being the voice of Betty Rubble on the Flintstones — and her three daughters: brown-haired Bobbie Jo (Pat Woodell, then Lori Saunders); red-haired Betty Jo (played by Linda Kaye Henning); and blonde-haired Billie Jo (Jeannine Riley, then Gunilla Hutton, then Meredith MacRae).
The show lasted seven years, from 1963 to 1970, and CBS made 222 episodes of this classic sitcom. The articles on this page come from 1963 & 1964 — the first two years that “Petticoat Junction” was on the air. We have also included the video of the opening and closing credits, plus the lyrics to the theme tune so you can sing along.
Now, come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks… to the Junction.
Where is Petticoat Junction? (1963)
By Isobel Ashe, Hollywood
In 1962, the top-rated television series, “Beverly Hillbillies,” glamorized the city of Beverly Hills to the point where even its natives didn’t recognize it some of the time.
Last year, the Hillbillies’ creator, Paul Henning, did the same thing for the small towns of America. Except these are recognizable in Henning’s new show, “Petticoat Junction.”
At the outset of announcing that Bea Benaderet, erstwhile “Cousin Pearl” of the Hillbillies, would star in Henning’s new series, trade talk had that the show was more pure corn on the cob, with unsophisticated characters like the Clampetts.
“Not so!” everyone connected with it declared. Henning’s own description of his brainchild:
“There’s a touch of sophisticated frenzy about the whole show,” and story consultant Don Quinn, a veteran of some of radio and television’s finest writing maintains: “One of my main problems as dialogue specialist is to make the writers realize that not everyone who lives in the country speaks like Jed Clampett. They’re not hillbilly types at all.”
As viewers of the show know by this time, “Petticoat Junction” takes its name from Kate Bradley, the proprietress of the Shady Rest Hotel, played by Bea Benaderet and her three beautiful daughters.
The three girls
These are Billie Jo — Jeannine Riley — who’s boy-crazy for all the traveling salesmen who visit the hotel both for her charms and the charms of her mother’s cooking; Betty Jo, played by Linda Kaye, who’s the youngest and the tomboy of the group — she’d rather run the train that serves the Junction than anything else; and Bobbie Jo, played by Pat Woodell, who’s interested only in books.
So much for the Petticoats. The Junction consists of the hotel being placed near a spur line connecting Hooterville and Pixley Junction. (See these spots and more in streaming video of the show at Amazon.)
In fact, the owner of the C & F W Railroad have long since forgotten the spur line, and some of the scripts have to do with the big city bosses’ efforts to close it down.
A portion of this premise is based on fact. As a youngster growing up in Missouri, Henning recalls tales of his grandmother running a hotel in Eldon, Missouri, and raising daughters in proximity to construction men working on the nearby Bagnall Dam.
And in Independence, Missouri, his own home town, Henning was fascinated with a train called The Brush, which took workers daily to and from the nearby cement factory.
So from these childhood recollections came the premise for the new show.
“A lot of people do come from small towns, and there is sentiment connected with the whistle of the railroad train,” he points out.
“In one of our scripts, there’s a speech that Bea Benaderet delivers to the villain from the city who wants to close down the railroad. It sums it up beautifully. She says, “Folks in this valley depend on that train. It hauls the farmers’ crops to market, takes their children to school, brings their supplies from town. And on Sunday it makes a special trip just to take folks to church.
“When my three babies was born who came screamin’ through the night, bringing the doctor to my side? The Hooterville Cannonball. Her whistle speaks a language we all understand.
Hymn of comfort
“To the children, it’s a lullaby. To young folks, a song of love and to the old it’s a hymn of comfort. Folks in this valley haven’t got much money, but as long as that little train runs, they’ll never be poor.”
Petticoat Junction theme song lyrics
Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks
To the Junction
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax
At the Junction
Lotsa curves — you bet
Even more, when you get
To the Junction
There’s a little hotel called the Shady Rest
At the Junction
It is run by Kate, come and be her guest
At the Junction
And that’s Uncle Joe, he’s a-movin’ kind of slow
At the Junction
Petticoat Junction checks several boxes
Sentimental it is, and poignant it is. Funny it is, too, although as Bea is first to point out, “We don’t aim for belly laughs as the Hillbillies do. Our humor is quieter, and the show is probably going to take longer to catch on — for the people to get to know us.
“But what I love about it is that we all work as a team. The chemistry among the entire cast on Hillbillies is the same way, and I think we’ve got it among the seven of us, too.”
The seven to whom Bea refers are, in addition to her three daughters, veteran show business entertainers Edgar Buchanan, Smiley Burnette and Rufe Davis.
“Edgar plays my Uncle Joe. I thought he had a gold mine, and was going to leave it to me. So I named all my girls after him — Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo.
“And it wasn’t till after they were born and all named of course, that I found out there wasn’t any gold in the mine,’ she chuckled.
Meanwhile, Uncle Joe helps out at the Shady Rest Hotel, dreaming up _ grandiose schemes that seldom materialize. He boasts they’ve got the only hotel elevator in the county. Of course, it doesn’t run, and currently is a cage for a mynah bird, but it’s an elevator.
They’ve got a phone, too, except it isn’t connected either. He says they “add class” to the lobby. He’s talking about an airplane landing strip — for an area where planes never fly. And a swimming pool, in a neighborhood where there isn’t much water.
Buchanan says, “I’ve got the easiest job in the cast. Mostly I just sit and rock on the porch.”
Running the railroad are Smiley Burnette and Rufe Davis. Burnette is, of course, best known as ‘Frog’ to movie fans who saw his characterization in the upbrimmed black hat in 171 movies for the past 29 years.
And Rufe Davis, also a veteran movie comic and night club performer, noted for his characterization and imitations, is delighted to be making a comeback in Hollywood.
“Not that I’ve been retired, mind you,” he says hastily. “I’ve been touring all over the world for the servicemen and playing all over the country at fairs.
“But you know, when you’re away from Hollywood or New York, people forget about you. I went up to New York not long ago to do an Ed Sullivan show, and old friends like Guy Lombardo said, ‘We thought you were dead.’ Not one bit, just counting my money, living in Chicago,” he laughed.
But it is a matter of great pride to him that he decided to return to Hollywood to see what was happening, phoned his agent, and three days later was signed for the role of “Floyd Smoot” in “Petticoat Junction.”
“They told me when I signed the contract they’d written this part with me in mind, and even they didn’t know where I was at the time!”
It’s plain to see there’s plenty of team spirit among the “Petticoat Junction” cast, and first to disclaim temperament is the show’s star, Bea Benaderet.
“They tell me I’m a star, but I don’t feel like one,” she says in that voice which would be familiar in any guise — including the Betty Rubble character on The Flintstones, which she still does.
“I’m glad to be a star, but I really think the train’s the star.”
She motioned to the Hooterville Cannonball, which takes up a large portion of General Service Studio’s Stage Seven where the show is filmed.
As one newsman commented. “It’s one of the most expensive Tinker Toys on the market.”
The train, actually made of plastic, was built for a 20th Century Fox movie, “A Ticket to Tomahawk.” It was later bought at an auction by Portland, Oregon hotel man, Harvey Dick, and is now leased to Filmways and Paul Henning for use on “Petticoat Junction.”
“And when it runs, we all get seasick,” says Bea. “They shake it from side to side.
“Of course, I’m never quite sure just where it’s running. Because I don’t really know where we are. They told us the Junction is 150 miles from nowhere, and I didn’t have to play ‘Kate Bradley’ in dialect.
“But wherever I am, I’m glad to be here,” she says with a broad grin. “I always did like trains better than planes. Nostalgic, you know.”
Cast notes: Here’s the lowdown on the actors on TV’s Petticoat Junction (1964)
Paul Henning, creator-producer of TV’s hottest show, “Beverly Hillbillies,” as well as “Petticoat Junction,” would rather talk about his popular crew than himself. And that’s unique in show business!
Henning, a George Gobel look-alike, loses his natural good humor only when reminded that many TV critics and writers continually blast both his highly-rated CBS-TV programs.
“I’d rather please the people than the critics,” is his answer. “I created both shows because I was sick and tired of all the violence, crime and sadism on television. I wanted to put something on the air that was pure fun and escapism.”
Here are his off-the-antenna remarks about the stars of Petticoat Junction. (Read what he had to say about the stars of Beverly Hillbillies here.)
BEA BENADERET. “She is the main reason I did this show. I’ve been a fan of hers for 20 years. Bea wanted the Granny role on ‘Hillbillies,’ but she wasn’t right for it. I gave her the part of Cousin Pearl, but told Bea that it wouldn’t be too strong a role, because I had her in mind for the lead in another series.”
EDGAR BUCHANAN. “He’s a joy, a delight. Every time you see him, he has a different story to tell. I don’t know where he digs them up. Ed’s perfect in his role — and no one is the least surprised about it.”
JEANNINE RILEY. “Ozzie Nelson recommended her to me when he found out I was looking for a young actress. He said: ‘Paul, I use a lot of girls on our show, as you know. Almost all the girls have acting school experience. They’re taught everything except how to memorize their lines. Jeannine was different. She came on the set thoroughly prepared.’ I took a peek at a film clip of Jeannine and agreed immediately with Ozzie.”
PAT WOODELL. “I have never seen anyone with a figure like hers. There isn’t a movie star around today as shapely. Her figure is perfection itself. In addition, Pat is sweet and sincere. She soon will be married to actor Gary Clarke. What will happen if she has a baby next year? I’ll just have to find another actress, that’s all.”
LINDA KAYE. “As everyone knows by now, Linda is my daughter. I had nothing to do with casting her on this show, but no one believes me. She is working very hard to overcome the advantage of being my daughter. Linda has one wonderful quality that makes me most proud to be her father: she cares about people. Will I be disappointed if she doesn’t make it big as an actress? I couldn’t care less. I know Linda will always be happy. She will because that’s the kind of girl she is.”