"Petticoat Junction": The Classic TV "Country Com" was Based on A Real Hotel and Almost Featured Actress Sharon Tate

Herbie J Pilato

Photo byThe Classic TV Preservation Society

The word "cozy" was made for the TV country comedy, Petticoat Junction, which originally aired on CBS from 1963 to 1970.

According to Wikipedia.com, "The show centers on the goings-on at the rural Shady Rest Hotel. Widowed Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet) is the proprietor. Her lazy but lovable Uncle Joe Carson (Edgar Buchanan) supposedly helps her in the day-to-day running of the hotel, while she serves as a mediator in the various minor crises that befall her three beautiful daughters: redhead Betty Jo (Linda Kaye Henning); brunette Bobbie Jo (first Pat Woodell, later Lori Saunders); and blonde Billie Jo (first Jeannine Riley, then Gunilla Hutton, and finally Meredith MacRae). Uncle Joe, when he is not idling in his favorite porch chair, frequently comes up with half-baked get-rich-quick schemes and ill-conceived hotel promotions which end up with him making a fool of himself.

"Early on, much of the show also focuses on the Hooterville Cannonball, an 1890s vintage steam-driven train run more like a taxi service by engineer Charley Pratt (Smiley Burnette) and fireman/railway conductor Floyd Smoot (Rufe Davis). It was not uncommon for the Cannonball to make an unscheduled stop for the crew to go fishing, or to pick fruit for Kate's apple butter and pies. The single-tracked Hooterville to Pixley spur line was cut off from the rest of the railroad 20 years before the start of the show by the demolition of a trestle. Charlie and Floyd are alternately depicted as retired employees of the railroad receiving pensions and salaried railroad workers.

"Trips on the Cannonball usually include a stop in Hooterville at Drucker's Store run by Sam Drucker (Frank Cady). Drucker's is the local hub, where menfolk come to play checkers and chat. Sam Drucker is the postmaster and his telephone is a lifeline for the Bradleys, Uncle Joe, and others."

Photo byThe Classic TV Preservation Society

The show's intended original cast (as seen above, from left to right) included Pat Woodell, Bea Benederet, Linda Kaye Henning, and Sharon Tate, who died tragically in 1969.

According to ClassicCountryMusic.com, "The Shady Rest Hotel and the antics befalling the characters on Petticoat Junction were all based on a real hotel – and its wide cast of character-like guests. This hotel was called the Burris Hotel in Eldon, Missouri.

"The Burris Hotel was known to be a “hustling, bustling” hotspot, as described by Peggy Smith Hake at the Miller County Museum. The writer of Petticoat Junction, Paul Henning, drew inspiration for the series after hearing of the tales from the Burris Hotel from his mother-in-law, whose parents were the innkeepers.

"As one of nine children who grew up at the Burris Hotel, Henning’s mother-in-law, Alice Burris, had many memories and tales of wild visitors and strangers who would come through town. It was from these stories she told that Henning was able to build an entire television series.

"For seven years, Petticoat Junction entertained and delighted folks all across America with its hysterical antics and wild stories – which were all based on real people," ClassicCountryMusic.com concluded.

For more information about Petticoat Junction, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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