Remember the catchy theme song and the steam engine? "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 . . . Petticoat Junction . . . .whooo whooo whistle stop). The rural comedy Petticoat Junction originally aired on CBS from 1963 to 1970. Petticoat Junction and its spinoff, Green Acres, were produced by Paul Henning (1911-2005), who was also the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies. Petticoat Junction was set in the farming community of Hooterville. Widowed Kate Bradley was the proprietor of The Shady Rest Hotel, assisted by her three lovely daughters, blonde Billie Jo, brunette Bobbie Jo and red-haired Betty Jo, as well as her uncle, Joe Carson. The show was also focused on the Hooterville Cannonfall, a steam driven train, vintage 1887, run by engineer Charley Pratt and fireman/conductor Floyd Smoot. The single-tracked secondary line ran from Hooterville to Pixy and was operated like a taxi service, frequently making unscheduled stops. Railroad executive Homer Bedloe, played by veteran character actor Charles Lane, tried to shut the Cannonball down, but never succeeded.
Below is a 1964 photo of the original Bradley sisters: L to R - Pat Woodell (Bobbie Jo), Jeannine Riley (Billie Jo) and Linda Kaye Henning (Betty Jo).
THE CAST OF PETTICOAT JUNCTION:
EDGAR BUCHANAN (UNCLE JOE CARSON): Veteran actor Edgar Buchanan appeared in over 100 films during his career, but he is probably best remember for his role as Uncle Joe Carson, Kate Bradley's uncle on Petticoat Junction. Edgar played sleepy, slow-moving Uncle Joe in all 222 episodes of the show, as well as in 17 episodes of Green Acres and three episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies. Joe was often seen lounging on his favourite porch chair. "And that;s Uncle Joe, he's a-movin' kinda slow at the junction . . ."
JEANNINE RILEY (BILLIE JO BRADLEY): Jeannine Brooke Riley was born in Fresno, California on October 1, 1940. She moved with her family to nearby Madera when her father left the Army and was eventually schooled in acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena. Jeannine portrayed Billie Joe Bradley on Petticoat Junction from 1963 to 1965. Prior to her role as Billie Joe, she had guest roles in episodes of series such as Dr. Kildare (1962), Route 66 (1966), My Three Sons (1962), Wagon Train (1963) and The Virginian (1963). On March 22, 1964, Jeannine appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with her TV sisters, Pat Woodell, Linda Kaye Henning and guest actress Sheila James Kuehl. They called themselves The Ladybugs, after the name of their band in an episode of Petticoat Junction, which parodied The Beatles (Season 1, Episode 27, Air Date March 24, 1964) and was shown just two days after the Fab Four's much-heralded appearance on the Sullivan show.
In 1965,Jeannine left her role on Petticoat Junction to pursue a movie career.. She appeared in a few feature films such as The Mouth (1967), Fever Heat (1968), The Comic (1969) and Electra Glide in Blue (1973). After Petticoat Junction, she also appeared in episodes of a number of TV series including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1966), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1966, 1967), The Wild Wild West (1967), Gomer Pyle, USMC (1969), Love, American Style (1969, 1970, 1971) and James at 16 (1976). From 1973 to 1974, Jeannine had the recurring role of Lulu McQueen, in 26 episodes of Dusty's Trail, a comic Western starring Bob Denver and Forrest Tucker. Jeannine's last screen appearance was as a landlady in the 1991 science fiction drama Timebomb. Her last TV role was as Marge Russell in a 1988 episode of High Mountain Rangers entitled "Ambassador." In 2020, Jeannine released a self-help book called The Bolder Woman: It's About Time, which she wrote to advise women on how they can fulfill their dreams at any age.
GUNILLA HUTTON (BILLIE JO BRADLEY): Gunilla Hutton was born in Gothenburg, Sweden on May 15, 1944, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas,. An actress, singer and dancer, Gunilla was the second Billie Jo Bradley and she played the role in over 30 episodes from 1965 to 1966, She also appeared on popular game shows such as Password, Match Game and Family Feud.
In 1964, Gunilla toured with Nate "King" Cole's stage show. The legendary singer fill recklessly in love with her and the two began an extramarital romance. Gunilla urged Cole's wife, Maria, to divorce him. Maria then confronted her husband about the affair with Hutton and he ended it after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.. Nat "King: Cole died on February 15, 1965. Prior to her stint on Petticoat Junction, Gunilla appeared in episodes of Perry Mason (1965) and Burkes's Law (1965). After Petticoat Junction, she guest-starred in two 1979 episodes of The Love Boat and two episodes of Fantasy Island (1980, 1981). She also played Raquel in the made-for-TV film Murder Can Hurt You, a spoof of television crime dramas, featuring Marty Allen, Tony Danza, Jamie Farr, Gavin MacLeod, Buck Owen, Connie Stevens and Buck Owens. Gunilla was a regular cast member of the country music variety show Hee Haw until 1992, when she retired.
On January 10, 1970, Gunilla wed Allan L. Freeman, an American real estate developer. The couple had three children: Christian, Amber and Erik. They divorced after a marriage of 43 years and Allan died in Palm Desert California on August 30, 2014. He was 80 years old at the time of his passing.
Gunilla appeared in Country's Family Reunion: Salute to the Kornfield, a 2015 documentary series involving the original Hee Haw cast. In 2015 she also appeared in a MeTV commercial promoting Petticoat Junction, along with Linda Kaye Henning and Lori Sanuders.
MEREDITH MacRAE (BILLIE JO BRADLEY): Meredith Lynn MacRae was born on May 30, 1944 in Houston, Texas, the daughter of actors Gordon and Sheila MacRae. At eight years old, Meredith appeared in the film By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953), starring her father.
From 1963 to 1965, Meredith played Sally Ann Morrison ,on My Three Sons. In an episode entitled "The First Marriage" (Season 6, Episode 1, Air Date, September 16, 1965), Sally marries eldest son Mike Douglas, played by Tim Considine, and the newlyweds leave town for Mike's new job out of state. Meredith and Tim both left My Three Sons after their TV wedding.
In 1966, Meredith MacRae became the third and final Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction, taking over the role from Gunilla Hutton. Meredith remained with the series until its cancellation in 1970. She also played Billie Jo in three 1968 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies.
After Petticoat Junction ended its run, Meredith appeared in episodes of numerous TV shows such as The Interns (1971), Alias Smith and Jones (1971), Love, American Style (1970, 1971), The F.B,I, (1973), The Rockford Files (1977), CHiPs (1980), The Fall Guy (1983, 1984), Webster (1985), Magnum, P.I (1986). In 1995, she appeared as herself as a talk show host in the film The Killers Within.
Meredith was married three times. In 1964, she wed Richard Berger (1939-2004), a film and television executive, as well as a theatrical producer. The couple divorced four years later and Meredith went on to marry actor Greg Mulavey on April 19, 1969. Mulavey, who starred in Marry Hartman, Mary Hartman, and Meredith had one child, a daughter named Allison (born 1974), and divorced in 1987. In 1995, Meredith married her third husband, Philip Mark Neal, Chairman and CEO of Avery Dennison Corporation, a manufacturer and distributor of office products.
In 1999, Meredith MacCrae was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died of complications from the disease on July 14, 2000 at her home in Manhattan Beach, California. She was 56 years old.
PAT WOODELL (BOBBIE JO BRADLEY): Pat played brunette middle sister Bobbie Joe Bradley from 1963 to 1965. She left Petticoat Junction in order to pursue a singing career. Singing was her first love and she performed musical numbers on the show. Pat's final television acting role was in a 1973 episode of The New Perry Mason. as Jenny in "The Case of the Murdered Murderer" (Season 1, Episode 7, Air Date: October 28, 1973). When her acting career ended, she worked for self-improvement guru Werner Erhard in his est seminar organization. She later confounded a consulting firm. Pat Woodell retired in 2013. She passed away on September 29, 2015 at the age of 71 after having battled cancer for more than 20 years.
LORI SAUNDERS (BOBBIE JO BRADLEY): Lori Saunders was born Linda Marie Hines on October 4, 1941 in Kansas City, Missouri. From 1960 to 1962, she appeared in five episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (under the name Linda Hines). She also had a bit part as a "brunette at a party" in a 1964 episode of Burke's Law. Lori portrayed Bobbie Jo Bradley in over 145 episodes of Petticoat Junction, taking over the role from Pat Woodell, in 1965 and remaining until the show's run ended in 1970. In the last season of The Beverly Hillbillies, Lori played her Bobbie Jo character in four episodes of Green Acres and two episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, one in 1968 and the other in 1969. In 1971, after the cancellation of Petticoat Junction, she portrayed secretary Elizabeth Gordon in three episodes of The Hillbillies' final season.
LINDA KAYE HENNING (BETTY JO BRADLEY): Linda Kaye Henning was born on September 16, 1944 in Los Angeles, California. An actress and singer, Linda is the daughter of TV producer Paul Henning and his wife, Ruth. She began acting in stage musicals in the 1950s
Linda portrayed Betty Jo, the youngest Bradley sister, for the entire run of Petticoat Junction, from 1963 to 1970. She also played Betty Jo in five episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies from 1968 to 1970 and in a 1966 episode of Green Acres. For the first five seasons of Petticoat Junction, Linda billed herself as "Linda Kaye," as she didn't want to be accused of nepotism.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Linda made guest appearances on several television programs, including Mister Ed (1962), The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1963), The Ed Sullivan Show (1964), Family Affair (1970), Adam-12 (1971), Love, American Style (1973), Barnaby Jones (1976), Happy Days (1977, 1984), Mork and Mindy (twice in 1979), The Facts of Life (1987) and Mad About You (1988). From 1995 to 2000, she played the role of Mrs. Mallory in the pilot and four other episodes of the fantasy/science fiction series Sliders. Linda also appeared on game shows such as Password, Hollywood Squares and 3 for the Money. She was the substitute host for the 1974-1976 daytime edition of NBC's High Rollers.
In 1968, Linda Kaye Henning married Mike Minor, who played Steve Elliot, her castmate on Petticoat Junction. Linda's character, Betty Jo, had married Mike's character, Steve on the show a year previously. Steve and Betty Jo had a daughter named Kathy Joe and were very happy. Linda and Mike, however, divorced in 1973 and Linda married actor Ashby Adams in 1994.
In some later episodes of Petticoat Junction, Linda sang in a trio with her television sisters (played by Lori Saunders). She also sang duets with Mike Minor.
MIKE MINOR (STEVE ELLIOTT): Mike Minor was born Michael Fedderson in San Francisco, California, on December 7, 1940 (Minor was his mother's maiden name). Mike's father, Don Fedderson, was a prominent television producer. As a child, Mike's goal was to become a professional baseball player, but he later switched his sport to golf.
After Petticoat Junction ended, Mike guest-starred in episodes of such series as CHiPs (1979), Vega$ (1979, 1980) and L.A. Law (1993). In the 1970s and 1980s, he appeared in daytime soap operas such as The Edge of Night (as Lennie Small), As the World Turns (as Norman Garrison) and All My Children (as Brandon Kingsley).
Mike Minor became romantically involved with Linda Kaye Henning after meeting her on the set of Petticoat Junction. They married on September 7, 1968, a year after their characters, Steve and Betty Jo, married on the show. According to IMDb, Mike's character was intended to fall in love and marry older sister Billie Jo. When Mike and Linda became a real life couple, it was decided to have Steve and Betty Jo get romantically involved. After his divorce from Linda Kaye Henning, Mike married Marilyn Minor in 1981.
Mike died of cancer in New York City on January 28, 2016. He was 75 years old at the time of his passing.
FRANK CADY (SAM DRUCKER): Frank Cady portrayed storekeeper Sam Drucker for the entire run of Petticoat Junction, from 1963 to 1970. He appeared in 152 of the show's 222 episodes. From to 1968 to 1969, Frank played his Drucker role in three CBS sitcoms simultaneously. He also appeared as Sam in 142 Green Acres episodes during its six-year run and ten episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies from 1968 to 1970. Drucker's Store was a local hangout and Uncle Joe could be found there playing checkers with Sam. Sam's telephone was widely used by Joe and the Bradley clan. Sam was also the postmaster.
RUFE DAVIS: (FLOYD SMOOT): Rufe Davis was born Rufus Davidson on December 2, 1908. One of 12 children, Rufe, was raised on a farm in Oklahoma. At an early age, he began imitating animal sounds and he proved to be a talented mimic. He later taught himself some guitar chords and won a local talent contest. After dropping out of high school, Rufe left home to launch a show business career. By 1932, he had his own radio show, Rufe Davis and the Radio Rubes, featuring a quartet who performed musical numbers and comedy sketches. In the 1930s, Rufe participated in the radio broadcast National Barn Dance, which included his future Petticoat Junction colleague Smiley Burnette among its players, Smiley and Rufe became lifelong friends.
Rufe appeared in over 30 films between 1937 and 1969. He made his motion picture debut in Warner Brothers' 1936 short The City's Slicker. In 1937, Rufe signed a contract with Paramount after a talent scout saw him perform in New York's Hollywood Restaurant. In 1940, he was signed by Republic Pictures and was soon cast as Lullaby Jones in their Three Mesquiteers films, a series of Western B-movies. Rufe played the role of Lullaby Jones in 14 films.
During a post-World War II United Services Overseas (USO) tour of the South Pacific, Rufe became acquainted with singing cowboy star Gene Autry, who invited him to join his touring company. Rufe made repeated torus with Autry's group and he continued to enjoy performing live throughout his life.
From 1963 to 1970, Rufe Davis played Floyd Smoot, the happy-go-lucky conductor of the Cannonball train in 131 episodes of Petticoat Junction. He also portrayed Floyd in ten episodes of Green Acres from 1965 to 1967. Rufe left Petticoat Junction in 1968 due to a dispute with producers over their refusal to grant him a minimum number of episodes. However, he did return to the show twice in 1970. His final appearance was in an episode entitled "Last Train to Pixley" (Season 7, Episode 23, Air Date: March 7, 1970), in which his character, Floyd, retires.
Rufe was married twice. He married former ballerina Hermoine Hawkinson Davidson in 1940. They had four children (Susan, James, Richard and Vivian) and divorced in 1956. Rufus then wed Nettie Jane Scott on May 17, 1969, Nettie was Petticoat Junction's wardrobe manager. In the fall of 1974, Rufe Davis suffered a heart attack and underwent open heart surgery. He died on December 13, 1974 at the age of 66.
SMILEY BURNETTE (CHARLEY PRATT) : Smiley Bunette was born Lester Alvin Burnett in Summum, Illinois on March 18, 1911. Smiley was a country music singer, a cowboy movie star and a comedic actor. As a teen, he performed in vaudeville, In the late 1920s, began working at WDZ, an Illinois radio station. During his career, he appeared in almost almost 200 Westerns, sometimes with his friend Gene Autry and with Roy Rogers. By 1940, Smiley Burnette ranked second only to Autry in Box Office popularity among Western stars. In 1944, he became a sidekick to Charles Starett in the Columbia Pictures Durango Kid movie series, and he appeared with Starett in over 50 films. Smiley was able to talk and sing in a "frog" voice and he would often play characters called Frog Millhouse. He was a talented musician and he had the ability to play a wide variety of instruments by ear. Smiley was a prolific songwriter who composed hundreds of songs and sang many of them on screen, but never learned to read music. In 1971, he was inducted posthumously into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
From 1963 to 1967, Smiley played railway engineer Charley Prat, Floyd Smoot's sidekick in over 100 episodes of Petticoat Junction. Just after the filming of the fourth season of the show, Smiley became ill. On February 16, 1967, he died from leukemia, in Encino, California. He was 55 years old.at the time of his passing. After Smiley's death, his Charley character was retired and Floyd became both conductor and engineer of the Cannonball. Floyd (Rufe Davis) was eventually replaced by Wendell Gilbbs, played by Byron Foulger, but returned for two more episodes.
JONATHAN DALY (ORIN PIKE): During the seventh and final season of Petticoat Junction, Jonathan Daly was added to the cast as the bumbling, but earnest game warden, Orin Pike. He portrayed Orin Pike in 11 episodes of the series from 1969 to 1970. He was the love interest of Bobbie Jo Bradley, played by Lori Saunders.
Jonathan Daley was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 14, 1942. Prior to Petticoat Junction, Jonathan had guest roles in episodes of such series as The Flying Nun (1968),and The Ghost & Mrs. Muri (1968). He also appeared in two episodes of Bewitched (1965, 1969). After Petticoat Junction, he played the role of Peter Howard from 1971 to 1972 on The Jimmy Stewart Show. From 1976 to 1978, he portrayed Lt. Whipple in CPO Sharkey, a comedy starring Don Rickles. His last TV acting credit is a 2005 episode of Law & Order: Trial By Jury entitled "Bang & Blame" (Season 1, Episode 7, Air Date: April 8, 2005).
In Australia, Jonathan Daly is known as part of the comedy team of Delo and Daly, Jonathan and Ken Delo (1928-2016), became friends while serving in the U.S, Army and they performed in military shows. From 1963 to 1964, they hosted their own Australian variety show, The Delo and Daly Show, which spotlighted both American and Australian entertainers, Ken Delo later joined The Lawrence Welk Show.
Jonathan Daly is the father of a son, actor Rad Daly (born Robert Anthony Daly on January 18, 1966) and a daughter, Jules Daly.
RUSSELL HORTON (JUNIOR HOOKER): Russell Horton was born on November 11, 1941 in Los Angelis, California, USA. He portrayed Junior Hooker in four episodes of Petticoat Junction from 1963 5o 1964. Russell also appeared in Woody Allen's 1977 film, Annie Hall and in the 1985 horror film Cat's Eye. He guest-starred in a 1989 episode of Miami Vice and a 1990 episode of Law & Order. Russell is an accomplished voice actor and he is known for providing the voice of Trix Rabbit in the cereal commercials.
HIGGINS THE DOG: Higgins the Dog was born on December 12, 1957. He was discovered by renowned animal trainer Frank Inn in the Burbank Animal Shelter in California. Inn felt that the mixed-breed canine had the potential to be an animal actor. Higgins started his acting career on television as the nameless pet on Petticoat Junction. He appeared in over 140 episodes of the series from 1965 to 1970. The characters on the show just referred to him as "Dog." In addition to Petticoat Junction, Higgins showed up on Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies.
* In the 1970s, CBS decided to focus on urban-based TV comedies such as All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The network's "Rural Age" came to an end when all three Paul Henning shows were cancelled, Petticoat Junction in 1970 and The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres in 1971.
* In 1967, Higgins the Dog received a PATSY (Performing Animal Television Star of the Year). That same year, he appeared on the cover of TV Guide. Two episodes of Petticoat Junction revolve around Higgins: "The Dog Turns Playboy" (Season 3, Episode 3, Air Date: September 28, 1965) and "Come Home Higgins (Season 5, Episode 21, Air Date: January 27, 1968)
* Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, appeared in three episodes of Petticoat Junction, once as Ronnie Beckman in a 1966 episode and twice in 1967 as Donald Elliott, Steve Elliott's father.
* Charles Lane, who portrayed railroad executive Charles Bedloe, died on July 9, 2007 at the age of 102.
SOURCES: The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network Shows 1946- Present; New York Times book review "Unforgettable: A biography of the balladeer whose mellifluous voice serenaded two generations of lovers," by Margo Jeffereson, December 26, 1999; Los Angeles Times obituary for Allan L. Freeman; Wikipedia, IMDb (Internet Movie Database)