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Green Acres and Swamp People

Lead Summary

Exiled in Georgia

By Jim Thompson
For The Highland County Press

In the 1960s, CBS television, back when there were only three networks, had some great programs. 

"Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction" and "Green Acres" are those of which I speak. 

"Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres" ran until 1971, when CBS decided they knew what was best for the audience and killed them, despite their popularity. 

It was called the "CBS Rural Purge" and was driven by the idea they could attract more viewers wanted by advertisers with urban setting shows. 

Pat Buttram, who played "Mr. Haney" on "Green Acres" said, "It [1971] was the year CBS cancelled everything with a tree... " Replacements included "All in the Family." Fred Silverman was the executive behind this move.

As an aside, I never got to watch the "rural shows" as first runs. Back in the early 1960s, when "Mr. Ed" (the talking horse) debuted, my dad threw out the television. He had had it with us sitting around and watching the "idiot box."

Dad would have turned 100 a couple of weeks ago – I wonder what he would think of television today?

I also wonder what Mr. Silverman's view of today's cable lineup is? On the History Channel we have "American Pickers," "Pawn Stars," "Swamp People," "American Restoration," "Ax Men," "Mudcats," and "Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy."

A&E, Discovery Channel, and others have similar lineups. Many of these show have trees and one of them is based on chopping down trees. Mr. Silverman, now in his dotage, must be apoplectic.

So must the northeast corridor, say Washington, D.C. to Boston, and the left coast – be apoplectic that is. For despite the sophisticates of these areas thinking otherwise, most of the country (possible exceptions, greater Chicago, Denver, and other self-declared islands of superiority) identifies more nearly with down-to-earth America than it does with these so-called sophisticated regions. 

If today's shows are not what the country wants and identifies with, then these cable channels certainly would not be serving it up to us. It is still all about advertisers. 

And speaking of advertisers, Tractor Supply Company, which had three or four stores in the early 1960s (I bought a hat from them, mail order, in 1963) now has one across from every Bass Pro Shop, which did not even exist back then. I have been to Manhattan many times, and have never seen a Tractor Supply or Bass Pro Shop on the island.

Many years ago I worked for a company that had an office in Tarrytown, N.Y., about 30 miles north of Manhattan. As vice president of sales for the company, I went there once a month for meetings. They told me the story of the young administrative assistant they had hired, born and raised in Manhattan. 

This young lady, much to the horror of her parents and grandparents, had decided to leave the city and move all the way out (30 miles) to Tarrytown. It took the young woman's mother and grandmother several months to gather the courage to get on the train and make the trip to the wilds of Tarrytown to see what this crazy girl had done. You don't have to change trains to go from Grand Central Station in New York to Tarrytown – it is about a 50 minute ride.

I was there one time around Christmas as well. They were exchanging gag gifts at the office Christmas party. This same young lady got a small box full of sawdust. I didn't understand until it was explained to me.

One day, they had been talking around the office and she revealed that she had no idea where sawdust came from. Hence, the gift.

Once, in a taxi also in New York, I got to talking to the driver, a young man from Russia. At the time, I lived in rural Missouri. I described driving by fields with cows and on my daily trip to work. He was amazed – he had gotten off the plane and started driving a taxi. He thought what he saw in Manhattan was what the entire country looked like. He's not the only one in our large cities with such a perspective.

I have traveled this country north to south and east to west. I dare say from western New Jersey to Sacramento, Calif., the peoples of this great land are pretty much syncopated. It is only the fringes where the real fringe elements live. 

Unfortunately, these fringes, the ones in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and points east, set the agenda for what the rest of us think. They have the microphones.

It is time the rest of us make some noise. The cable channels have found us. Now, if the politicians who have sawdust for brains would realize where the real feelings of the country reside we just might be able to get back on track.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga., following decades of wandering the world, and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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