The National Lum and Abner Society - Jot 'Em Down Journal reprint:
Dick Beals
He Fizzes But Never Plops
Originally published in the October 2001 issue
NAVIGATION:  HOME | LINKS | SALES | NEWS | CONTACT | COMICS
The guest lineup for the 2001 NLAS Convention came
about something like a snowball rolling down a hill.  As
you have read before, radio & TV veteran Sam Edwards
was the first to confirm his attendance.  We needed a
capable actress to play the female roles in the scripts we
planned to do, so at Sam’s suggestion we confirmed the
talented Rhoda Williams.  Then, because Sam had made
so many appearances on Disneyland Records in
partnership with Robie Lester, we located her and talked
her into making the scene.  Next, Robie wondered whether
we could possibly obtain the services of her old co-star
from
The Funny Company and other cartoons, Dick
Beals?  This suited us just fine, as we had talked about
meeting him for years, so he made up the fourth of our
foursome, and is now the fourth and last of this year’s
biographical subjects!
Actually, it would probably be unnecessary to summarize
Dick Beals’ career here, because he did such an
outstanding job of it himself in his book
THINK BIG,
available for $12.00 through the NLAS Executive Secretary
(81 Sharon Blvd., Dora, AL 35062).  (Editor's note 2012: We
no longer have this book in stock.) However, in the limited
space we have here, we can give you just a sampling of
what it is all about, and hopefully make you drool for more.
After some details about his early childhood in the
suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Dick relates his entrance into
show business.  An old schoolmate of his mom’s was
working for the famous Jam Handy studios, which
produced advertising motion pictures and other such
short subjects.  Running into Dick & Mom on the street,
this friend made the comment that the youngster certainly
had clear speech and a lot of intelligence for a 4-year-old.  
Mrs. Beals corrected her friend that Dick wasn’t four, he
was eight.  A light bulb went on in the fellow’s head, and he
explained that his studio was always needing small
children in their films, but it was tough to give direction to a
typical 4-year-old.  Here before him was a child with more
mature intelligence but who could pass as a toddler on the
screen.
Over the next few years, Dick appeared in several
industrial films produced by Jam Handy and other Detroit
studios, but he says production on those was virtually
suspended during World War II, as they turned to
producing training films for the military.  Once the war was
over and done with, it was about time for Dick to start
college anyway, and on the advice of some professionals
he chose to attend Michigan State because of the
university’s fine radio department.  Radio?  Yes, Dick’s
ambition was to become a sports announcer... sports
being one of his main passions, perhaps not even second
in importance to acting!  In his book, Dick describes the
scene that took place when he visited the manager of the
campus radio station and asked to be considered for an
announcer’s position:
Dr. Robert J. Coleman could have just as easily thrown me
down the four flights of stairs when I walked into his office.  
But he didn’t.  Here was this brash kid announcing that
WKAR’s new sports announcer had just arrived.  He knew
that I wasn’t any kind of sports announcer yet invented.  He
knew, just listening to my childlike voice, that I could never
be taken seriously as an announcer, staff or sports or any
other kind.  He knew exactly where I belonged.  It was to be
the single most important piece of advice I ever received in
my entire life.
What was Dr. Coleman’s advice?  It was basically the same
thing the man from Jam Handy had told Mrs. Beals some
10 years earlier:  dramatic radio shows were always
needing children for their scripts, but it was difficult to find
a real child who could read a script well and perform it
convincingly.  Dick Beals was to make a 60-year career out
of sounding like a child, and it began at the Michigan State
radio station.  He was cast in program after program,
making no money but getting paid in invaluable
experience.
After some more adventures in college and as a hotel
busboy (you mustn’t miss them!), in 1948 Dick made a
foray into local television when Detroit’s J. L. Hudson
department store sponsored a weekly children’s show
during the Christmas season.  Dick was cast in the
supporting role of Santa Claus’s elf Jump Jump, who
helped the rest of the cast promote Hudson’s merchandise
for holiday giving.  This led to more radio roles in Detroit,
and then the biggest break of all... Dick was hired to play
children in the commercials on the legendary output of
WXYZ:  
The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and Sgt.
Preston of the Yukon
, to name a few.  Of course, you can
see where this was leading.  Soon he was not only in the
commercials but in the casts of the shows themselves,
playing children of all ages and genders (in radio, male and
female actors often switched out playing little boys and
little girls).  And let us digress for a moment to remind
everyone that the announcer on these programs was none
other than our 1999 NLAS Convention guest, Fred Foy.  
Dick says howdy to you, Fred!
In January 1952 Dick decided to try for the big time, and
saying “hi-yo Silver, awayyyy” to WXYZ, he headed for the
West Coast and the bright lights of Hollywood.  He started
making the rounds of the advertising agencies, auditioning
for any radio show that used children in its cast.  One of
those ad agencies was Wade Advertising, which handled
the Miles Laboratories account (“the makers of Alka-
Seltzer and One-A-Day Brand vitamin tablets”).  Dick had
been told that the executive he needed to see at Wade was
one Forrest Owen;  unknown to Dick, several years earlier
Forrest had been the producer of the
Lum and Abner show
when those two old characters were sponsored by Miles
Labs.  (As you may recall, Forrest was a guest at the 1996
NLAS Convention.)  In 1952, however, L&A and Miles had
been separated for about four years, and the Pine Ridge
pair was even temporarily off the air.  That had no bearing
on Dick’s meeting with Owen, and especially once they
found out that both were Michigan State graduates, a
lifelong friendship began.  Forrest had some news for Dick
which didn’t sound too encouraging at first:
“It’s too bad you weren’t here in November or December.  
We just finished auditioning over 600 people from coast to
coast for a voice for a new character called Speedy Alka-
Seltzer.”  Pointing to an artist’s rendering on the couch
behind me he said, “That’s Speedy.  We plan to have him
be the spokesman for our client Miles Laboratories on TV
and radio.”  He jumped up, came around his desk, got the
drawing and propped it up on the chair next to me.  
Leaning against the corner of his desk, he continued,
“This will be a huge project.  All stop-motion animation,
using a Speedy doll about 4” high.  First of its kind.”  As I
looked at the drawing, the feeling of freon gas swept
through me.  I shivered from head to toe.
However, about a month later, even though the auditions
were supposed to be over, Forrest called Dick in to read
some Speedy Alka-Seltzer dialogue... and do we have to
tell you what happened next?  If we do, you will be better
off getting it from Dick’s book, because we can’t possibly
convey the same feeling that he does there.
Speedy was only the first of a long line of animated
cartoon children who spoke with Dick Beals’ distinctive
voice.  Whether it was with the Warner Bros. cartoon
studio and director Chuck Jones, or Hanna-Barbera and
their lower-budgeted television output, or series such as
Davey and Goliath and The Funny Company, Dick was
heard over and over again.  He tells the story of the
landmark Hanna-Barbera TV special
Jack and the
Beanstalk
, in which he was called upon to dub the singing
voice for live-action star Bobby Riha, and opened a can of
worms as large as the cartoon giant himself.  That is a tale
you have to read to believe.
(2012 Editor's note: One character Dick never played was
Gumby, although this information is reported in numerous
web and print sources. We asked Dick in 2001 about this,
and he insisted, "I never, never played Gumby. Never! That
was Dal McKennon." The confusion arises from the fact
that Norma MacMillan took over the Davey Hanson role
and preformed Gumby's voice for a period of time for Art
Clokey's studio, and many confuse the similar voices.)
By the late 1960s, however, Dick saw that he was going to
have to look for different types of work to supplement his
performing, as more and more cartoon studios were
turning to using real children to play kid roles.  (This
concept was pioneered by the success of the
Peanuts TV
specials, for which Dick was almost cast before they
decided to go the “real children’s voices” route.)  With his
years of experience, Dick opened an advertising agency
and also became more involved in his much-loved sports,
coaching Little League teams and even belatedly doing
some sports announcing, his original aspiration!
Today Dick is still called upon for animated cartoon
performances, and of course Miles Laboratories would not
even think of having anyone else perform Speedy Alka-
Seltzer’s voice whenever that character is needed for new
commercials.  Dick is also a regular at most of the old-time
radio conventions across the country, and in Mena in 2001
Lum & Abner finally got to meet Speedy, the advertising
character who probably would have appeared in the
commercials on their own show had he come along just a
few years earlier.
We have tried our best to give you an overview of Dick
Beals’ career here, but it is hard to do in two pages what
Dick does in 165 pages in his book, so you can easily find
out more for yourself.  You can also find information and
some great photos at his own website (what else), www.
dickbeals.com.  Check it out, and the next time you take
Alka-Seltzer for “speedy relief,” think about not only all the
years that product sponsored Lum and Abner, but the
ageless voice that continues to be heard today.  Keep on
fizzing, Dick... we need you!
                                                                  - Tim Hollis, 2001
Dick Beals poses with a life-size statue of Speedy Alka-Seltzer.
8-year old Dick plays a 4-year old urchin in one of his Detroit film roles.
8-year old Dick plays a 4-year old urchin in one of his Detroit
film roles.
Dick Beals in a Jam Handy film.
Dick Beals with a bellyache in a Jam Handy film.
One of Dick Beals' very rare on-camera appearances was this episode of The Bob Cummings Show, in which the 28-year old actor playing a convincing 10-year old brat.
One of Dick Beals' very rare on-camera appearances was
this episode of
The Bob Cummings Show, in which the
28-year old actor playing a convincing 10-year old brat.
Dick Beals gets into his part at a cartoon recording session.
Dick Beals gets into his part at a cartoon recording session.
Dick Beals, Art Gilmore, Donnie Pitchford at REPS Showcase 2004
Dick Beals, Donnie Pitchford, and Art Gilmore at the 2004
REPS Showcase banquet. Dick directed and performed in a
Lum and Abner script which delighted the audience. Photo by
Laura Pitchford.
2000 NLAS guest Barbara Fuller and 2001 guests Sam Edwards and
Dick Beals shown here as part of Donnie Pitchford's
Lum and Abner
panel at the 2004 REPS Showcase in Seattle. 2002 guest Ginny Tyler
was there as well, but must have missed this panel. REPS' audio
engineer was able to patch in a telephone connection with Dick's
dear friend Forrest Owen, 1996 NLAS Convention guest, who had
been a close friend of Lum and Abner, serving as producer of the
show for Wade Advertising. "San'riches an' cocoa was sarved at a
late hour. A good time was had by all." Photos courtesy of REPS,
Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound.
NAVIGATION:  HOME | LINKS | SALES | NEWS | CONTACT | COMICS
Lum and Abner®
is a registered trademark of Lum and Abner
Associates and is used by permission.
All rights reserved.

National Lum and Abner Society "Ossifers"
Sam Brown, Tim Hollis, and Donnie Pitchford.