|Fred Foy's place in radio and television history is a special one. I'd like to offer some memories of
Mr. Foy from the perspective of an officer in the National Lum and Abner Society as well as an
instructor/broadcaster for a school system.
When I answered the telephone one evening early in 1999 and heard the words "This is Fred Foy," I
immediately felt I had to have been dreaming. It was actually Fred Foy! I knew nobody was
imitating that voice to pull a practical joke. Nobody could! Then I remembered, "That's right, I wrote
him a letter! And I asked him if he'd consider being a guest at the National Lum and Abner Society
Convention one day!" After I recovered from my shock and told him how happy I was to speak to
him, he said, "I'd be delighted to be a guest at your convention." I was stunned! Was it that easy to
invite a radio legend to guest at a radio convention? Executive Secretary Tim Hollis had been
handling this job for almost 15 years; I was new at this!
Of course, Mr. Foy had never appeared on Lum and Abner. The NLAS Convention seemed to have
run out of L&A associates for the time being, so we were opening up the event to other stars of
"Old Time Radio," and Fred Foy was certainly a star!
Since I had listened to countless radio episodes of The Lone Ranger, I was awarded the job of
writing a new script. "Lum and Abner Meet the Lone Ranger" was the working title, and it never
changed. I couldn't think of a clever title. That title said it all. Mr. Foy received his copy and called
to say he was "delighted" with it. He did let me know I misspelled "stealthily" which somehow
escaped my spell-checker. I wish I could have escaped the other "ossifers" when they let me know
I'd failed to spell it correctly. "And you're supposed to be an educator!" Well, our
narrator-announcer-star forgave me. That meant the Lone Ranger forgave me and that was good
enough for me.
Mr. Foy's professionalism impressed everyone who met him in Mena, Arkansas that June weekend
in 1999. Some attendees came primarily as Lone Ranger fans but left learning a great deal about
Lum and Abner.
"Will you cue me?" he asked at rehearsal. How could I refuse? Hearing that familiar voice reading
lines I had written was one of the highlights of my involvement with OTR. It was all I could do to
remember whether I was reading lines for Squire Skimp or Abner. What an experience! Tim Hollis
played Lum as well as Cedric Weehunt, and Sam Brown had the enviable task of firing those
familiar gunshots and clopping the "pounding hoof beats" of the Great Horse Silver! Mr. Foy had
understudied Brace Beemer on The Lone Ranger, and many are familiar with the fact that he
stepped into the role one evening when Beemer was too ill to perform. "The Lone Ranger (rode)
again" into Mena, Arkansas one memorable June day in 1999 in the person of Fred Foy!
One of the ongoing projects in my Carthage High School (Carthage, Texas) broadcast journalism
classes was our live OTR program, The Golden Age of Radio. In 1999 we were still producing the
program live as an audio-only presentation on our local cable TV channel (with a graphic of an
antique radio displayed on the screen as a listing of our programs rolled over it). I invited Mr. Foy to
be our guest for our 1999 Golden Age of Radio Marathon, and he happily accepted. At a scheduled
time, a nervous group of students gathered around the phone with prepared questions, we made
the call, and we were on the air! To this day I see or hear from students who remember this exciting
half-hour. One young lady even asked, "Mr. Foy, you're not available to be a prom date, are you?"
He got quite a laugh out of that! Of course, the students asked him to demonstrate his "Hi-yo
Silver" which he cheerfully did. We reprised this interview a few years later when our Golden Age
of Radio program went weekly on an East Texas FM station (KZQX) which streamed its
programming on the Internet. We received wonderful comments from listeners in many states.
When I retired from Carthage ISD in January 2010, our Golden Age of Radio program ended. For
the final program, I concluded with the 1999 performance of "Lum and Abner Meet the Lone
In the classroom I used Fred Foy's announcing as an example. Of course, we citizens of the United
States have various regional dialects. In East Texas alone there are several dialects native to the
area. Teaching announcing for radio and television is a challenge in any area, and a powerful voice
like Fred Foy's serves well for students to study. Many would chuckle and roll eyes at the
melodramatic tone of the narration of The Lone Ranger, but I always explained the program to the
students. "This was the style, and this program was huge! This style reached out and grabbed the
listener!" I'd tell them to listen to Mr. Foy. I usually told them, "He doesn't just say the words... He
sculpts them like a fine artist! His words have body and weight! You can feel them!" That was the
best way I could describe the quality and impact of Fred Foy's announcing style.
For the opening segment of our radio programs, Mr. Foy kindly gave us permission to use a
recording of a phrase that is as identified with him as it is with The Lone Ranger: "Return with us
now to those thrilling days of yesteryear." He has left us now. He is part of yesteryear, but to those
who were honored to know and work with him he will always be part of our lives. The broadcasting
students who came through my classes and were able to speak with him by telephone certainly
remember. One of those students, Daron McDaniel (CHS-TV class of 2002), led the local KGAS
Radio News today with a heartfelt statement about the passing of Mr. Fred Foy, "one of the true
pioneers of radio and television."
- "Uncle Donnie" Pitchford
December 23, 2010