That is rollin' down the tracks
To the junction.
Forget about your cares,
It is time to relax
At the junction.
Lots of curves, you bet!
Even more when you get
To the junction!
There's a little hotel
Called "The Shady Rest"
At the junction.
It is run by Kate,
Come an' be her guest
At the junction.
An' that's Uncle Joe!
He's-a movin' kinda slow
At the junction!
Petticoat Junction is the intermediate entry in Paul Henning's trio of rural-themed '60s sitcoms, which also included The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. The show was produced by Filmways and originally aired on CBS from 1963 to 1970.
The series centered around Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet), a widowed mother of three teenaged daughters and the owner of a quaint hotel called the Shady Rest near the small whistle-stop town of Hooterville. In this she was allegedly assisted by her bachelor uncle Joe P. Carson (Edgar Buchanan), who tried to avoid getting involved in anything resembling work. Most episodes revolved around Kate trying to micro-manage her girls' love lives or deter Joe's various money-making schemes. From time to time the railroad company, represented by the mean-spirited Homer Bedloe (Charles Lane), would threaten to shut down the isolated spur line serving Hooterville and its antiquated "Cannonball" train, but Kate would always straighten them out, because she needed the train — operated by engineer Charley Pratt (Smiley Burnette) and fireman/conductor Floyd Smoot (Rufe Davis) — to bring the Shady Rest its guests.
Petticoat is known for its numerous cast changes; to start, there were the three daughters, Billie Jo, Betty Jo and Bobbie Jo (just don't ask which one's which). Only one of them was played by the same actress through the entire series, and another daughter was recast twice. Then, Bea Benaderet fell ill and died early in the sixth season, so June Lockhart was cast to replace Kate as a new maternal figure, town doctor Janet Craig. Lockhart played her character straighter than comical Benederet, and the remaining episodes shifted more to Betty Jo's married life. There was also some turnover in the supporting cast along the way.
Kate was related to The Beverly Hillbillies via Cousin Pearl (also played by Bea Benaderet), who in turn was the cousin of a man named Jed. Eventually, Oliver and Lisa Douglas settled in Hooterville, resulting in the birth of Green Acres. Characters from each of these shows appeared on the others at one point or another, with Hooterville storekeeper Sam Drucker (Frank Cady) the most frequent link.
Tropes featured include:
- Awful Wedded Life: Homer Bedloe's wife never appears, but their marriage isn't a happy one. In one episode, Bedloe rants to his son about how much he hates the main characters. When an astonished Homer Jr. asks if he hates them "more than Mother," Bedloe has to think long and hard before replying.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Happens at least Once an Episode, usually to try and thwart Homer Bedloe's attempts to scrap the Cannonball.
- Big Eater: Uncle Joe.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Each of the Bradley girls—Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Uncle Joe, Sam Drucker and several other men are members of the Royal Order of Camels.
- Character Overlap: Mr. Drucker was a regular character on both this show and Green Acres, mostly owing to the fact that he owns the Only Shop in Town.
- Characterization Marches On: In conjunction with The Other Darrin. The girls' personalities shifted a lot as their actresses were recast, apparently to whatever best suited the talents and qualities of the new actress. Billie Jo started out the series as a zany bombshell, but after Meredith Macrae took over the role, she became a career-minded Only Sane Man. Similarly, when Lori Saunders took over the role of Bobbie Jo, the character went from bookish and shy to flighty and scatter-brained. Even Betty Jo, who was played by Linda Henning for the entire run, dropped her tomboy qualities after she got married, but this seems to have been intentional Character Development.
- Cool Old Guy: Bedloe's boss, Norman Curtis, quickly turns into this, being fascinated by Hooterville and its people, enjoying his visits out there and putting his foot down whenever he catches Bedloe trying to shut down the Cannonball again.
- Cool Train: The ancient, steam-driven Hooterville Cannonball, which functions as not only the main rail service from Hooterville to Pixley, but also as a taxi service for Kate, amongst other odd and funny operations.
- Dinosaur Doggie Bone: In the second-season episode, "The Brontosaurus Caper", Betty Jo's dog goes through an open window into the closed-for-repairs Pixley Museum. Stealing the bones one-by-one, he slowly brings the skeleton of a baby Brontosaurus back to the hotel.
- Disappeared Dad: Kate is a Widow Woman raising her daughters on her own.
- Double Entendre: Intentionally or not, the show's title. Where on the body of someone wearing petticoats do they all come together? Well, all right, it's the waist, but we're getting pretty close...
- A Dog Named "Dog": The stray that follows Betty Jo home and she ends up adopting is simply named "Dog".
- Expository Theme Tune: Composed and performed by Curt Massey, with lyrics by Paul Henning. "Come ride the little train that is rollin' down the tracks to the junction..."
- Fish out of Water: Steve was an Air Force pilot who simply landed in a rural town and decided to stay.
- For the Evulz: From his first appearance, railroad executive Homer Bedloe gets along poorly with the main cast and wants to shut down the train they get their livelihood from. However, in his first three episodes, he's only acting under orders, acts nasty toward the main characters because they antagonize him first, and seems placated once they explain how operating the train isn't costing his company any money. Later in the series, he becomes a Card-Carrying Villain who delights in trying to shut down the Hooterville Cannonball for the fun of it, even when his bosses oppose the idea.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Just try to say "Hooterville" without smirking. Go ahead, try.
- Hidden Depths: The little family visit the national's capital. In front of the Lincoln Memorial Uncle Joe recites the entire Gettysburg Address from memory and with great sincerity and beautiful oral skills. He humbly tells the gathered crowd that he learned it in school.
- Indian Burial Ground: In "Hooterville Valley Project", Uncle Joe briefly tricks a state official into believing that the Shady Rest Hotel is the site of an Indian Burial Ground. Not to scare him off, but to set up a archeological dig that would derail Mr. Bedloe's plans to flood the area with a dam.
- Long Bus Trip: Kate herself. Immediately following her disappearance (and Bea Benederets death), it is explained Kate has gone out of town to care for a sick aunt. She is barely mentioned again, regardless of how strange it is for Kate to never stop back home and see her newborn granddaughter. She is briefly mentioned in the final season, and although the cast shows some wistfulness in the moment, Kates status is left very ambiguous.
- Long Title: The episodes "I Can't Hear You When the Thunder Is Clapping" and "The Sneaky Ways of a Woman Who Is Both Beautiful and Smart."
- Mean Boss: Mr. Carson could often be as mean as Bedloe, though it's usually to help out Kate and Co.
- Multi-Part Episode:
- "My Daughter the Doctor" and "Hooterville Vs. Hollywood" from the first season, which are about Billie Jo getting an insurance endowment to become a doctor, while Kate tries to prevent her from using the money to go to Hollywood.
- "Bedloe's Most Fiendish Scheme" and "Bedloe Gets His Comeuppance" from season two, about Homer Bedloe forclosing on Kate's mortgage, forcing the residents of the Shady Rest to get the money to pay it off.
- Only Shop in Town: Drucker's General Store is this to Hooterville.
- Paranormal Episode: A couple over the series:
- "The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth": The Shady Rest is haunted by the titular ghost.
- "That Was The Night That Was": A space alien rents a room at the hotel.
- The Place: The show is named after the area where it takes place.
- Perfumigation: Uncle Joe attempts to make money by selling "Lord Violet" and "Lady Violet" perfume, which everyone but him hates because it smells terrible. Even the pigs hate it. He doesn't seem to notice. It turns out to be an excellent mosquito spray.
- Plot Allergy: In the episode "I'm Allergic to Daddy," Steve and Betty Jo's baby daughter Kathy Jo develops a rash whenever her father comes home, forcing him to stay in a hotel. But eventually they realize she's allergic to the insecticide on his clothes.
- Put on a Bus: Kate was written out in Season 6 with the explanation that she had left town to tend to her sick aunt. In reality, actress Bea Benaderet had died.
- Required Spinoff Crossover: Oliver and Lisa Douglas appear several times throughout Season 3, and once in Season 6 when Betty Jo's and Steve's daughter is born. Eb and Mr. Haney also show up in a few episodes.
- The Scrooge: Homer Bedloe, the sour-tempered C & FW Railroad executive who's forever trying to get the Hooterville Cannonball shut down.
- Literally, in the first season Christmas Episode "Cannonball Christmas"; he's determined to close the Cannonball on Christmas Eve even though his own boss wants him to leave the Hootervillians alone.
- Series Fauxnale:
- The Season 6 finale "Tune In Next Year" was supposed to end the series. It revolved around Dr. Craig accepting a job offer in Chicago before Steve and Betty Jo announce they're having another baby. The show ended up getting a seventh season anyway, with Steve and Betty Jo moving back into the Shady Rest, and their second child was never mentioned again.
- "Last Train to Pixley" may also be an example. The episode is about Floyd retiring from running the Cannonball and Uncle Joe taking over. Unfortunately, Uncle Joe does a bad job at it and gets the Cannonball shut down. This results in the rest of the main cast riding the Cannonball one last time, complete with flashbacks to previous episodes. Although they do get the Cannonball to reopen and Floyd does come out of retirement, the episode still very much feels like it was meant to be the series finale, but it was actually the fourth-to-last episode to air.
- Shopkeeper: Sam Drucker, who also doubles as postmaster, newspaper editor/publisher, constable, Justice of the Peace, school superintendent, and part of the Hooterville Volunteer Fire Department.
- Shoulders-Up Nudity: The "bathing beauty" scene in the opening credits is the Trope Codifier. One might think that the producers did not "know their own strength" regarding titillation for a 1960s show. However, that may have been subverted by an episode that showed the girls actually swimming in the tank; here, they wore swimsuits, albeit with straps.
- Skinny Dipping:
- The opening shows the Bradley girls skinny-dipping in the railroad water tank. In fact, that's how that particular location gets its (unofficial) name, from the girls' petticoats draped over the side of the tank.
- In the first episode, Kate chastises the girls for swimming in the tank, saying that if the train came early to take on water it'd leave them "high, dry and bare". Later they find bathing suits at the general store, but Kate says it's almost the end of summer. At least one later episode showed the girls actually swimming in the tank, in swimsuits.
- Story Arc: An ongoing one has Homer Bedloe, from the C & FW railroad, trying to justify shutting down the spur line linking Hooterville with Pixley, which would effectively kill off the town and the Shady Rest Hotel.
- Stealing from the Hotel: And it's Serious Business. "The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth" sees the ghost of Chester W. Farnsworth haunt the Shady Rest. Many years before, Chester Farnsworth was a dashing young salesman, and a daring towel thief. Having stolen the towel in his room, Farnsworth left on a dark and stormy night never to be seen alive again. But his spirit has been forced to return the purloined towels before he'll be admitted into heaven. The Shady Rest Hotel is Farnsworth's last stop...
- Steam Never Dies: In spite of Mr. Bedloe's many schemes to shut her down, the Hooterville Cannonball keeps on chugging along.
- Supreme Chef: Kate's cooking and kindness through cooking might well be legendary in the area. She seems to pay everyone from the train to workers with food. In fact it's through food she saves the Shady Rest more than once.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Dr. Craig took over Kate's role as the daughters' motherly figure (despite the fact that they were already well into adulthood by then) and the most sensible person on the show after Bea Benederet's death.
- Also during the sixth season, Floyd the train conductor was replaced by Wendell Gibbs, the engineer, although Floyd returned for a couple of guest appearances in the seventh season.
- Sweet Home Alabama: Hooterville is heavily implied to be in the Southern U.S.
- Theme Naming: Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo; The latter somewhat continues the theme by naming her daughter Kathy Jo. This has become something of a Memetic Mutation; on other shows, when two people have similar names, expect a jab at Petticoat Junction to be made.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: When Steve Elliot intends to propose to Betty Jo Bradley, Sam Drucker catches wind of it and prints it on the front page of the Hooterville World Guardian. To avoid being scooped, Steve proposes to Betty Jo while she's upside-down working on his plane.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The exact location of Hooterville is never mentioned, but there are a few hints that would place it in the Missouri Ozarks.