I was at the library the other day and saw a book on a table entitled Call Me Lumpy. Being the big Leave it to Beaver fan that I am, I decided to peruse the tome. And I was well rewarded for my efforts. The book which came out in 1997 is the biography of Frank Bank, who played Lumpy on the show. He was born in 1942 in L. A. and started acting at an early age. In one section he talks about his father and reveals the following.
Frank says that his father Leonard used to take him to Gilmore Field in the late ’40s to watch the Hollywood Stars minor league games. had not yet come to California. He said that they used to sit right behind Al Jolson and became very friendly with him. He says that Jolie used to bring a large basket to the games filled with 5 pound salamis and rye bread and also pickles and a big pot of potato salad. Jolson had a block of 50 season seats that he had purchased right behind the Stars’ dugout which he filled with cronies. He adds that the usual attire for the crew was straw hats or fedoras and pants held up by suspenders, no jackets, no ties.
Bank says that Jolson was very friendly and constantly joking with everyone. He says that while his father could not properly be called a friend of Al’s, that Jolie would always greet him with a “Hi Len, how are ya?” and let him sit somewhere in that 50 seat block. Bank says that it was a kind of king and his court atmosphere, as Jolie’s pals would seek his favor and cater to his whims, getting him beers and other things he might want. Frank says that on occasion Jolson would turn towards him and bark, “Hey kid go get me some sodas.” He says that he was thrilled to run errands for Al and that he would usually bring back a case of sodas.
Bank continues that Jolson would keep up a running commentary and critique of the players. He says that Jolson loved to get on the players and that they would yell things back. He says that once Jolson had been riding one of the Stars’ players pretty hard. During that game this particular player hit a home run. When the player reached home, instead of coming in standing up, he slid in and then popped up onto one knee, hands out stretched Jolsonlike, as if to say, take that wiseguy. Bank says Jolie cracked up at the sight of this, as did most of the crowd. By the way Jolson co-hosted pregame ceremonies with Jack Benny, Robert Taylor Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby when Gilmore Field opened in 1939.
Later on Frank talks about the death of his father and how being Jewish he wanted to be buried at Hillside Memorial Park. He says that his father always said, “Son, all I ask is that you make sure I’m next to Jolie.” Frank says that it took a lot of doing but that his dad currently resides on a certain hillside, not 20 feet from Jolson.
For those Beaver fans, a little trivia.
1. Frank Bank is the actor’s real name
2. Bank says that he,, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers have remained close through the years.
3. He says that Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley were like parents to the four mentioned above and two of the nicest people he has ever known.
4. Bank says that he met many big stars while acting, guys like John Wayne and Cary Grant, and they were consistently nice to him. He says the only jerk he encountered was Marlon Brando.