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July 2, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Buddy Ebsen comes home to Belleville

What? It’s Throwback Thursday? Well, Whee doggies. It sure ‘nuff is.

Today’s TBT is arguably Belleville’s favorite son, actor Buddy Ebsen. Ebsen returned to his hometown on Oct. 12, 1992.

Ebsen grew up at 805 Lebanon Ave. in Belleville. Before there was a ce-ment pond behind the family home, there was a real one. His father, Christian, taught swimming lessons out back in Ebsen’s Pond, which later was transformed into the now-closed Belleville Swimming Pool.

The Ebsens left Belleville when Buddy was 10 and moved to Florida for his mother’s health. He learned to dance from his father, which landed him roles opposite Shirley Temple and nearly gave him the role of the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz.” He was replaced by Jack Haley when an allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in his makeup put him in the hospital.

Ebsen’s role as Jed Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies” made him famous and was followed by his title role in “Barnaby Jones.” His visit in 1992 came after both roles were behind him and the year before he had a cameo appearance as Barnaby Jones in the film version of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

Ebsen was also in the area in 1977, when he went sailing at Carlyle Lake. He became an expert sailor while idled by a contract dispute with MGM, even teaching for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Besides strolling downtown and touring his family home, Ebsen visited the News-Democrat offices. Newsroom staffers remember the visit, particularly because Ebsen did a little soft-shoe routine across the newsroom.

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