Petticoat Junction is the name of the location of the Shady Rest Hotel, which is situated near the remote town of Hooterville, famous for its many Hooters Restaurants, not far from Green Acres, the farm of Oliver Wendell Douglas and his wife Lisa. To outsiders (and, for that matter, most local yokels), the hotel seemed to be just what it was intended to resemble--a fine country inn that was home to a cranky and cantagnerous caretaker, Uncle Joe; the innkeeper, Kate Bradley; and Kate's three lovely daughters, Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Billie Jo. In reality, it was a secret correctional facility for wayward boys, where forced feminization, corporal punishment, and compelled cross dressing, or "petticoating," were practiced on a daily basis. Of the three daughters, only one--Bettie Jo--was actually female. The others (notice the masculine names), Billie Jo[e] and Bobbie Jo[e], were boys who were forced to dress as girls. A dominatrix, Kate was the mistress in charge. Her brother, Uncle Joe, was her second in command and the chief disciplinarian. Upon her death by cancer while she was traveling through Europe on a quest for the perfect rattan cane, Uncle Joe became the owner of the family business, operating it with the help of sex-change expert Dr. Janet Craig.
Origin of the TV Show
Kate filmed life at the Shady Rest Hotel. When authorities were alerted to the true nature of the business by an anonymous tipster ("Sounded like Fred Ziffel's pig, Arnold," Sam Drucker, the owner of the Hooterville General Store and Telephone Company confides), its records, including the film, were seized by the FBI. Later, the film, heavily edited, was shown on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) TV network in the guise of being a situation comedy.
Clues as to the True Nature of the Shady Rest Hotel
As a TV series, Petticoat Junction seemed lighthearted, if insipid, but certain clues give a hint as to the Shady Rest's real nature. The show always started with the girls' petticoats hung over the side of the town's wooden water tank, as if the sisters were swimming nude. They were, being forced to dogpaddle in 60 feet of water until they exhausted themselves and could offer no resistance to the abusive treatment that they would subsequently receive at the hands of their supposedly beloved Uncle Joe. Another clue as to the hotel's true character was the fact that several different actresses (in reality, young men in drag) played each of the daughters during the supposed show's seven-year run from 1963-1970. The parts of the girls were played by so many actors because the actors were really new additions to the correctional facility, boarded by mothers who wanted daughters instead of sons or by widows or otherwise single mothers who found their testosterone-driven boys too hard to handle. Like earlier and later arrivals, new “guests” of the Shady Rest would arrive on an old locomotive-driven train, the Cannonball Express. But perhaps the greatest clue is the name Petticoat Junction. Supposedly, this was because the hotel, which depended upon the railroad for transportation. But a close observation of the series reveals there was no railroad junction anywhere near the hotel. The name, in fact, refers to the junction of a petticoat (i.e., the region between the top of the legs).
As a result of the FBI investigation, Uncle Joe was sentenced to 28 consecutive life terms in the Hooterville Hoosegow. The Shady Rest Hotel was closed. Of the 100 known victims of Kate’s and Joe’s forced feminization campaign:
- 3 committed suicide
- 8 underwent male-to-female sex-reassignment surgery and are living as transsexuals
- 85 are relatively well-adjusted transvestites
- 4 are happily married homemakers with adopted children.