In mid-April 1953, the estate of the late Frank Leo Bishop Jr. was liquidating his assets. Frank’s 306-acre farm on Mill Street, just outside the village limits of Dryden, was sold to Wallace Maynard Cox.
Mr. Cox was born on December 6, 1924 in Detroit, Michigan. He was the lead actor on the popular television comedy, “Mr. Peepers.” Mr. Peepers aired from July 3, 1952 to June 12, 1955 on NBC. It featured Mr. Cox as mild-mannered, Jr. High science teacher, Robinson J. Peepers. One of his co-stars was Tony Randall, who was famous for the TV program, “The Odd Couple.”
“Mr. Peepers” was twice nominated for an Emmy as the “Best Situation Comedy” in 1954 and 1955. Mr. Cox was nominated in 1954 as the “Best Male Star of a Regular Series.”
At the end of the show, he wrote and published a novel, “Mr. Peepers” which was based on the show’s character.
Unfortunately for Mr. Cox, he was typecast by the role of Mr. Peepers. He did appear in a number of movies and television programs. He starred in the adventure sitcom, “The Adventures of Hiram Holiday” from October 3, 1956 to February 27, 1957.
Beginning in 1964, he was the voice of the animated superhero character, “Underdog.” Underdog’s tag line was “There is no need to fear, Underdog is here.” Mr. Cox had a very unusual voice.
In 1966, he became a regular panelist on “The Hollywood Squares.”
He had the farm run by a manager and it was known as the Bird-Foot Farm. Renovations to the farm house were completed. During his lifetime, when his shows were not in production, he would come to the farm and stay.
On one of these visits to the farm, Mr. Cox brought his Chevy into the Ross Lawrence car dealership in Almont (located on the southwest corner of School Street and Main Street – Howard’s Automotive). Working at the dealership was Fire Chief Al Stanlake. When Al met Mr. Cox, he exclaimed; “Why you look just like Mr. Peepers.” To which, Mr. Cox replied, “I am Mr. Peepers.”
Mr. Cox died of a heart attack on February 15, 1973 in Hollywood, California. With his death, the production of “Underdog” and his appearances on “The Hollywood Squares” ceased.
In 1991, Doug Graves, the owner of “King’s Mill,” had a staircase built inside the mill. The stair treads were made of reclaimed wood from a building that was dismantled on the Cox Farm.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or email@example.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.