Jerry Van Dyke : Comedian and Soda Jerk

Jerry Van Dyke Biography

Jerry Van Dyke
••• Jerry Van Dyke in My Mother The Car. NBC, 1965

Update: Jerry Van Dyke's Soda Shoppe is out of business.  The block was renovated by the Van Dyke's, but sold in 2001.  It's now a burger shack.  He and his wife still property in Hot Spring County.  His wife is from Hot Springs County.

Jerry Van Dyke might have been more famous than his older brother, Dick, had he taken the role as Gilligan on Gilligan's Island that he was offered. Instead, he turned this role down citing that the series was one of the worst things he ever read and started the series My Mother the Car.

This show, about a man who discovers his talking 1928 Porter Flivver is his dead mother reincarnate, only ran for one season and has become known as one of the worst shows in television history. I think it's a playful bit of television kitsch.

Another role he turned down was the role of George Utley on Newhart. This role was written for him but eventually went to Tom Poston. The show would have taken a whole new direction had Van Dyke taken the role.

Jerry Van Dyke was born in Danville, Illinois. He began performing in High School and soon moved on to stand up. It was his brother who gave him his big television break with a guest appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1962). He was soon hired to host Picture This (1963) and as comic relief on the Judy Garland Show (1963).

He was cast for various other film and television projects until he got his next "big break" playing Luther Van Dam on Coach, the role he is probably most remembered for.

Luther was the lovable, cranky, but hilariously funny assistant coach to Hayden Fox, played by Craig T. Nelson.

More recently he was found again guest starring on his brother's show, Diagnosis Murder. This time, he also got to guest star with his nephew, Barry Van Dyke. Television is a family activity for the Van Dykes.



He and his wife, Shirley, once owned and operated a 500-acre ranch in Saline County. He also owned an entire block in Benton which housed "Jerry Van Dyke's Soda Shoppe & Royal Theater," a candy shop and an antique store. He turned over ownership of these properties in early 2000s. 

The Royal Theater was given to the Central Arkansas Community Players in 2000.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was originally Independent Motion Pictures, but it was remodeled to showcase live theater.

The former soda shop is now a hamburger shop, but many still miss it.  If you were a fan of the Van Dykes (any of them) you could see all sorts of photos of Jerry and his famous relatives in the Soda Shoppe. It also housed Coach memorabilia and other cute items. The menu featured items named after some of his characters. Formerly located at 117 S. Market.