“If I died tomorrow, I experienced so many wonderful things, and met so many great people, and I lived in a great time in Hollywood. I was very fortunate. I had a great and full life.” –Tommy Bond
Thomas Ross Bond was born on September 16, 1926, in Dallas, Texas, to Ashley Ross Bond and Margaret Bond. His father worked as a commercial artist, focusing on ceramic art work. Young “Tommy” got his start as a child actor by the age of four, when a Hal Roach Studios talent scout encountered him as he was leaving a local cinema in Dallas with his mother. In 1931, after a long trek in the car with his grandmother to Hollywood, California, and with no guarantee of a role, he was hired at the Hal Roach Studios to appear in the Our Gang series.
Initially, Bond appeared as “Tommy,” a supporting character with minimal lines. He eventually gained more screen time over a period of three years until he left the series to attend public school.
Bond still continued to fulfill minor roles in other films, including Kid Millions (1934). He also found work as a voice actor, notably voicing the speaking parts for the jazzy “Owl Jolson” character in Tex Avery’s Merrie Melodies cartoon, I Love to Singa, in 1936. Hal Roach saw Bond portraying bratty characters in films and had a new idea for a character: “Butch,” the bully. In the same year, Bond returned to Our Gang, this time as Butch. He first appeared as Butch in Glove Taps (1937), bullying the neighborhood children and—to Alfalfa’s (Carl Switzer) dismay—vying for the affections of Darla (played by Darla Hood). Bond also worked alongside other Hal Roach Studios stars, including Charley Chase, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy.
In 1937, Bond was also among the charter members of the Screen Actors Guild. He was sponsored by Eddie Cantor.
Bond continued with Our Gang on through its continuation at MGM studios in 1938. His last Our Gang appearance came in Building Troubles (1940) before Bond outgrew the role and transitioned out of series, appearing in other MGM films but often struggling to find roles as a young adult. In the end, Bond could be seen in 27 Our Gang shorts, appearing in 13 of them as Tommy and in the remaining 14 as Butch.
Despite his tough and troublesome on-screen image, Bond was by all accounts a kind and gentle person off-screen. As the years went on, Bond served in the U.S. Navy, once again, returned to acting. He appeared in two Gas House Kids films alongside former Our Gang co-star Switzer. Though the two were on-screen enemies in Our Gang, they were actually good friends off-camera. Bond also appeared as young reporter Jimmy Olsen in Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950).
Bond went on to marry Pauline “Polly” Francis Goebel, otherwise known as Polly Ellis Bond and Miss California 1945. The two had one son, Tomas Robert Bond, II, and remained married until Bond’s passing.
In the early 1950s, Bond attended Los Angeles City College and earned a degree in theater arts from California State University, Los Angeles. Though he stopped acting professionally, he continued to work in the entertainment industry in television direction and production, including working as a production manager for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. He was employed at KTTV in Los Angeles, California, from the 1950s to the 1970s, and later at KFSN in Fresno, California, from the 1970s to 1991.
Bond was also dedicated to his Lutheran faith, actively involved in the Emmanuel Lutheran Church community in North Hollywood, California. He and many of his friends worked on the production and presentation of the community’s Christmas Pageant, presented on the grounds of the church’s school. This was no ordinary production—the pageant included several hundred participants, Hollywood sets and lighting, the construction of grandstands, and live animals. Horses were contributed from Spahn’s Movie Ranch, which previously supplied horses for Ben-Hur (1959). Bond was also instrumental in having the production filmed and aired on KTTV in 1965. The pageant was presented annually on the school’s grounds from 1960-1971, with a set costing more than $65,000. One videotape documenting the broadcast was found in the church storage room years later. All color copies were destroyed in a fire.
Bond retired from television in 1991 and frequently reflected upon his life and career, including his time in Our Gang. He published an autobiography in 1994, entitled Darn Right It’s Butch: Memories of Our Gang/The Little Rascals. He and Tommy R. Bond, II, worked together in their family production company, Biograph Company, as his son became a film and television producer. Bond also hosted a documentary called The Rascals, focusing on the Our Gang stars and serial. His final film role was as a neighbor in Bob’s Night Out (2004).
Bond passed away on September 24, 2005, from heart disease in Northridge, California. He was 79 years old. Bond was buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.
Today, various points of interest relating to Bond’s life remain. In 1926, he and his family lived at 4613 Gaston Ave., Dallas, Texas. The home stands today.
In 1930, the family was living on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, Texas. Census records are unclear as to the home address but, sequentially, his family was near 4452 Mockingbird Ln., Dallas, Texas.
In 1940, Bond resided at 5230 Zelzah Ave., Encino, California. The original home no longer stands.
By 1950, Bond was living at 4742 Fulton Ave., Sherman Oaks, California. The original home no longer stands.
Bond’s alma mater, Los Angeles City College is located at 855 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, California.
Likewise, California State University, Los Angeles, is located at 5151 State University Dr., Los Angeles, California.
Emmanuel Lutheran Church stands at 6020 Radford Ave., North Hollywood, California.
Riverside National Cemetery is located at 22495 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside, California.