Yesterday I wrote about the pollution of my childhood and how the U.S. has done such a great job of cleaning our air and water.
This morning I received an email that reminded me of some other things from my childhood that have quietly slipped away… the comic strips I eagerly awaited every Sunday morning.
I recall a story about a former mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia, who read the Sunday funnies over the radio during a newspaper delivery strike in 1945. I’ve searched the Internet for supporting evidence to the story I heard many years ago, but could not find direct evidence.
Thus, I cannot attest to the truth. However, it does sound reasonable that a man would read the funnies at the end of his weekly radio address. Then, believing his microphone was no longer turned on, say something like, “That should hold the little (expletive deleted) for another week.”
In Pittsburgh we didn’t have a mayor to read the funnies to us. So we took turns reading them to ourselves. Fortunately, when my closest brother and I were at the age of fighting over things, there were two sections of comics. We’d each take one, read it, and then swap.
Now that I think about it, I believe we had two Sunday papers delivered to our home – the Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. That might explain the separate sections.
Some of the comic strips we read are still around today, but I’m going to concentrate on the ones that are long gone.
The one that was mentioned in that email I received was “Smokey Stover” who was a fireman noted for saying nonsensical things. The fun of that strip was looking for the minor details. The artist would label various items in humorous ways making the story line simply one part of the total humor.
“Gasoline Alley” was somewhat similar, but my memory isn’t good enough to support my thoughts.
There were two strips that made fun of hillbillies. I can’t say for sure which was more popular, but there was a stage play (and perhaps a movie) based on “Lil’ Abner”. Al Capp, the creator of Abner Yokum, Pappy and Mammy (Pansie) Yokum, Daisy Mae, Sadie Hawkins, Marrying Sam, and the other denizens of Dogpatch, may have gotten bored drawing the same characters week after week. At times he’d take us into the daydreams of Lil’ Abner and we’d follow the adventures of Fearless Fosdick. At other times, he’d bring in the Schmoos who would be whatever humans wanted them to be.
As I recall, Abner usually saw them as country hams or pork chops.
The other parody on hillbillies was Snuffy Smith and his family. Snuffy usually had a jug of white lightning and was more than open to the idea of his wife doing all the chores.
“Priscilla’s Pop” was the only man I ever heard of who took mashed potato sandwiches in his lunch every day. It seems that family was always looking for ways to save money and Priscilla was always finding ways for that money to be spent… paying for the damages she’d done.
There were a number of other characters that seem to have faded away. “Little Lulu”, “Little Iodine”, “Henry”, and “The Little King” are all but forgotten as are “The Katzenjammer Kids” and “Felix the Cat”.
All of the comic strips mentioned so far were meant to be funny. However, there was another group that were designed to be dramatic. I think of them as the soap operas of the newspapers.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a complete Sunday comics section. Some of these might still be in existence.
“Brenda Starr”, “Terry and the Pirates”, “Smiling Jack”, “Prince Valiant”, “The Phantom” and “Dick Tracy”. If I’m not mistaken, Fearless Fosdick was a take-off of Dick Tracy.
There was one strip that was destined to die from its inception – which means it’s probably still running in some papers. “Dondi” was about a little boy who was orphaned during World War II and adopted by an American GI. If the creator of the strip allowed the boy to age, he’d be collecting Social Security by now and probably no longer be seen as a cute little boy in an over-sized Army uniform.
I’m sure I’ve overlooked some other old time comic strips. If I skipped your favorite, use the comments link below to tell me about it. I enjoy being reminded of those relics of my childhood.