Keith’s Corner

Pursing Art and Literature During WWII

By Keith Gibson

Whenever we were free from the local education encampment to chart our own intellectual course, we didn’t fall down on the job.  We pursued the enrichment of our intellectual capacity by consuming large amounts of top level reading.  It didn’t come cheap, even in those days.  I remember having a very hard time trying to raise the money to buy some of my favorite classics.

Most of these tomes cost an outrageous amount, usually, at least a dime.  A dime was hard to earn back then.  During baseball season we would hang out around the ball park and shag foul balls.  We could turn them in to the Community League for a dime.

I remember doing this and getting my dime from Suzy Symes.  Now you may think  it wasn’t worth our time, but a dime for 5 minutes work is the same as sixty cents an hour and that was good pay back then.  We did odd jobs for money and of course there was the old tried and true method of begging our parents.

However we got the dime, it was off to the McGill Drug store to browse thru the comic book display until Elsie gave us the “stare”, that meant, quit browsing and buy one. It was really hard to choose which one of the many marvels of literature to buy.

Some of my favorites were Superman, Captain Marvel and his Shazam, that never worked for us kids. Another was, Terry and The Pirates, by Milton Caniff.  Milton, also created Steve Canyon,USAF during  WWII.  My brother Paul liked that one and later in life went into the AF.  Other favorites of mine, were, Plastic Man by Jack Cole, Don Winslow, US Navy, by Frank Martinek, The Katzenjammer Kids, by Hy Eisman.

The Katzenjammer Kids were German and the comic strip was soon gone.  There were some silly ones like Blondie, by Chic Young, with the dad being Dagwood, his wife Blondie, his boss Mr. Dithers , dog named Daisy and of course the poor mailman that got run over every morning.   Archie Comics, by “I can’t remember”.  Archie had a buddy named Jughead that was a riot.  There were lots of Disney characters like Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy etc.  I was never too much of a fan of Popeye with his “goil”, Olyve Oyle. I did like the hamburger eater Wimpy, who ate huge amounts of them.  Whenever we felt like climbing to the full range of literature and art, we would get, Prince Valiant, by Mark Schultze and Thomas Yeates.

It was about the very old days, even before our time.  It was in the days of King Arthur.  This comic strip was honored several times for the detailed art work that so accurately depicted that time in history.  The snobs and ners in the art and literature crowd looked down their noses at the comics, but we kids didn’t feel that way.

We were and still are amazed at the art work and creativity of the comics.  It had to be very difficult to come up with something new all the time and relevant to the times.  I don’t think the so called elites were capable of that.

We learned a lot of life’s lessons from these  comics.  They were very patriotic and morally sound, which was very important for us kids during the time of WWII, when the threat of invasion was on everyone’s mind.

We were reminded daily of the war, by having to have ration stamps to buy food and clothing.  There were total blackouts, first aid classes, etc.  The comics were a great help to get us thru those times.

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Comments

  1. Dave Shaver (WPHS class if '51) says:

    Thanks, Keith, for bringing back those memories (I grew up in Ely – 1936-51). We were all comic book collectors, and traders. Classics Illustrated were fantastic for introducing us to great novels and adventures. I was disappointed when Captain Marvel comics were discontinued following a lawsuit by the creators of Superman for “copyright infringement” but “Shazam” became a part of our vocabulary. When I left home to join the Navy I left behind a 2-boot long box of my comic book collection. It was stored in our old garage on Mill Street and eventually thrown out before I was able to rescue them. There went my “fortune”.

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