Friday, April 24, 2015


Cartoons; funny papers, Sunday funnies!
          It doesn’t matter what you call those panels of humor, but we all remember reading them. For me, it was flat out on the floor on Sunday mornings with the four-page color comic section: Dick Tracy, Blondie, Mark Trail (who must be 105 years old by now) and...

...Walt Kelly’s Pogo!
Syndicated in 1949, when I was only three years old, the Pogo strip was a social,, political—even international sensation. He was a possum who lived in Okefenoke swamp with a crowd of totally ridiculous animals.
          When I was small, my father, armed with a six-pack and a box of charcoals and pastels, drew the Pogo characters on my bedroom wall. The biggest was Albert the Alligator, and the others trailed along the wall beside my bed!
          By the time I was ten, I knew most of the characters, including an owl, a turtle and a trio of scruffy-looking bats named Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. I remember making the connection to Frank Sinatra’s version of that wonderful song!

At some point, my parents bought an LP, “Songs of the Pogo,” which contained twenty-odd completely zany songs written by Kelly and his crew. Inside the jacket was a sheet of lyrics (good thing, for we never would have figured out some of them by listening):


Like this:

The Keen and the Quing were quirling at quoits,
          In the meadow behind the mere.
          Tho’ mainly the meadow was middled with mow
          And heretical hitherto here.

          The Prince and the Princess were plaiting the plates
          And prating quite primly the peer,
          And that’s why the Duchess stuck ducks on the Duke
          For no one was over to seer.

Or this one, delivered by a sexy babe with a smoky voice:

          Oh, I may be your cup of tea,
          But baby, don’t you “Sugar” me!
          Don’t stir me boy, nor try to spoon,
          Don’t “sugar” me, ‘cause us is throon!

Last winter, while poking around on the internet, I stumbled upon a CD of Walt Kelly’s re-issued “Songs of the Pogo.” I bought it, gave it to my brother for Christmas.
          He opened it, grinned, slipped it into his CD player...
          ...fifty year later, he and I knew nearly ALL the words!

Note: These Pogo shots are of an original Walt Kelly panel that belonged to my aunt; it was signed and framed, and it shows the pencil work beneath the inking. There’s Albert and the three bats...

Friday, April 10, 2015


Writing historical fiction presents its problems, for sure. Details of everyday life can be sticklers – clothes, dishes, cookware, toys, books, lamps, furniture, tools, farm equipment – and it’s hard to put yourself back there, hard to change your perspective from 2015 to 1915 or earlier.
          I’ve got some tricks, though: I have a large collection of photographs, old magazines and newspapers, scrap books and letters.
          And I’ve got several  old mail order catalogues (Sears, Charles Williams Stores, Montgomery Ward and others) that I’ve picked up at flea markets and used book stores.
          All of that stuff makes it easier; not easy, mind you – but easier.

 Consider horse harness.
          It’s far more complicated than you might think: one- or two-horse buggy and driving harness (general “about town” use – the family car, so to speak); truck and farm (working) harness.
          And that’s just for starters: there’s gentleman’s driving harness, folded buggy harness, runabout harness; surrey or single-strap, double breast collar, and express harness.

And team harness – oh, goodness, the team harness! The Victor, the Springfield, the Empire and Richmond, Oakdale and Baltimore Team Harnesses; there are cup-shaped blinds with round winker stays, double nose bands, plain and stage pattern heel chains and double-stitched spreader straps; clipped cockeyes, folded back bands, single-strap martingales, center bar buckles and snaps; three-ring hip straps, lock-stitched lines, red hames with brass ball tops...
’s poetry to me.

I get lost in it all, get caught up in the rhythm and rhyme of it. I am pulled back to a way of life that soothes me, calms me – a world that measures time in sunrises and sets, in family breakfasts, dinners and suppers, in changes of seasons...a slower, quieter pace, a simpler state of mind.

To see what others have found, harness up and trot on over to

Thursday, April 2, 2015


I’m drawn to postcard shows like a moth to a flame; I’m unable to resist them.
          I’ll spend hours sitting in a nasty folding chair; hours flipping through stacks of cards, looking for the early ones – early 1900s, that is. They’re easy to spot by the handwriting and the one-cent postage.
          I’m looking for the messages, mostly; but sometimes I flip them over, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.
          Or amused.
          Or baffled.
This one got me on all three counts.

This card was mailed in South Portland, Maine in April of 1911; addressed to a Miss Ruth Chaplin, who lived in the nearby town of Bridgton. Ruth was born on Christmas Day, 1905, to Eugene and Mary Frances Chaplin.
          So she was six years old when somebody sent her this card.
          “Easter Greetings,” it proclaims.

At first glance, first quick glance, I thought it was cute: the old standards – Easter chicks, a pretty butterfly, etc.
          A perfect card for a six-year old.
But when I looked closer, I was horrified!
          One little chicken, flat on its back in the pathway, stumpy wing flapping on the ground and little feet sticking upright, looks positively deceased.
          The other seems to be running for its life, legs extended like a sprinter at a track meet; beak open, eyes intent...
          ...while above them both, a menacing butterfly swoops down for the final kill!

Happy Easter to all!