One of my favorite weekend pastimes as a child growing up in Appalachia was reading the Sunday comics. Unlike the small Sunday comic sections of today, we had big comic sections of multiple pages.
The comics were nice entertainment because they were in color on Sunday. Back then, when newspapers ran no color photos and TV was all black-and-white, to read Blondie or L’il Abner in color was a real treat.
We didn’t call them comics either. They were the “funny papers,” similar to the “funny books” we bought for a dime in at the news stand.
Sunday afternoon was the time to lie around on the floor, put off Monday’s school homework until after dark and read our favorite characters’ exploits.
Many of the old comic creators have died over the years and younger artists have taken up the strips. However, most of my favorite comic strips are gone forever.
L’il Abner (with little always spelled in the contracted form) was usually at the top of the first comic page. It featured the Yokum family, who lived in the fictional town called Dogpatch, which I believe was supposed to be somewhere in Kentucky. It probably set the formula on how most Northerners back then thought of rural Southern people. The men wore bibbed overalls, and the women wore flour sack dresses. They both smoked corncob pipes. It was drawn by Al Capp, who became famous on talk shows. I think L’il Abner comics died with Capp in 1979.
Another comic strip that’s no longer around is Dick Tracy. He was a police detective who always wore a hat and had a very angular chin, drawn square shaped. The biggest contribution of the Dick Tracy comic strip is that the creator envisioned the smartphone long before Apple was in existence.
Originally, Dick Tracy wore a wristwatch radio around his wrist, back in the days before the invention of the transistor and solid state electronics. The wrist radio in later years became a wrist TV, which had many features like today’s iPhones.
There was also a cartoonist named Walt Kelley, who drew a strip called “Pogo,” which was about a opossum and his animal friends who lived in the Okefenokee swamp. The creatures all walked and talked like humans, and the comics often had political satire embedded in them – although kids just read them for enjoyment.
Pogo used to have a saying, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” He also sang a song every Christmas, “Deck the halls with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash and Kalamazoo...”
One comic strip that got popular as a Broadway show, and later a movie, was Litttle Orphan Annie. I never read that one much, what I remember most about it was that the characters had no eyeballs, just round circles for eyes. Annie also had a dog named Sandy, which was the name of our first family dog. My sister, naturally, named him after the comic strip dog.
Many years later, when I was working at the Bristol Herald Courier, one of the newspapers we used to read in my childhood days, I found out that I didn’t have to wait to learn what happened to my comic heroes’ exploits.
We got all the daily comic strips at the newspaper office several weeks in advance and the Sunday comics came into the circulation department on Thursday to be inserted in the Sunday papers.
Somehow, reading the daily comics three weeks at a time or the Sunday ones on Thursday night destroyed my love of the comics. Now, I use the Sunday comics mainly for gift wrapping paper.
Jones is a Carrollton resident and reporter for the Times-Georgian.