So. Yes. Damn. Not unexpected; last year I noted to my TV critic pal - we’re in adjoining cubicles off on the other side of features, so we can talk loud in our self-impressed way without bothering the working journalists - that Mary Tyler Moore was not going to be with us for long, and we should think about having something in the tank when she passes. He wrote the obit and banked it; I watched about 100 episodes, took screen grabs, reacquainted myself with the show.
I watched it when it first ran, then watched it in my cheap little boarding house room every night when it ran in reruns on WTCN. When I watched it the first time, it made me want to move to Mpls; when I watched it the second time, it made me glad I had. It’s hard to understate how Minneapolitans felt . . . validated by that show. That was us. Yes yes no, it wasn’t, of course, but we knew where she was walking and running and shopping and smiling.
Where Mary worked, I would work; same building. She moved to Cedar Square West; I had a girlfriend in the same building.
But that was long agoand now this is Wednesday. I am walking through the skyways to my job at the paper she clutched in the elevator in the opening sequence, scrolling through Twitter, and I see a note that she’s gravely ill. I think: today will be one of those newspaper days.
We’re going to rip up the section. We’re going to have meetings where everyone’s in the boss’ office, assignments are handed out, and we walk briskly back to the desk and bang out work. I proposed something on all the locations in the opening credits, an online slideshow - ten cutlines, drive home fast to get screenshots, upload, drive back, head out to the corner of Nicollet and 7th to shoot a video.
The assignment was simple: just do something. I thought well, I already did, but that was a quarter-century ago. On the way to the shoot I storyboarded the piece in my head, which sounds pretentious - I suppose because it is; just means I had to think of the sequence of shots, how it would open and where we would close. Oh, and what I would say.
So: miserably cold. Weeping tears from the wind. The only way to write the script is to talk and figure out what you’re going to say; first time is construction, second time is practice, third time is product. Maybe a fourth for safety. Did six locations, ending up in the chair where she sat at the Official Mary Tyler Moore table in the elevated restaurant, and winged it.
Here. It’s short. I would appreciate it if you watched it; clicks are nice, and they make me look good in the eyes of management.
When I mentioned the other day that I was revising old sites, it was A) redundant because of course I am, and B) you might have wondered which one, and why. The answer is usually most of them and because, but in this case I’ll tell you, because I just finished cleaning up some scans that had been cleaned up years ago, but still didn’t look pristine enough. I put on an old album I hadn’t listened to in 30 years (Trespass, by Genesis) and set about restoring scans of Jerry on the Job. Which I'd already restored. But not enough! Before and after:
AND I have more.
It was one of those sites I did in the Content Explosion of 1997 - 2000, when I first got access to the StarTrib’s microfilm. It’s always been a favorite, and since I recently archived two other early 20th strips that deserve attention (one being Scoop, about a reporter who goes to World War One, the other being an utterly obscure series of comics about shoe salesmen, written for a 1918 - 1920 shoe industry periodical) was in the mood to revisit the peculiar tropes of early comic strips.
But also for something else: to make sure they’re remembered. Not because they’re great, but because they were popular. They were part of the culture, a reflection of the times, and the workaday product of someone who liked to draw.
Because there’s an internet, there’s no excuse for forgetting anyone. There’s a wikipedia page about Jerry on the Job - doesn’t mention my site, although I’m the #2 search result - and three out of four links are dead. I was thinking about Peg Lynch today as I walked to the office, and how much she lit up when I told her I listened to her show every day as though it was still on. To be remembered, to be added to the great store of things people have done -
It oughtn’t be rare.
From the popular, famous, and generally forgotten cartoonist Clare Briggs:
Poor fella - he can't go out to play because he's tasked with an onerous domestic chore: Grinding Coffee.
As for Briggs: "In September 1929, neuritis of the optic nerve led Briggs to Baltimore for treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He died at the Neurological Institute of pneumonia on January 3, 1930." FPA wrote:
He was a sweet and merry boy, if a rotten poker player, and the public, poorer for his leaving it, is a big winner in having him at all.
More of his work later in the year.
As long as I'm at it, here's a reminder: just because we're remembering them doesn't mean they're great. One of the sites that's coming next year concerns Scoop, the Cub Reporter. In 1915 he was pretty excited about war.
Seems rather macabre. I'm looking for actual newspaper related comics for Scoop; most of what I have is war-related.
Everything was war-related.
This month we look at four towns, the Quad Cities of the Iron Range. Virginia was named after the state - many of the lumbermen who settled in the area were from Virginia, it seems. Almost nine thousand residents, down from 15K in 1960.
It's the birthplace of Chris Pratt. whose father worked the mines until that business dwindled.
If you want to make a building interesting, tilt the windows! Makes it look romantic and . . . I don't know, Swiss? Something or other.
For extra fun, put a double-door on the second floor so people think there's a deck, and walk right out. But don't worry! You're in a comedy movie, and a truck full of hay is pulling out just as you fall.
As I have noted about this series of towns, they liked their bars. They need their bars. MAC'S looks featureless, but look at that door: curved black tile Could be the 30s or the 40s.
"Boss, people are saying they want a window, just in case something is going on outside. Like, a parade, because the pit's hiring again."
"Okay. One. In the corner."
The air conditioning unit seems insufficient for the job.
There's a piece of stone over the door that says "BANK." No columns or stone ornaments, so people might have wondered if it was solvent.
A serious piece of rock with the word BANK would reassure them.
Was the door original, or was it what they thought the original doors looked like? The tile in the entryway is probably original; the black material. possibly not.
Don't know and it really doesn't matter.
The Power Plant! Now for seniors.
Seems small, but again, consider the amount of air conditioning it had to power.
If you were bothered by things unaligned, you would avert your gaze when you walked past:
THE DOOR. Please put the door IN THE MIDDLE OKAY
Never was a barber shop ever turned into a gas station:
If it was a gas station, what's missing?
Right: the scars left by the island. But you'll note that the concrete is lighter in front of the place, which indicates that they brought the tanks up and paved it over. They had to bring up the tanks; it was a new state law. The old tanks had to be replaced.
Not every old station could afford it. So they closed. But at least the old gas tanks, which hadn't hold fuel for 20 years, didn't poison the dirt.
An emblem of civic pride: the school! But . . .
This really is a travesty. I'm sure the old windows were drafty and cost too much to replace, but this turned an open, bright place into a bunker.
Finally: the Village Hall.
Flush times: it drips with Roman luxury. Wonder if everyone was okay with that. Wonder if they thought it was a proud thing to show the other towns how well they were doing.
Around the corner: more unfortunate bricking - doors and windows.
But not all the windows were covered up. I'll bet the ones that survived illuminated the offices of important officials, who did important things. Like approving building-permit requests to brick up the windows.
Take a tour, if you wish.
Why yes, I did say that Jerry on the Job had been redone. Here you go.
And don't forget the Restaurants!
Video, Bleat, old comics, Main Street, Restaurants - hope that'll hold you for a day. ;)