That was quite a run. Twelve days. By the end of the Fair it was like a stand-up gig in a Vegas lounge, the guy who goes on in the afternoon. I had the material under my belt, I knew the crowd and the stage, and was just workin’ the room - except the room was a street, which was damned odd.
The worst part was the commute. I have lived my life so I don’t have to commute at rush hour, and there I was every damned day in a hellstream of metal and plastic. But the weather was perfect for the Fair - the mix of hot days and cool mornings, rain one day and blazing dry the next, and the experience of going to The Fair every day topped all my previous summers.
And nunna yer veltschertz, yer agita, no sense of time’s millstone around my neck. No yardsticking myself against other years, or remembering when, or any of that cumulative angst I’ve been carrying around for so long. Just -
Ta da! Here I am, folks. Hope you like the show.
I don’t know how quite to communicate this, but after a week it seemed as if the Fair was eternal, and this was my new life. My new job. And yet you know it’s all going to go Poof! In a few days, but even though the Fair will be dead-empty in a week or three, packed up and stored away, you know it will come back to life again with the same incredible vitality.
And now summer’s gone. It would’ve been gone anyway, what with school starting last week - except no, that’s not a thing anymore, as they say. The annual first-day-of-school picture on the back steps didn’t happen because it’s done. It’s been a month, by the way: one down and nine to go, although the imperative emotion to get it all over with has been replaced by patience and distance. As it had to be.
Every day at the end of the gig I went to the U of M shuttle bus spot. The lines were often nightmarish - but no one complained; we just knew there wasn't anything to do, and the buses came along quickly enough that we knew it wouldn't be forever. Or perhaps Minnesotans were just more patient. The same smiling woman in a yellow reflective jacket stood at the spot where the buses loaded up, guiding people to the right bus, the proper door. Today when I clambered on she put up a hand: high five.
"Every day," she said.
"You too," I said.
"See you next year," she winked.
Last week’s thing I didn’t get to: the removal of the planting of the American flag on the moon by Americans from the movie about the planting of the American flag on the moon by Americans. I have been a fan of the space program since childhood and I like everyone involved in the movie. I won’t see it. Not out of some churlish BOYCOTT HOLLYWOOD THEY HATE AMERICA surliness, but because I Hollywood is obviously indifferent to their domestic audience’s reaction, and wants that sweet Chinese BO money. They calculated that the Chinese audience wouldn’t like the American flag, and the domestic audience would countenance its omission. I don’t buy the line about wanting the event to be for Humanity. You know, it’s entirely possible to reference the point about the mission’s noble undertones AND show the flag planting. Just insert some words in Armstrong’s landing speech, something about a giant leap for, oh, I don’t know, mankind. Maybe even use some fancy computer graphics to make the plaque say something about coming in peace for all mankind. I know, I know! Historical revisionism!
But two “mankind” references ought to buy the flag at least a few seconds of screen time, no?
I think part of the problem is the timeline: Nixon was president. If other presidents had presided over the event, they might have said it was okay to be patriotic, just as the movies of the 90s showed a robust, take-charge, interventionist President. Then again, Nixon made overtures to China; shouldn’t that count with the foreign market?
The cultural-confidence index of old films is something I’m always noting, and it’s usually somewhere between 93% Yay Us to 99.2%, until you hit the Fifties. Then there’s this peculiar in-between phase when things get worried. They were worried about Crime, and Youth. The first was unromantic - to heck with your tales of Little Caesar and other scrappy anti-heroes; now we had violent low-lifes, perhaps maladjusted former soldiers. The former was scary and inexplicable - why, for God’s sake, were the kids so crrraaazy, man, with their switchblades and alienation? How the hell did we go from V-E and V-J day to these rats spitting out hatred for this phony dead-end world? Did they not know what the country had been through?
I think these things were not imposed, but magnified for sensation’s sake. You have to sell something, and this stuff sold well enough. There was a parallel world of colorful Rock Hudson comedies and war stories and the like, but the 50s under-culture products rotted the timbers, fed into the idea that there was something alienated and sick about America.
Then you had millions of narcissistic money-flush kids flood the market, and the culture started mainlining anything New and Bold and Revolutionary, with a bit of utopian malarky under it all. The rise of the sex-farce and the ghastly wide-screen movies obliged to include a go-go dance with that awful inauthentic twangy not-rock. If there was cultural confidence here, it was the WW2 generation trying to keep relevant, to use their imperative characteristic, and have one last strut on the stage.
Then the seventies, and utter collapse - but there was, ahem, a new hope in the form of the summer blockbuster, and almost despite themselves the movies expressed cultural confidence again. If Rocky had been made in ’72 he would have been beaten to death in the last round; as it was, at the time, it was enough for him to go the distance.
It’s been all over the road ever since. I was listening to an NPR preview of upcoming fall movies, and they’re all about grim youth and the horrors of modern society. I’m curious to watch the new Netflix “Jack Ryan” series, just to see how long it will take before he’s the only good man in a corrupt organization that does evil things.
How do you like your new car?
Well, my friend, let me tell you: this baby is adequate.
You wonder what “speed lover” meant in 1908. Ford cars could do 45.
The grill of the car facing the camera seems to be saying “I am an unnatural thing that should not exist please kill me”
Adjusting for inflation, which is always tricky, the cars would now cost north of $67,000. Perhaps due to a crowded market - there were over 400 auto makers in 1908 - Olds would be folded into the nascent GM within the year.
AUTO-STROPPED! “Give that old safety razor to the Boy.” Here, sonny, here’s a razor blade. Go out and play.
If you’re thinking “man, it must have been tough selling razors when your competition is King Gillette. It’s like selling cars when Henry Ford is doing so well he doesn’t have to advertise.”
Henry J. Gaisman’ safety razor was patented in May and July 1904, and was initially sold by the Auto Strop Safety Razor Company, a competitor to razor and blade manufacturer Gillette Razor Corporation, run by competitor Mr. King C. Gillette. When Mr. Gaisman found similar technologies in the Gillette razors, his company sued the Gillette Razor Corporation for patent infringement, which Mr. Gillette resolved by merging with Auto Strop. When Mr. Gaisman came on board at the Gillette corporation, he found financial reporting errors which shook investor confidence and briefly caused the Gillette stock to drop. When Mr. Gillette eventually died at age 77, Mr. Gaisman went on to become the leader of the Gillette Razor Corporation.
Oh, and this: “In 1914, he also developed the autographic camera, a process where photographers could write small notes on the edge of their negatives. The rights to this process were purchased by George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak) in 1914 for the sum of $300,000.”
He dropped out of school at 13.
Wait until these guys hear a CD, though.
John Newton Howitt. He did okay, although the Depression sank the illustrator’s market. So:
When commerce collapsed during the Great Depression, slick magazines suffered from lost advertising. Howitt began to work for pulp magazines instead. The pulps were funded by newsstand sales and were growing extremely profitable as idle workers began to read more. Howitt was an excellent pulp cover artist. He signed his covers for Western pulps and romance pulps with his regular professional signature, "JOHN NEWTON HOWITT," but he also painted many ghastly and shocking pulp covers, and these were all signed with only his initial "H." Most pulp artists who wanted to disown the covers would conventionally leave them unsigned and uncredited. Howitt's "H" is only a modest deception, which seems to imply some ambivalent pride in even his most outrageous pulp covers.
Makes you wonder what they looked like, eh? Here you go. Eventually he got married and his wife made him give up the pulps. He was back in the legit mags anyway, so no big deal.
"I know it's a new idea in light technology, but I'm afraid my husband cannot think outside of the box. Literally."
“Requires filling just once or twice a week.” So it’s full of fuel, then.
YOUR RIGHTS AS A GARTER WEARER ARE PLAIN AND TRUE
A website devoted to “historical boys’ clothing” says it can’t find any company information. In other news, there’s a website devoted to historical boys’ clothing.
This ad says a lot and doesn’t say a damned thing.
Wiki: "The Rapid Motor Vehicle Company was founded in 1902 in Pontiac, Michigan, by brothers Max Grabowsky and Morris Grabowsky. They went on to build one-ton trucks and were the beginning of GMC Truck division after they were acquired by General Motors in 1909."
Sensing a trend?
All the old candies started out as things the swells had after a meal of oysters and port:
This bears repeating, anytime Fleer comes up: “Fleer was founded by Frank H. Fleer in 1913 as a gum manufacturer. Fleer's original formulation, called Blibber-Blubber, was never marketed to the public. It was not until 1928 that Walter Diemer was able to refine the formulation and market it as Dubble Bubble."
Since Blibber-Blubber has its own wikipedia page, we must quote it extensively:
Blibber-Blubber was the first bubble gum formulation, developed in 1906 by Frank H. Fleer. However, the gum was never marketed; its texture resembled Silly Putty. It was brittle and sticky and produced sticky wet bubbles that splattered when burst, instead of snapping back, as the formula had too low surface tension and elasticity. It also required vigorous rubbing with a solvent to remove from the face after the bubble had burst. 
In 1928, after a number of unsuccessful tests of different formulas, Walter Diemer, an accountant, an employee of the Frank H. Fleer Company, improved the Blibber-Blubber formulation by adding latex.
Yum. The only dye he had on hand was pink, and that’s why all bubble-gum for decades afterwards was the same hue.
A sentimental era that shied away from the harshnesss of life:
Send away to THE RAT BISCUIT. Accept no substitutes! Also mail if you have problems with Yankee Roaches.
That'll do. Scoop's merry vacation continues. Only two more installments after this one. Where is the cartoonist going with this thing?