Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Everything you ever wanted to know about a dysfunctional childhood!

When I was a small Lydia, my cultural education coalesced from a confusing mishmash of sources that included my grandfather's "Pogo" collection. Gentle readers, many of you probably have not heard of Pogo, but your time has come! We will start with this Affordable and Interesting collection:

"Pogo", you see, was a comic that started running in the 1940s, as you can discover from artist Walt Kelley's hilarious quick autobiography (click here). (On August 25, 1913, Walt Kelly, a clear-eyed youth of honest Scotch-Irish-English-French-Austrian blood found himself in Philadelphia, Pa. He was one day old, and although his ancestors had been rooted along the shores of the Delaware for 150 years, he immediately hatched a plan. Two years later, he was in Bridgeport, Connecticut, complete with father, mother, sister and sixteen teeth, all his own.) The comic features a possum (surprisingly named Pogo) and his various adventures, which include running for president and kicking his deadbeat friends out of his house:

It also features amazing political commentary (much of which I didn't understand at age nine) and gentle mockery of humanity at large. Famous "Pogo" slogans include "We have met the enemy, and he is us" (a takeoff on Captain Perry's famous words) and "We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities" (which is merely hilarious). Though it got off to a slow start, the comic ended up running for quite a while, and compilations sold millions of copies. This is, of course, the First Edition of one such compilation; it's in much better condition than my grandfather's were once I got done with them, and it could be yours for $20.00!

Another thing featured in "Pogo" was glee clubs. In my youth I had no idea what those were, but this Collector's Item gave me a chance to find out!

Apparently glee clubs were all the rage in the late 1700s through the 1800s; members frolicked about singing various secular songs, particularly glees (an old-fashioned type of multi-voice unaccompanied song that sounds like it'd be very well-suited to a roaming batch of singers). It seems that in the 1900s, glee clubs were mostly supplanted by more formal (and often religious) choral societies, but there are still some around -- notably, there's one in Chicago's very own suburb of Naperville! And I clearly recall a Pogo compilation that included a glee club formed of various swamp animals.

Glee clubs, of course, often required songbooks such as the above. This Pacific Glee Book was published in Chicago in 1869; presumably it recorded the songs of a local glee club -- making it an interesting piece of local history! And since 1869 was before the Great Chicago Fire, this book is quite hard to find. I hope that someone buys it (for $50.00) in order to restart the Pacific Glee Club, because I'd love to hear such tunes as "Is a Man a Whit the Better?"

This week's Favorite brings us to a similarly light-hearted, but later, episode in Chicago's history:

Apparently, old-style carnivals gave out plaster keepsakes rather than stuffed animals to winners of their games of skill. I currently boast a large stuffed tiger, won for me by a dear friend in the early 2000s; if he and I had instead been at Riverview Amusement Park in 1950, then I might be the proud owner of this dog instead! Riverview apparently took up an area bordered by Western and Belmont Avenues, the Chicago River and Lane Technical School (on Addison). It was open from 1904 to 1967, called itself the World's Largest Amusement Park, and sounds like it was a landmark in many Chicago citizens' lives. (When we first got this dog, I overheard Doug asking one of our regulars whether the gentleman was "pre-Riverview or post-Riverview".) Capone himself had some territorial disputes there, and it was at Riverview that the famous foot-long Chicago-style hot dog was introduced for the very first time! We're not sure what exact point in the park's history this plaster dog hails from, but we know it's one of the Riverview prizes -- and rather than spend your life savings attempting to win it, all you need to do is offer $25.00!

Tonight I don't think I'd be up for carnival activity, but all this Riverview talk makes me want to find a carnival to attend. And not that Six Flags business either -- something more nostalgic! Have you any suggestions, gentle readers?

1 comment:

Harry said...

My favorite memory of Riverview. The Parachute Jump