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Oh, you Kids!

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William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr. c.1859-1861 – July 14, 1881), also known as William Antrim and Kid Antrim, was a 19th-century gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico and became a frontier outlaw in the American West. According to legend, he killed twenty-one men, but it is generally believed he only killed eight. He killed his first man on August 17, 1877, at around 17 years of age.

At the time Bonney was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett at Pete Maxwell’s place at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the nickname of “Billy, The Kid” (note the comma and capitalization used back then) had just started being applied to him. He was usually just called The Kid. The usage of calling a young person a “kid” was known for hundreds of years prior to Bonney, but it seems to have only become common around the 1840s.

In the world of comic books, there have been a great many Kids. In a quick search, I found a few for you:
Colorado Kid
Cheyenne Kid
Arizona Kid
Durango Kid
Cisco Kid
Apache Kid
Sundance Kid
Reno Kid
Two-Gun Kid
Kid Slade
Kid from Dodge City
Frisco Kid
Kid Cowboy
Presto Kid
Texas Kid
Ringo Kid
Oklahoma Kid
Cotton Kid
Hollywood Kid
Star Kid
Outlaw Kid
Kid Montana
Western Kid
Rawhide Kid
Fargo Kid
Kid Colt
Billy the Kid
Stardust Kid
Lemonade Kid
Dynamite Kid

Many of these were published by Timely/Atlas/Marvel, and they also put out a comic book called Tough Kid Squad during WWII:

Tough Kid Squad

In Italy, a comic book publisher printed a version of the Superman character, using old American comic book art (at least in the couple of examples I have) and called him the Nembo Kid:

Nembo Kid

Nembo Kid translates, I believe, to “Cloud Man,” and that’s a little odd sounding to me. Maybe it plays better in Italian. Because Superman’s “S” shield wouldn’t work for a guy who’s name started with an N, the Italian publisher just blanked it out and colored the empty pentagon shape yellow or sometimes red. I really liked how that Italian comic publisher colored Batman. Since they were playing with Batman’s colors, they could easily have fixed what I considered Robin’s biggest defect: his naked legs. Just color his legs green, yellow, or red, for God’s sake. But, nooooo:

Batman Nembo Kid

There was also a Quality Comics character named Kid Eternity. He had a particularly lame costume and his power was that a fat angel could help him summon real and fictional folks from the past to help in his adventures. I don’t much care for Kid Eternity, though his stories usually had some great art, which was true of all the Quality Comics line. After an impressive Golden Age run with great characters like the Blackhawks, Plastic Man, the Spirit, and tons of others, their publisher, Busy Arnold, packed it up in the early 1950s. He sold his characters to DC Comics and retired to Naples, Florida. Had I known, of course, that he was living in Naples I would have looked him up!!!

Kid Eternity

Other “Kid” characters, like Kid Flash, came and went, but the Western comic books with their army of Kids are what we’re here for today. Enjoy these great covers!

Great posture was as important as skill with a six-gun for this kid:

Rawhide Kid

Of all the Atlas/Marvel Western kids, none had a better costume than the Ringo Kid:

Ringo Kid

Painted comic book covers weren’t common in old comics, and I never liked them. They just seemed jarring to me when used for a throwaway art form:

Kid Cowboy

Cisco Kid

Billy the Kid made it into comic books a couple of times. In Fawcett Comic’s version, he was a goat:

Fawcett Billy the Kid

Later, as published by the abysmally written, printed, and, said some, Mafia-connected Charlton Comics, he was a human, though out of register on the interior pages. I despised Charlton Comics; even if the art was good, the crap stories and bottom-of-the-barrel printing offended me:

Charlton Bill the Kid

Here are some other kids from the West.

Kid Colt

Two Gun Kid

Kid Montana

Texas Kid

Kid From Dodge City

Arizona KidEXCITING UPDATE!

Can’t believe it’s been a year since I posted to my blog. I blame myself. Anyway, if you keep up with the news, you’ll have heard that a third, previously unknown photo of Billy the Kid has come to light. It shows him, of all things, playing croquet in 1878 with his pals at their hideout in New Mexico. It’s estimated to bring $5 million at auction, but you can see it here for free!

Billy Croquet 1

Billy is shown on the right in this closeup of the 4″x5″ tintype. Since it’s a tintype, the left-to-right is flopped, as in the original of the photo at the top of this blog entry. I corrected the left-to-right then, but am too lazy this evening.

Billy-Croquet-2

But wait; there’s more! Here’s a Billy the Kid comic book cover from a series published by Toby Comics in the early 1950s:

Toby Billy the Kid

And, finally, a Durango Kid cover from the long-running series published by Magazine Enterprises:

scan01

Small-print edition!

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From our friends at Shorpy.com comes this fascinating image of a young woman working in the big city in 1956. Notice the book under her manuscript and the hand-held magnifier next to it.

NYC Career Girl, 1956I suspect the book in the photo above is a variant of the Compact Oxford English dictionary. The one I have is from the 1970s and the pages are set up a little differently. The magnifier that came with my COED is the same as in the Shorpy.com photo.

Because the full OED is 20 volumes, the compact editions are composed of multiple pages reduced so that several pages fit onto a single page, if you follow me. That makes the looking glass essential to reading the entries. Even with the pages crammed in so tiny, my COED is still a bulky two volumes.

OED

Here’s a photo from the Web showing a modern-day COED. The looking glass or magnifier provided with the books nowadays seems to be a nifty round one with no handle.

Compact OED

An amazing resource for us word nerds.

My favorite dictionary for just reading—and you know you’ve got it bad when you collect and, yes, read old dictionaries—is my hardback facsimile of Noah Webster’s first American dictionary, as published in 1828. It’s fun to see how our language has changed since Webster’s day.

American Dictionary of the English Language

 

Kaiser Permanente, Popeye, my Grandfather and Me

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Like a Dickens novel, life is full of surprising associations that best come into focus in hindsight. In today’s exciting blog entry, we explore the relationship between Kaiser Permanente; Popeye’s friend the Eugene the Jeep; my grandfather, James P. Page, Sr.; and me.

Years ago, when we first moved to Maryland, we lived in a suburb of Washington, DC, known as Calverton. Patty and I would drive by the nearby Kaiser Permanente Silver Spring Medical Center and wonder what it was.  At that time, the sign just read “Kaiser Permanente” with no indication of what the purpose was of the site.

Henry J Kaiser

Henry John Kaiser (1882-1967) was an American industrialist who became known as the father of modern American shipbuilding. He established the Kaiser Shipyard which built Liberty ships during World War II, after which he formed Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel. Kaiser organized the Kaiser Permanente health-care system for his workers and their families. He led Kaiser-Frazer followed by Kaiser Motors, automobile companies known for the safety of their designs. (Info swiped from Wikipedia)

The name indicated a relationship with the brilliant industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, of dam-, ship- and auto-building fame, but the Permanente part of the name seemed odd to me. Little did I realize that they would later become our health-care provider or that I would one day be working for the firm. The Permanente part of that name, by the way, comes from the name of a creek that ran by the lodge of Henry and Bess Kaiser in Santa Clara County, California; in 1945, Mrs. Kaiser thought the name would be fitting for the new health system they had started for their shipyard employees. Here’s a recent view of that beautiful creek:

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Probably named Permanente Creek by the early Spanish settlers of California because it didn’t dry up during the year.

So how do Popeye’s friend and my grandfather and I come into this? Kaiser, with his business associate, Joseph Frazer, began making wonderful cars just after World War II. The autos of Kaiser-Frazer, as their company was called, were very innovative and attractive, and they also made cars called Allstates, which were sold by Sears Roebuck in the 1952 and 1953 model years. Yes; you could buy a car (and houses, for that matter; my 1926-built house is an example!) from a Sears catalog in those days.

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Great-looking car; a good many of these were made into hot rods after mom and dad passed them on to the kids!

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This amazing Kaiser car, like the Corvette which came out the same year, was made with a huge engine and a fiberglass body.

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Ahead of its time and still looks stylish 60 years later.

1951 Kaiser Ad

Typical of the innovations that Kaiser-Frazer autos were known for, this Traveler model would be useful for toting things around in the days before SUVs and minivans.

My grandfather, who was never one to ignore a business opportunity when he saw it, opened what was likely the smallest of Kaiser-Frazer dealerships, on U.S. Route One in Callahan, Florida. Here’s a photo of the then-brand-new dealership; my grandfather is second from the right. The little fellow next to him is my Uncle Ronald, who went on to a 35+ year career as a special agent with the FBI and now lives in New Mexico!

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Here’s a recent photo of the Page Building in Callahan, which we still own and rent out to various businesses. To my knowledge, this property has never generated a thin dime in revenue, but there are those in the family who have an emotional attachment to this old building and we guess it pays for its upkeep.

Page Building, Callahan

Until today, I had identified the wrong tacky building as the Page Building. John H, a Callahan historian, kindly pointed out my error. Thanks, John!

Now, let’s get to Popeye, shall we? In the pre-WWII United States, the newspaper comic strip, Thimble Theatre, by Elzie Segar, was a big deal. The best-known member of the strip’s zany ensemble, Popeye the Sailor Man, was a stroke of genius, but Segar had many such strokes and his creations caught the country’s imagination in a big way. Another inspired Segar creation was Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep was a made-up word Segar used to describe his little creature, who had the ability to pop through time and space and do wonderful things for his friends.

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The original Jeep!

The Jeep character became a big fad, especially among children, and there were books, stuffed toys and cartoons about this loveable character, as shown by this great movie poster from 1938:

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Moving forward a few years, into the Second World War, the Willis Corporation developed a General Purpose, or GP, vehicle for the U.S. Army. This rugged and unpretentious four-wheel-drive car was manufactured by the hundreds of thousands during the war, and the GIs of the day dubbed it the Jeep, because, as one soldier said, the thing was “small, able to move between dimensions and could solve seemingly impossible problems.” That, plus the GP designation sounded like the word “Jeep.”

Jeeps On A Flatcar, 1944

Sixteen of the over half-million GP vehicles or Jeeps head to war on a railway flatcar in 1944. Legend has it that you could buy a war-surplus Jeep in the late 1940s for $50.

After the war, Willis was not making too many Jeeps and Kaiser’s autos needed engines; Kaiser bought Willis and used their engines in the Kaiser-Frazer autos. Production of the Kaiser-Frazer line stopped for various reasons in 1955, but Kaiser kept making Jeeps of different types and styles until 1970. They sold that part of their empire to American Motors in that year, and American was later purchased by the Chrysler Corporation, who continue making Jeeps today. My grandfather’s Kaiser dealership closed after his death in the mid 1950s.

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The Kaiser line of Willis Jeeps; I’d love to have one of those Utility Wagons.

Kaiser Permanente, of course, has thrived as the nation’s largest, most esteemed and (by my family, at least) best-loved managed-care provider, and I work as manager of marketing and creative operations at their Mid-Atlantic Regional Headquarters. Wonderful place and I’m proud to help in its mission in my small way!

Thus the connection between Kaiser Permanente, Popeye, my grandfather and me!

Kaiser Jeep

One of the last of the Kaiser-built Jeeps romps over rocks.

Dasheen Dreams . . .

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If you’ve never heard of dasheen, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger; I hadn’t either. My daughter, Colleen, is the historian of our family and is always finding, archiving and annotating old family photos. Here’s one she found from 1923, showing my grandfather, James P. Page, Sr., and his dad, James Graham Page, at a meeting of the Nassau County (Florida) Dasheen Growers Association in the little town of Callahan:

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My grandfather and his father were very active in that organization, or at least they had leadership roles. My grandfather was a heck of a businessman, and owned a lot of businesses that did well. I can’t say how well he and his dad did with dasheen; it put some of his land holdings to productive use, I suppose.

According to what I’ve been able to find out on the Net, dasheen is another term for a type of taro root, and, in the early 1920s, the Florida Secretary of Agriculture was promoting the cultivation of this plant for areas of Florida with boggy land not suited for growing much else except snakes (this part of Florida has 31 types, including six or seven “hot” ones, as the herpetologists call venomous snakes), alligators and pine trees. Here’s a Google satellite photo pinpointing the town of Callahan in Nassau County; my brother, Jeff, and I were born on Amelia Island, where the town of Fernandina Beach is located:

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The red arrow points to Callahan, Florida. The dark area to the left of Callahan is the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in the U.S.; a shallow, 438,000 acre, peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida border. Okefenokee is an Indian word meaning “trembling earth.”

Since the area our family is from borders the Okefenokee Swamp that hugs the Georgia line, it’s ideal for such an effort. Here’s a photo of a dasheen plant, and also a photo of the edible root.

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Looks like an elephant ear plant, doesn’t it?

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Can these make good French fries? America waits for the answer!

This enterprise probably didn’t amount to much, but it’s kind of a nifty idea. Another Net resource mentions that at the height of the dasheen-growing effort, ten boxcar loads of the roots were shipped from Callahan, where we still have a family farm. I don’t think any dasheen is grown on our farm now, though I did see that someone else has a dasheen farm in the area nowadays. Good luck to them!

UPDATE:

Thanks to my daughter, Colleen, for finding the letterhead below from the Dasheen Growers Association in a history of Nassau County. There’s also a little paragraph describing the operation. You can see from the annotations that the photo above, showing the intrepid dasheen growers in Callahan, was from this same book, which was published some years ago.

James_Graham_Page_info_on_Dasheen_Growers_Assn__from_WNCPH

Hard Time Killing Floor Blues

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Perhaps the scariest three minutes of music ever recorded were by Nehemiah “Skip” James in 1931, in Grafton, Wisconsin, for the old Paramount blues label.

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Here’s the original recording of Skip James’ Hard Time Killing Floor Blues. The way I heard it was that it refers to James working the “killing floor” in a Chicago slaughterhouse.

Any guitar player who has tried to do this song can tell you that it isn’t easy. I think James recorded it in Em tuning; for the sake of not popping strings, I’ve shifted it to Dm in my poor attempts to play it. This style of fingerpicking blues evidently originated in or near Bentonia, Mississippi, where James was from. My dad drove us through Bentonia when I was a kid; it’s a wide spot in the road near where Highway 49 crosses the Yazoo River.

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The idea of someone doing this song on an electric guitar is not so novel– I do it on a Strat– but doing it with a band, live, and with an accordion and drums as part of the deal . . . well, it took Lucinda Williams and her fine band to manage that and the following YouTube video is, to me, stunning. Their spare arrangement just nails it:

Sorry I can’t provide any info on this video; the intro, showing someone playing James recording his song on a Stella guitar, is very well done. Folks who knew Skip James, who died in Philly in 1969, say he wasn’t a very happy person much of the time but I suspect he’d love what Ms Williams and her associates did with his wonderful song.

AN ASIDE . . .

It occurs to me that it was almost exactly 50 years ago that our family drove through Bentonia, Mississippi. At the time, the late summer of 1963, we were living in Houma, Louisiana, which is southwest of New Orleans. I don’t know what possessed my dad to move there; they must have had a great airport as flying was the only thing that he cared about. I remember that we were living there when John Kennedy was killed.

My mom, my brother Jeff and I loved Houma. It was deep in the Cajun bayou country and the food, music and people were wonderful. Near Houma was a smaller town called Thibodaux, on the banks of Bayou Lafourche, where my dad took us to a superb little seafood restaurant on the weekends; here’s a photo I took of Jeff standing on Thibodaux’s main drag. Moody and magnificent, wasn’t he?

Jeff In Thibodaux. LA

Here are my mom, Jeff and me in front of our house on Willard Avenue; I’m the geeky-looking guy wearing glasses; I wasn’t moody or magnificent, but at least I was cheerful:

Jim, Mom, Jeff 2

Anyway, there was a hurricane about to hit in that area and it was something to worry about. All that part of the Gulf Coast is low-lying, and the Houma/Thibodaux area especially so. If you recall the Swamp Thing comic books, they were set in Houma. So my dad decided the smart thing to do would be for us to hop in the white DeSoto and spend a few days in Yazoo City, Mississippi (250 miles due north and on higher ground), and Bentonia is 15 miles south of that town.

As it happened, the hurricane came up as far as Yazoo City so we didn’t escape much. But I got to see Bentonia, never dreaming that one day I’d wish I’d paid more attention to it!

Well, Shakespeare, He’s in the Alley . . .

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At least that’s what Dylan said back in 1966:

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while; it’s been a busy month or so!

Here’s a little background and then some history, with photos! One of the main reasons Patty and I moved up here in 1987 was the fascinating history in the Washington, DC, area. We love exploring all the old places and learning what happened in those places in years past.

From mid-December until the beginning of March, I was a print-production contractor at the Society of Neuroscience in downtown DC. Great place and wonderful staff. In late February, I got an offer to return to a prestigious organization where I had contracted a couple of times last year, and decided to make the switch; they also have a wonderful staff and a great marketing department. But I’ll miss SfN and its amazing collection of people!

Anywho, in the alley behind SfN’s modern offices just south of Thomas Circle, at 14th Street NW and Vermont Avenue, is an alleyway. Just down the alleyway is this fantastic old carriage house, which now houses a bar called the Green Lantern. Here’s an iPhone photo I took of the 1860s building last month, on a cold and rainy afternoon while I smoked a cigarette in the overhang of a garage doorway:

GreenLanternBar1

Now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Shorpy.com, here’s the same alley in 1919 or so:

HEC/42900/42919a.tif

Note that the building on the far right– you only see the corner– is the same carriage house that now is the Green Lantern. What nails the location is the dome shown in the photo’s background; it’s the Portland Flats, which is often called Washington’s first luxury apartment building. An online DC history website says that this Green Lantern bar carriage house building housed a brothel in the 1980s. In the 1919 photo, the horse-drawn grocery wagon has the name of P. Chaconas

And, thanks once more to Shorpy.com, here’s the Chaconas grocery store in 1915 or so:

Shorpy 00048a

The Shorpy caption reads:

“P.K. Chaconas Co. Market.” Pictured: Proprietor George Chaconas, whose grocery (“fancy fruits and vegetables”) was at 924 Louisiana Avenue N.W.”

Pretty cool, huh?

In the first old photo, the Society for Neuroscience office building– 11 stories high and as nice an office as I’ve ever worked in– is at the end of the alley where the ramshackle two- and three-story brick buildings were in the old days.

Just shows what you can discover while wandering around town.

Inside Hitler’s Bunker

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These stills are from a YouTube video. They show my dad in one of Hitler’s underground bunkers. I thought all this time that the bunker my dad had been in (and grabbed some souvenirs in the process) was the Berlin one; the caption on this video says it was the bunker under Hitler’s private home, called the Berghof. The caption also says that Dad was the first American G.I. to enter the bunker. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say.

Just after the war, my dad was temporarily assigned to the 101st Airborne Division; in the video, you can plainly see the Screaming Eagle embroidered patch on his shoulder. Why he was chosen for this little film, which is in an early version of color, is not known to me. Maybe it was because he was a photogenic person or maybe it was because he was persuasive and talked his way into it. Don’t know; my dad never mentioned any of this stuff to me, other than to say he had grabbed a bunch of junk in Hitler’s bunker after the war. Anything I learned about his wartime experiences was from overhearing his conversations when a couple of other WWII vets visited our home in the mid-1960s.

Anyway, he sent home a roll of about a dozen water colors and a larger oil pastel that Hitler, an artist earlier in his life, had stored in that bunker. I gave away the watercolors to some friends in Naples in the early 1970s and burned the painting in the early 1990s. I reasoned that destroying an artist’s work is the biggest insult one can do him. All the paintings were of street scenes or of buildings; I guess people weren’t important to Adolf Hitler.

So here are some images illustrating one tiny portion of the aftermath of a hideous episode in the history of our world.

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