Remembering a newspaper tradition

Published 1:29 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

This week we are off in another direction. A little variety never hurt anyone.

When growing up in my house, everyone read something nearly every day. My dad had the newspaper and dictionaries and my mother read her cookbooks.

Mother also liked mysteries, which must be where I got my fondness for mysteries. I remember seeing her read the Earl Stanley Gardner books. She was also a dime novel reader (that’s what they were called because they cost a dime).

Every day my dad would come home from work. The newspaper had afternoon delivery and it might be there waiting for him or the paperboy would bring it shortly after he got home. He sat down with the paper and read it while my mother cooked dinner. Often what he had read was the topic of discussion at the dinner table.

Traditions are hard to ignore and so, in my house now, we are also newspaper readers. Our recycle bin fills up rather fast each week. Now the paper is delivered sometime in the dead of night and is always there for breakfast reading, which is fine with us, because we are early risers and since we are retired we have no place that we need to be. So coffee in hand we retire to our chairs and share the paper. This same scenario is probably repeated in many households all across the country.

As a little girl who liked to read one of my favorites in the funny papers (that’s what we called them and only after becoming an adult have I used the term “comics” or comic strip) was Blondie. Reading it every day has made me laugh for so many years that I began to wonder when and how Blondie got started.

Blondie Bumstead was the character for which the strip was named. But her husband Dagwood Bumstead deserves his share of the fame. Blondie was started in 1930 and has been distributed by the King Features Syndicate. Chic Young was its creator and after his death in 1973 his son Dean Young took over. Blondie has appeared in 2,000 newspapers in 47 countries and has been translated in 35 languages.

In the beginning Blondie was a flapper girl who spent her time in dance halls with her boyfriend Dagwood Bumstead who was an heir to a railroad fortune. When he and Blondie married in 1933, Dagwood’s parents disinherited him because he was marrying beneath him. With only a check to pay for their honeymoon they became a middle-class suburban family living in Joplin, Missouri. The family consisted of son Alexander Bumstead, known as Baby Dumpling, daughter Cookie Bumstead and of course Daisy, their dog.

But there is more in the comic strip beside the Bumsteads: Mr. Beasley the Postman, Mr. Julius Caesar Dithers, the boss and his wife, Mrs. Cora Dithers, Herb Woodley, Dagwood’s best friend and next door neighbor, Tootsie his wife, Elmo Tuttle a neighbor kid, Lou the Diner Counterman, Claudia and Dwitzell known as Dwitz, Dagwood’s carpooler friends and Mike Morelli the Barber.

Dagwood is characterized by many reoccurring events like making a big sandwich which is called a Dagwood sandwich, running into the Postman as he hurries out the door, napping on the couch or sleeping at his desk, demanding a raise from Mr. Dithers and getting none, and loaning tools to Herb and never getting them back. He is portrayed as clumsy, naive and lazy.

In the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s the stories of Blondie and her family were made into feature films as well as a radio program. In the Sunday comics it organically consisted of 12 frames. In Sunday papers now it is nine frames.  In the daily papers the story has been reduced to three frames.

What did Dagwood put in his famous sandwich? It is said the it contained three slices of deli bread, hard salami, pepperoni, Cappicola made of pork, Mortadella, an Italian bologna, deli ham, cotto salami, cheddar, Provolone, red onion, green leaf lettuce, tomato, fresh and roasted red bell papers, mayo, mustard and a secret Italian olive salad oil.

Sounds to me like a gastronomical delight. Let me know if you try it.


Jo-Ann Boepple works at the Edwardsburg Area History Museum.