Mammy Yokum and The American Way

The alternative usage of newspaper is as old as the print medium itself. In our family discarded newspaper was used to wrap countless things like garbage, fish entrails or vegetable peelings for later disposal. Old newspaper was often used as a drop-cloth for painting, etc.. In a pinch we sometimes used the Sunday Funnies as a colorful alternative to the more expensive gift wrapping paper. Crumpled old newspapers were used long before styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap came along to make a good stuffing or cushion for the long term storage or shipping of fragile objet d’arts.

It’s fascinating, fun and often informative to read these old serendipitously rediscovered newspapers, especially from your own childhood so long ago. This little gem of a comic strip story arc was found in the attic just the other day; it was published in the Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet December 6, 1962.

The Green Sheet was the Journals’ entertainment section with, at one time, a sports-related counterpart called the Sports Peach. The Sports Peach was printed a light peach color and the Green Sheet was obviously tinted green but the rest of the paper was the standard black and white. When the evening paper arrived family members dove for their favorite sections.

This Li’l Abner comic strip is over 50 years old. As with most old newspapers it’s dried out and fragile, yellowed or oxidized – the green tint of this Green Sheet is long gone.

Al Capp's Li'l Abner Comic Strip, December 6, 1962

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner Comic Strip, December 6, 1962

The story arc involves the annual Sadie Hawkins’ Day Race. The tart in the turban is a mystery to me as the complete storyline is missing. All that can be said of her is that she’s from some fictional place called Speedistan and intends to gobble up all the bachelors in Dogpatch during the annual race for her own purposes. Don’t bother Googling Speedistan (or Imported Speedistan Watchdog) – currently this is the only place on the Internet you’ll find them mentioned.

Al Capp's Li'l Abner Comic Strip, December 6, 1962, restored for clarity.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner Comic Strip, December 6, 1962, restored for clarity.

Every idea in your head has its own history. Every idea in your head has its source. The influence of Pop Culture is overwhelming. I suggest that there are many American women still living today in whose lives the Sadie Hawkins’ Dance proved a truly pivotal moment.

I don’t know who said it; it might have been my very own mother; regarding bullying and hurtful remarks (as they say, “kids can be cruel”) and thoughtless, cutting comments: “consider the source.” Children are thoughtless just because they are children. But since then, when new ideas (or any such thing) comes my way I habitually consider the source and, upon close examination, I can accept it, tolerate it or simply reject it.

 This is a joke, is it not?

This is a comic strip, is it not?

Consider this source and answer this question:

 Who told you an American wife needn’t obey her husband? On the other hand, who told you from the beginning she must? Was it the church? Was it Christian tradition? Or was it someone like Gloria Steinem or Mammy Yokum?

One cannot say with any degree of certainty that this was or was not the pivotal moment – the beginning of the end of traditional marriage and family in America. But it is something to think about. Pop Culture is indeed overwhelming.

(Approximate restoration)

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner Comic Strip, December 6, 1962, re-tinted green

About The Twentieth Man

Age 70
This entry was posted in For Feminists, Human Sacrifice, Sadie Hawkins' Day, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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