Sunday, February 17, 2008
I’ve been doing research for the Springfield post card book and what has struck me over and over is the very short time period most businesses, institutions, buildings, and trends have for success.
Take Indian Motocycle (not a misspelling) for example. The company started producing motorcycles in 1902 but was done manufacturing their own product by the early 1950s. They were the first American motorcycle and when they had their financial problems in the ‘50s that led to the company’s demise, their only American competition was Harley-Davidson.
Springfield’s Union Station was built in 1926. It replaced a much more elegant building (that’s the postcard you see) which I wish still existed. Bu the mid-1950s, the station was considered a white elephant and the railroad that owned it was seeking a buyer.
The old zoo at Forest Park was deemed in the 1930s as fairly progressive, but by the 1970s it was an embarrassment.
Fifty years, 30 years…those seem like a long time for some folks, but they aren’t really.
I suppose this post is a typical musing from a middle-age guy who understands that at age 53 he has lived most of his life. With my diabetes, I probably have another 20 years if I’m very lucky.
I’m not being morose this morning, just reflecting on the brief opportunities we have for some sort of success – however you measure it. I know this is why I’m trying to get these books out of my head and into reality. That will be one of my measures of success.
Over at Marty Langford’s Screen Writing blog, he reveals the news that director John Landis is working on a bio pic on Bill Gaines, the late publisher of the beloved EC Comics and MAD magazine.
I had the opportunity of interviewing Gaines three times – twice in his office and once on the phone. I used the interview in my fanzine, Inertron, back in my college years and then sold it to the Valley Advocate. I then did a piece for the Westfield Evening news and many years later I recycled it for Steve Murphy’s late and lamented V Mag.
I’ll never forget going into his office and seeing a near life-size Kong Kong head mounted as if he was peering through the window. Or the truly sick two photo framed with photos of Fatty Arbuckle and the woman he was alleged to have raped to death (he didn’t).
I was so encouraged by the first interview, that when I had a second session I brought along apiece I had written for MAD. I told Gaines about it and he called in one of the editors who read it silently with no reaction. It was the longest five minutes of my life. He finally said that it was funny, but in was in the style of an established MAD writer. It was. I thought that would get me a sale. He suggested that I try something in my own style.
I asked Gaines once what he thought of Cracked and Sick, two MAD competitors. (I didn’t admit that as a kid I read Cracked much more than MAD. For some reason my mom didn’t like MAD but thought that Cracked was better. I did become a life-long John Severin fan because of it.)
Gaines told me that there would be a point in my life where I would understand how it is to have someone try to capitalize on your hard work.
He was right.
I’ll try to dig out those stories and post the most complete version as soon as I can.
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs