Sunday, May 31, 2020

Superman For the Animals

Superman for the Animals came out polybagged with a handful of comics with a November 2000 cover date. I must have gotten mine with Superman Adventures #41 as I didn't read any of the other comics that this book was sold with. Superman for the Animals was made by DC Comics for the Doris Day Animal Foundation and it's made to talk to kids about animal abuse. The story follows Tommy Delaney, who is new in town, and him getting in with the wrong crowd. This crowd doesn't do the normal things that punk kids do like spraypaint graffiti or sit around drinking alcohol and doing drugs. No, these punks abuse animals.

Superman for the Animals was written by Mark Millar, art by Tom Grummett and Dick Giordano, letters by John Costanza, colors by Glenn Whitmore and Digital Chameleon, edited by Paul Kupperberg. As always, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I do have to warn you, this comic gets rough with animal abuse on every page so if that's something that triggers you, you should bow out now.

The issue starts off with Superman reading some of the many letters that he receives from people all around the world. One of the letters Superman picks up begins "Dear Superman, my name is Tommy Delaney and I'm twelve years old." Tommy is new in town--Springdale. Not only is Tommy new, he had to move mid-semester so he's coming in the middle of everything. Tommy is seated next to Ballser, an angry looking young boy.
Turns out their science teacher has a squirrel in the classroom. Mr. Mulligan found it in a ditch, wounded, so he took it in and has been nursing it back to health over the last two months. "Bushy-tailed rat's probably given half the class rabies by now," Ballser says as he kicks some pigeons out of his way. Tommy has also made other friends and they all hang out with Ballser: Charlie, Donuts, and Eightball. Turns out Ballser has a very specific idea of fun and he quickly reveals it by seeing who can hold their breath the longest--him or Tommy's goldfish.
This would be my first sign that maybe I should stop hanging out with Ballser but Tommy doesn't. Tommy does admit in his letter to Superman that his friends could get a little wild and, yes, even played hooky. Ballser borrows his dad's rifle to get some revenge on a junkyard dog. Donut was bitten by the dog last year and Ballser feels its payback time. Up on a hill, the four boys take their post and Donut takes the shot. The bullet hits the dog in the leg and has to be taken to the vet. The man who owns the dog lives next door to Tommy so Tommy and his dad are outside when their neighbor returns with Major, who had to have his leg amputated. It's here that Tommy learns that there have been a rash of animal attacks lately--hung cats, a dog burned alive in his kennel. Tommy starts to feel really guilty.
Tommy doesn't know what to do. He knows Ballser is behind the attacks but he doesn't know who to go to. Meanwhile, Ballser and the others are out luring and capturing a cat. They go to a highway overpass and proceed to throw the cat over into traffic. Luckily, Superman happens by and rescues the cat. Ballser wants "his" cat back but Superman apparently just takes it as far away from those boys as possible.
Turns out Superman was in Springdale because of a fire at the chemical plant. The same chemical plant that Tommy's dad works at. Tommy stands in awe of Superman, not because of his superpowers but because of how Superman acted. Superman has all of this power but doesn't use it against people weaker than him. Superman just wants to help which inspires Tommy. At school, Tommy stumbles upon Ballser and the crew blocking a sink with paper towels and flooding Mr. Mulligan's classroom. They have also put the squirrel cage in the sink. Mr. Mulligan gets back and the boys flee out the window. He then notices the cage in the sink and...
Tommy has had enough. At Ballser's house, Tommy says that he is going to confess to Mulligan if Ballser doesn't. "Are you threatening me, Boy Scout?" Ballser sneers. Tommy answers with a fist to the jaw. The two scuffle for a bit with Ballser screaming "I'm gonna kill you for that, moron!" while shoving Tommy into a cabinet. The impact knocks a small case off and it breaks open. Inside are at least a hundred pet collars from what we can assume are Ballser's victims. We've got ourselves a future serial killer in our midst.
"How many animals have you killed, Ballser?" Tommy asks.

"C'mon, th-they're just dumb animals. It's not like I really did anything wrong or broke the law," Ballser tries to explain. "It's not like they feel pain...or have souls like us. Doing stuff to isn't any worse than chopping down a tree or burning trash, right?" Ballser then starts swinging a bat. At humans. At his friends. Charlie takes the bat from him.

"What now, Ballser? People not have soul either, dude?"

Tommy and the others tell Mr. Mulligan about what they did to the squirrel. Ballser is sent to therapy and the other four do some volunteering at the local animal shelter where Tommy makes a new friend. Tommy wraps up this letter to Superman telling him that he deserves to hear some good news. Superman inspired Tommy to do the right thing. Being a hero isn't about throwing your weight around. It's about helping those who can't fight for themselves.

If you suspect or witness animal abuse, you can contact your local law enforcement or animal shelter to file a report. You can remain anonymous. You can learn more about animal abuse from the Humane Society of the United States.

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Wilbur Matthews pedaled slowly down Bismarck Road heading toward Crossgate Street. Birds were chirping and the sounds of animals scampering through the woods on the south side of the road could be heard. There was a slight breeze that every so often blew Wilbur’s brown hair up, causing it to lay crisscrossed on his scalp. Wilbur crossed a narrow bridge that went over a small creek before the road curved onto Crossgate. On the bank of the creek, Wilbur noticed, the Evilsizor brothers were playing in the water and dirt. Wilbur kept riding but pedaled slowly so as not to bring attention to himself. The gravel road turned into pavement and Wilbur only got a little bit away from the bridge when he heard the sound of footsteps and bicycles racing up the ground to the road.

“It’s Matthews! Get him!” Dale shouted. Dale was the oldest Evilsizor brother and was the same age as Wilbur. He had a few classes with Dale at Northeast Middle School but Wilbur usually just tried to avoid him. The younger siblings were Mitchell and Porter. The Evilsizors were always recognizable with their bright red hair and face full of freckles.

The three boys began racing after Wilbur as he picked up speed. The brothers chased Wilbur down Crossgate to Shadybrook Drive, where Wilbur made a quick right turn. The brothers were still on Wilbur’s tail but started losing them on the second curve. Wilbur quickly turned onto Lazy Brook Lane, hit some loose sand and wiped out.

Wilbur rolled onto his stomach and tried to crawl away until Mitchell ran into him with his bike, knocking him down again. Wilbur tried his hardest to hold back his tears as the Evilsizors stood over him. “What were you doing out there?” asked Dale.

“I was just riding around,” Wilbur groaned.

“Bismarck Road is Evilsizor territory. Stay off of it,” Dale ordered.

“You tell him, Dale,” said Porter, who had not done anything until now.

“You don’t even live near Bismarck Road, and besides, it’s a public road and…” Mitchell interrupted Wilbur by kicking him in the ribs. “Ow.”

“We don’t ever want to see you on Bismarck Road again, or else we’re gonna dump you on Old Man Kupfer’s property,” Dale threatened. The Kupfer property was the woods south of Bismarck Road. There was a large house in the middle of the wood built in the 1870s. It had been abandoned for decades and there was a rumor among the kids that a monster lived there. “Come on, guys, I think this turd has learned his lesson.” All three then kicked Wilbur again, got on their bikes, and rode off.

Wilbur slowly got up, brushed the sand off his clothes and looked at the bloody scrapes on his elbows and knees. He picked up his bike and began walking back to his house back on Shadybrook. As Wilbur passed in front of his neighbor’s house, Amy Parker, a girl Wilbur’s age with short brown hair and dark brown eyes, came out onto the patio.

“What’s wrong, Wilbur?” she asked him.

“The Evilsizor brothers were chasing me and I wiped out taking a turn,” Wilbur said walking up to the patio and looking up at Amy.

“Do they hurt?” she asked.


“Your scrapes,” Amy giggled and pointed at them.

“They’re fine. I’ll live. I’m gonna go and get washed up,” Wilbur started crossing the yard to his house. “I’ll see you at school.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Amy said. Wilbur walked up onto his patio as Amy went back inside.

Amy Parker was Wilbur’s best friend and they had lived next door to each other their entire lives. Wilbur was a month older exactly and their parents had been friendly beforehand. While Amy’s dad, John, was the owner of a grocery store in southwest Laketon, her mom had always been a stay-at-home wife and mother. Wilbur’s parents were more professional. Wilbur’s dad, Lawrence, was city manager and his mother, Michelle, was a professor at Sibley University.

Wilbur had two siblings. His brother, Charles—or Chuck—and sister, Cindy. Amy had only one older sister, Christine. Wilbur and Amy were such good friends that everyone joked that they would get married when they got older but of course, both Wilbur and Amy found this totally disgusting.

The next day at school, Wilbur and Amy were sitting with their friends Tim Earles and Emily Wertham at lunch. They were almost done with their food when Jennifer Mandabach arrived and sat down. “Jen? Where have you been?” Wilbur exclaimed.

“I was finishing up an assignment for Ms. Ebeling,” Jennifer replied.

“We were just talking about getting together after dinner at Quarry Park. There’s new playground equipment. I figured we could hang out, play around, enjoy the new park near our houses. They have tennis courts,” Wilbur said.

“No one here knows how to play tennis,” Amy said.

“The park is five blocks away. We can learn,” Wilbur laughed.

Up until about two months ago, Quarry Park was a park full of nothing. It was completely flat with a few trees. It used to be an active quarry but as the neighborhood encroached, the quarry filled in the pits and gave the land to the city. Because the land might be unstable since it was just a landfill, the city turned it into a park. For years, it was just greenspace to allow the land to settle and then they put in a basketball court, a couple of tennis courts, and playground equipment.

Wilbur and Tim were the first ones at the park. Tim had been Wilbur’s friend since they Kindergarten. He was a nice and quiet kid who helped balance out Wilbur’s more outgoing nature. They were both on the swing set, waiting for the others to show up, if they did. It was a nice night and getting cooler as the sun went down.

“Do you think Emily is cute?” Wilbur asked suddenly.

               Tim turned toward Wilbur and shrugged. “Eh.”

               “I think she’s cute. I like her. I’m glad she moved here,” Wilbur said.

Emily was a girl with long light brown always in a ponytail. She had a small upturned nose and face dotted with light freckles. She was an adopted daughter and, before she moved to Laketon, was somewhat of a troublemaker that she kept hidden from her new friends. What caused her parents to move was Emily getting caught about once a week behind the groundskeeping shed at her school with a boy whose pants were down around his ankles. When Wilbur befriended her early in their seventh-grade year, she seemed to change overnight.

“I like her but I’m not, like, attracted to her or anything,” Tim said.

“Who are you attracted to?”

Tim stopped swinging and just looked at Wilbur. “Promise not to tell anyone?”

“Of course. Why?”

“I’m gay.”

Wilbur returned to look to Tim and stopped swinging. “Really? I mean, I’m sorry. You are? How long have you known?”

“For awhile but I realized it back in sixth grade,” Tim said. He went back to swinging, as did Wilbur. “You’re the first person I’ve told so that’s why I want you to keep quiet.”

“The first? You haven’t even told your parents?” Wilbur smiled big.

“Oh. No, I told them back in fourth grade or something like that.”

“Oh,” Wilbur sounded dejected.

“You’re the first friend I’ve told though.”

“Oh!” Wilbur perked back up.

“Here come the others. Remember, keep it quiet,” Tim said and hopped off the swing.

Amy, Jennifer, and Emily arrived as the street lights came on. The five of them ran around the park until it became completely dark. One-by-one they began going home until only Wilbur and Jennifer were left.

“Hey, Wilbur,” Jennifer said as they both began walking home from the park. They both lived on the same street but she lived on the corner while Wilbur was in the middle of the block. “Would you want to come over to my house for dinner some time?”

“Really? Yeah, sure. I’ll have to ask my parents if it’s all right but just let me know when,” Wilbur said. He looked up at the stars and sighed. “It’s a nice night, isn’t it?” he asked.

“It is nice. I love this temperature,” Jennifer said.

They arrived at her house quickly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Jen,” Wilbur said and continued walking toward his house.

“Bye, Wilbur. See you,” she waved at him.

Dale, Mitchell, and Porter trudged through the thick woods on the Kupfer property. They could hear other animals nearby but couldn’t see them. “I think we’re lost,” Mitchell said after tripped over an exposed tree root.

“We’re not lost. There’s only one path to the house and we’re still on it. The gate should be nearby.”

As they continued walking, the trees began to thin out and the grass got thicker and taller. Dale pointed the flashlight from the ground to straight ahead of him and two stone pillars reflected back at him. The iron gate between the pillars was rusty and, despite being chained and padlocked, was open enough for someone to squeeze through.

“Here it is,” Dale whispered. Mitchell and Porter got closer to their older brother. Dale shined the flashlight around the stone pillars, the iron gate, and the stone fence. The two globe lights on top of the pillars were shattered. A grotesque was carved into each pillar. “Those are so cool,” Dale said and went up to the pillar and touched one of them.

The three brothers slowly and cautiously passed through the gate and prepared to approach the house. Dale nonchalantly tried to push Mitchell in front but Mitchell held his ground and shoved his older brother’s arm away. “What are you doing?” Mitchell asked.

“I thought you might want to go first. I’m trying to be nice,” Dale explained.

“This was your stupid idea, Dale, so you are going to go first,” Mitchell ordered and took a step back behind Dale.

The Kupfer house was in shambles. Nearly all the windows were broken out and door hung loosely on their hinges. The paint was peeling and chipped from the wood. The grass was very tall but it seemed as if a path had been made because some of the grass was bent down. The three boys peered into the house through one of the broken windows and saw that everything that was left in the house was ripped apart. Holes had been made in the wall, the railing to the central staircase had been destroyed but the newel post inexplicably remained. A loud scuffling noise erupted behind the boys causing them to scream and run away from the house. They ran back down the path to their bikes that they left at the entrance. The three of them pedaled as fast as they could.

A loud whooshing noising mixed with a leathery flapping echoed in the night sky above the boys. It got closer until the sound of Mitchell’s bike hitting the pavement and a piercing scream flooded the night. Dale and Porter slammed on their brakes to look behind them. They saw Mitchell being carrying off by a man-like monster with bat-like wings. The creature flew away until disappearing into the woods surrounding the Kupfer house.

If you would like to support my writing and research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Chaumiere, Gumithorne, and Sawqua

Col. Thomas N. Stinson
Thomas Stinson settled in what would become Shawnee County, Kansas before the land was even open for settlement. By some accounts, he had started farming in the area in 1848. He began selling lots of his land in the spring of 1855, founding the town of Tecumseh. Stinson specifically said he would accept no free-state bids. Tecumseh would become a proslavery town and would be the county seat of Shawnee County until 1858.

On February 20, 1857, the territorial legislature approved the incorporation of the Chaumiere Town Association. It was founded by Stinson, Samuel Woodson, William Chrisman, J.C. Anderson, and Abram Comingo. Chaumiere, which means cottage in French, was probably a Tecumseh satellite town (similar to Rising Sun near Lecompton). It's not even recorded if the town was ever actually established but if it was, it was either west of Tecumseh along the Kansas River or across the river in Jefferson County.

The Ft. Scott Topeka & Lincoln Railroad
1883, from the Library of Congress
In the Topeka Daily Commonwealth of July 4, 1871, it was announced that J.B. Whitaker was founding a town along the proposed Fort Scott, Topeka & Lincoln Railroad. It was going to be located twelve miles north of Topeka, in Soldier Township. It would've been very close to the Jackson County border and called Gumithorne. The town was named for John Guthrie, Jacob Smith, and Daniel Horne, thus, Gumithorne.

James Barnes Whitaker was born in 1832, coming to Shawnee County in the 1850s. He served as sheriff for a few months in 1857 and then as county surveyor, a position he held for several years. Though Gumithorne would be nothing more than a mention in a newspaper, Whitaker would go on to plat the College Hill neighborhood north of Washburn University in 1880.

Capt. John Guthrie, from Find A Grave
Captain John Guthrie was born in Switzerland County, Indiana in 1829. He was a teacher, practiced law, and served in the Civil War. He came to Topeka in 1866 where he practiced law, was appointed a district judge, and then postmaster. He also worked with Cyrus Holliday in establishing the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. In 1887, Deer Creek, Oklahoma was established along the AT&SF but within a year was renamed Guthrie after Capt. Guthrie. Guthrie would serve as the territorial capital of Oklahoma and then state capital from 1907 to 1910. Capt. Guthrie died suddenly of heat stroke on July 1, 1906 and is buried in Topeka Cemetery.

Jacob Smith was born in 1831 in Ohio. He came to Topeka in 1857 where he was in the hardware his entire life. Smith dipped his toes into
Jacob Smith illustration, 1908.
many enterprises in Topeka including banking, the railroad, and serving as county treasurer in the 1860s. Smith suffered a stroke in 1906 and passed away in 1908. At the time of his death, he was president of W.A.L. Thompson Hardware. He is buried in Topeka Cemetery.

Colonel Daniel Horne was born in New Hampshire in 1828. He came to Kansas in 1854 and was one of the nine founders of Topeka. Horne went into the real estate business, selling lots to people moving to Topeka. His biggest contribution to Topeka would be the Horne's Addition subdivision which are the three neighborhoods bordered by Horne/Washburn on the west, Clay Street on the east, 5th Street on the north and 8th Street on the south. Horne Street, which runs between Willow and 8th, is named for him. He and his wife moved to California for one of his son's health. Sadly, it didn't work and his son died in 1885. Col. Horne would pass away in California in 1894 and is buried there.

Saw-Qua, Osawqua, Saw-Gua
Osawqua in Soldier Township
1873 Atlas
Located at the split of Indian Creek in Soldier Township, this post office location went through many different spellings. Saw-Qua, Saw-Gua, Osawqua, Ozawaqua, Saqua, and possibly Sawour. The post office was established in January of 1871. Sawqua was in the northern part of the Pleasant Hills area of Shawnee County. The Pleasant Hill school was built in 1872 and residents of this small community became very proud of their neighborhood even starting a newspaper called The Echo.

The Sawqua post office was discontinued in 1873 but continued to be serviced by Topeka, a forty mile route three days a week from North Topeka to Muscotah and back. That arrangement lasted at least until 1882. The mail route to Sawqua was probably taken over by Elmont or Kilmer when those offices opened in the 1880s.

The Pleasant Hill school land, District 24, is still serving the community. It is currently used by the Seaman school district as the Pleasant Hill Learning Center.

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Fields of Honey

Tiny Toon Adventures was an animated series that aired in syndication and on Fox Kids from 1990 to 1992. The premise was simple, these were the stories from the new stars of Warner Bros. cartoons and they were learning from the old guard at good ol' Acme Looniversity. This episode deals with Babs learning about early cartoon star Honey.

It's mentor day at Acme Looniversity. Everybody is excited to be working with their Golden Age Warner Bros. counterparts--Buster with Bugs, Plucky with Daffy, Elmyra with Elmer Fudd, Calamity Coyote with Wile E. Coyote but Babs is placed in study hall because there are no female Warner Bros. stars.

In order to settle an argument over who is better--Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck--Buster, Plucky, and Babs go down to the film vault to watch their old cartoons. I don't know how that would solve anything. I would just become more entrenched in my opinion because both are good.
Buster and Plucky arguing. Babs is not amused.
In the film vault, the mysterious vaultkeeper gives Buster and Plucky some Bugs and Daffy cartoons and asks what's wrong with Babs. She says it's because there are no girl cartoon stars. The vaultkeeper apologizes and then goes on his lunch break, asking Babs to watch things for him. A mysterious voice whispers out to Babs: "If you watch them, you will find her." Why the voice can't say who Babs should be looking for isn't clear but Babs spends the next several months watching old Warner Bros. cartoons. She finally finds the cartoon "Bosko In Person" from 1933. She plays it and discovers Honey, a female cartoon who does voices and impersonations just like Babs. Babs then wants to find her but the vaultkeeper reveals that no one has seen Honey in over 50 years. Babs is still determined to find her.
Honey and Bosko
Babs goes to the library to do some research on Honey. Honey was Warner Bros' first female cartoon star. Her and Bosko were on top until the creation of Porky Pig. Bosko and Honey continued to perform on stage but their old fashioned style and lack of color made them unpopular. Bosko continued to perform solo but a planned reunion with Honey on The Ed Sullivan Show was canceled when Honey was nowhere to be found. Bosko tried to find Honey until he also faded away into obscurity.

Babs tries to find Honey but has no idea where to start. The mysterious voice says that "If you build it, they will watch" meaning to build a theater to show Honey cartoons. Turns out laughter keeps a toon young, when the laughter stops, a toon grows old and forgotten. Babs tries to get some money by extorting Montana Max. Her ploy to sell Bunny Scout Carrots and help orphans doesn't work but a plan to send everybody without money to the moon does.
Sending poor people to the moon? Now that's a good idea.
The opening of the theater doesn't do well so the mysterious voice says Babs should advertise. Babs then advertises on television parodying Pee-Wee's Playhouse ("The secret word is 'honey'"), soap operas, and the Super Bowl. After hypnotizing the populace, the theater is full of people to watch Honey on the big screen once again.
Who would've thought a theater dedicated to one obscure cartoon
character from the 1930s would do so poorly?
I think this old lady is going to become important later.
The cartoons are big hit, people are literally falling out of their seats and balcony over these cartoons. Meanwhile, the little old lady from the previous picture starts to change and it's revealed that she's really Honey. After the show, Babs thanks Honey and wonders where the mysterious voice came from. Turns out the voice was really the mysterious vaultkeeper who was really Bosko all along. Nice of Acme Looniversity to give their first star a job. It's the least they could do, I guess.
Babs and Honey, together at last!
Honey and Bosko reunited!
With Honey and Bosco reunited, they dance off into the horizon.

Bosko and Honey were real cartoon characters from Warner Bros. Bosko was created by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising in 1927 when they were still working at Disney. They copyrighted the character and planned on starting a sound series with Bosko. After leaving Disney, they worked at Universal for a year before starting work on Bosko's first film, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid. It was unique in that it focused on dialogue and not music like other short animated subjects of the time. Harman and Ising shopped the film around to numerous studios and Leon Schlesinger offered them a contract with Warner Bros.
Bosko and Honey's first cartoon was "Sinkin' In the Bathtub" in 1930. Bosco and Honey were originally considered to be two black children though that seemed to be later dropped or forgotten. Their adventures were not considered racist as they were treated in the same plot style as Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Racist stereotypes were avoided and Bosko's race was never pointed out or even considered a part of the story. However, a scene in the 1930 "Congo Jazz" shows Bosko, a chimpanzee, and a gorilla with the same facial features. Despite the lack of overt racism, Bosko and Honey were still black children in almost-exaggerated black face and somewhat monkey features.
Bosko and Honey, 1930
Bosko and Honey's last cartoon was "Bosko's Picture Show" in 1933. Harman and Ising left Warner Bros. and, since they owned the rights, took Bosko with them to MGM for several ill-received shorts. Bosko's last film appearance was 1938's "Little Ol' Bosko in Bagdad." At Warner Bros., Buddy became their biggest star until 1935 when Porky Pig debuted. For Tiny Toons, Bosko and Honey were made more ambiguous, looking very similar to how Yakko, Wakko, and Dot would look in Animaniacs. Honey was voiced by B.J. Ward and Bosko was voiced by Don Messick.

The plot of this episode was based on the 1989 Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams which Babs references in the cartoon.

The animation in this episode is done by Kennedy Animation, an outfit from Canada that also did animation for Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Bonkers, and Aladdin, among others. Warner Bros. was reportedly unhappy with the work Kennedy was producing and was dropped after the first season. The animation style seems very off-model and the characters move around too much. The founder, Glen Kennedy, worked for Hanna-Barbara in the 1980s. His style can be seen prominently in the series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Vivian Patee

Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" McDermott was born in Cleveland, Ohio on January 4, 1860. At the age of 12, the McDermotts moved to the Lawrence, Kansas area where she attended the White School until the age of 16 when she got a job at the Lawrence Tribune. She was employed at the Tribune for a few years until moving to Topeka to work at the state printing office and then to the Topeka Daily Commonwealth. It was in Topeka that she met Claire M. Patee, who managed a traveling theater. They got married in 1884 and she joined him traveling around the country with the theater and soon started appearing on stage as well. It was here that Vivian Patee was born.

ad for the Patee Comedians performing
at the Bowersock Opera House in
Lawrence, Kansas. Sept. 1891.
Clarence M. Patee was born in Ashland, Kansas on May 6, 1857. Claire founded the Manhattan Mercury before becoming involved with the theater, creating his own troupe and performing a variety of plays and musicals. Around the turn of the century, the Patees quickly hopped onto the advent of motion pictures. Claire reportedly helped Thomas Edison with his work on movie projectors and owned one of the first movie theaters in the United States, located in New Jersey and opening in 1898 in Jersey City.

Taking this newfound technology, the Patees returned to Lawrence around 1903 to care for Vivian's stepfather and opened The Nickel, not only the first movie theater in Lawrence but the first one west of the Mississippi River. Patee would later open a theater in Kansas City. The Nickel was located at 708 Massachusetts Street. The location today is home to the Dusty Bookshelf.

The Patee's opened a new theater in 1913, a grand building at 828 Massachusetts Street. The Patees would continue to operate this theater until Clair's death in 1930. It would later be operated by Commonwealth Amusement. Sadly, the building would burn down in 1955 and would be demolished later that year. Part of the new J.C. Penny building (The Antique Mall) and alleyway was built in 1959.

The 1913 Patee Theater
Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes would spend countless hours in the theaters of Lawrence when he was growing up. He specifically remembers patronizing the Patee until one day he arrived to learn that they put up a sign banning black people from entering their theater. In fact, until Bowersock Theater, now Liberty Hall, opened in 1912, Hughes and the other black residents of Lawrence couldn't enter any of the movie theaters in town.

For most of 1915, Vivian suffered from stomach and bowel ailments that put her in the hospital several times. Vivian passed away on May 24, 1915 in Rosedale Hospital in Kansas City. She was only 54-years-old.

Claire continued working in the theater business. He even published a pamphlet about the movie industry trying to dispel the numerous falsities that permeated about the new industry. Claire passed away in 1930. Along with his wife, he was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. She had purchased the plot shortly before her death and an elaborate gravestone was installed. The stone mentions her country origins, her time in journalism, and philanthropy but oddly leaves out her time in theater--both performing and entrepreneurship. The epitaph concludes with the journalistic shorthand for the end: "30".

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a coffee over on Ko-fi.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Plan 9 from Melvin and Helu

Bobbo was sitting at the cafeteria table playing with a Tiger Handheld Electronic Game during the last ten or so minutes he had after he had finished eating. “Why is this game so hard?” he muttered to himself.

“How is it hard? You’re essentially playing a calculator…” Max said, briefing looking up from his book.

“Hey, Bobbo, I have a favor to ask,” Brooke came up to Bobbo and Max. “It pays $40.”

“What’s in it for me?” he asked. “Oh, wait. You already said. Sorry. What’s the favor?”

“I need you to take a babysitting job for me,” Brooke sat down. “It’s pretty easy. I took the job but now I have a surprise choir performance tonight and I can’t do it.”

“What’s a surprise choir performance?” Max asked.

“Yeah, I’ll do it. $40 is $40,” Bobbo slammed the game down on the table. “Gah, it’s impossible.”

Brooke eyed the game then looked back at Bobbo. “I’ll come over to your place at 5:30 and we’ll walk over to the kid’s house together so I can introduce you to the parents and Melvin.”

“Who names their kid Melvin?” Max asked.

“Okay,” Brooke began as she and Bobbo walked from his house to the house where he would be babysitting. “The parents are very laidback and Melvin is a good kid. He can be hyperactive at times and has an overactive imagination. He carries around this stuffed bear named Helu and he treats it like a real bear so he may threaten to have Helu eat you.”

“How old is this kid?” Bobbo asked.


“How often do you babysit this kid?”

“About once a month,” Brooke said. “His parents pay well and he likes me. If I can’t get the money, I’d rather it go to a sitter that won’t steal the job from me.” They got to the house and Brooke rang the doorbell. A woman answered. “Hello, Mrs., uh, Melvin. This is Bobbo. He’ll be taking over for me tonight while I have my performance.”

“Great. Good to meet you, Bobbo,” the woman opened the door wider for Bobbo and Brooke. “I think you’ll like Melvin. He has a very active imagination. He loves cops and robbers and superhero and supervillain scenarios. You two could probably be very creative with his action figures. Do you know how to make macaroni and cheese?”

“I know how to read instructions on the back of a box, yes,” Bobbo replied.

“That’s what Melvin will have for dinner. There are popsicles and ice cream sandwiches in the deep freeze in the garage for a dessert if he wants. Melvin, your babysitter is here. Get down here,” she hollered.

“I should get going,” Brooke said. “I have to get ready for the performance. Tell Melvin ‘hi’ for me. Bobbo, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye, Brooke, see you,” Bobbo said.

Brooke left and Bobbo and Melvin’s mom stood in the kitchen waiting for Melvin to come downstairs. They heard Melvin pound down the stairs, his feet thudding down the carpeted stairs. Melvin was a little blond-haired kid holding a stuffed brown teddy bear. The bear looked like it had been through some things. “Where’s Brooke?” he asked.

“Brooke couldn’t watch you tonight. This is Bobbo. He’s a friend of Brooke’s.”

“Hey, Melvin. How are you doing?”

“You’re not Brooke,” Melvin said.

“I am not. I am her friend. She had a music performance to go to. She offered me this job. She thought we’d get along well,” Bobbo said.

“No, I don’t think so,” Melvin said.

“Well, he’s all we’ve got so you’re just gonna have to make do,” Melvin’s mom said. “Is your father almost ready?”

“I’m ready. Let’s head out,” a man suddenly appeared from around the corner. “We’ll be home around ten. Melvin,” his father pointed. Melvin innocently looked up at him. “Be good.”

Melvin’s parents left and Bobbo looked at Melvin. “So Melvin, what is it you like to do?”

“Helu and I like to explore,” Melvin answered.

“Is that Helu?” Bobbo pointed to the stuffed bear. “Brooke told me about him? What kind of bear is he?”

“A Kodiak bear,” Melvin replied.

“Kodiak. Cool,” Bobbo didn’t know what the difference between bears were. “When do you normally eat dinner?”

“About six,” he said.

“That’s in half an hour,” Bobbo said, almost to himself. “Do you want to play something for a bit before I make you some mac and cheese?”

“No, but go ahead and start dinner. After we can play a game or something,” Melvin said.

“Okay. I’ll come get you when it’s done,” Bobbo said.

Melvin and Helu went back upstairs. “So what are we going to do with this bum?” Helu said.

“I’m thinking,” Melvin rubbed his chin. “I think plan 9 will work on this goon,” Melvin began to laugh evilly and Helu followed.

After dinner, Melvin grabbed the board game Yahtzee to play. “I haven’t played Yahtzee in years,” Bobbo said. “You may have to remind me how to play.”

“You shake dice and try to get five of the same number,” Melvin said. “Do you seriously need a reminder?”

“I don’t need your attitude, Melvin,” Bobbo said. “You can go first.”

They began playing and got about halfway through a game. Melvin kept looking up at the clock on the wall. At seven, a loud thud echoed through the house. Melvin jumped and pressed up against Bobbo in fright. “What was that?” he shrieked.

“Sounded like someone fell against a wall,” Bobbo said. “I’ll go check. Do you have a backdoor?”

“Down the hall and around the corner. Before you get to the patio,” Melvin said.

Bobbo went to the door and peaked out of it. “I don’t see anything,” Bobbo said.

“Maybe step out into the yard,” Melvin said. “Maybe someone was trying to climb the wall.”

Bobbo stepped outside and looked around, even up to the bedroom windows. “Nope, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary,” Bobbo said. “Maybe a large bird flew into the side of the house or something.”

“Well, thanks for looking,” Melvin said and shut and locked the door. Melvin ran back to the front of the house. Helu was at the base of the steps. “We did it, Helu! He’s locked out! He fell for it!”

“I didn’t think it would work so quickly. He must be dumber than the other babysitters.”

There came a pounding on the front door. “Melvin! Let me in! This isn’t funny…or safe!” Bobbo shouted.

“We’ll let you back in in a bit,” Melvin said. “As soon as we’re finished doing everything Mom and Dad doesn’t want us to do.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Bobbo said. “Just let me in. You can still do that stuff.”

“Come on, Helu, let’s get some ice cream.”

“Maybe I can get in through a window or another door,” Bobbo muttered to himself. He ran back around the side of the house and tried a window into the garage but it wouldn’t budge. Neither would the door to the patio or the back door that he was originally locked out of. He tried the other windows and got nothing. He went back to the front door and knocked again. “Look, if you’re not going to let me back in, then I’m just gonna go home.”

“Okay, bye,” Melvin said, peeking out of the window with a carton of ice cream and a spoon.

Bobbo sighed and began to walk away.

“Do you think he’s really going to go home?” Helu asked. “He can’t just leave can he?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.” Melvin got up and looked out the window again. “He’s not out there. He could be wandering around the house trying to find a way in. I’ll check after I finish off this tub of ice cream.” Melvin finished the ice cream about fifteen minutes later. He then sat, lazily at the kitchen table rubbing his stomach.

“You should go see if Bobbo is still out there,” Helu said.

Melvin groaned as he stood up. He went over and opened the door. “Bobbo?” Melvin poked his head out of the door. “Bobbo.” Melvin went out onto the steps outside the door. “I don’t see him out here, Helu. He must’ve actually left us. Helu?”

“Hello, Melvin,” Bobbo said, suddenly appearing from around the corner of the house and in the doorway. “Do you really think I’d abandon you and leave you alone. That would look very bad on me and especially Brooke. Now come inside. We’re going to finish our game of Yahtzee and then you’re gonna go to bed.”

“You want to finish the game of Yahtzee?” Melvin asked.

“Yeah. I was winning,” Bobbo pushed Melvin into the house and closed the door.  ▩

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a coffee over on Ko-fi.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

May Update

Hey. I hope this finds everyone doing well. I hope you are staying in if you are able to. If you are one of our essential workers then thank you for your work. We all need to work together to not only keep yourself safe but also everyone else. These are going to be...interesting times as cities, counties, and states begin the process of re-opening over the next several months. If you are able to or have to, please stay home, and if you have to go out, wear a mask and wash up when you get home. Make sure you get enough outside time and make sure to spend some time with friends, even if it's just over a video chat. If you believe you have or have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your local health department, hospital, or your healthcare provider. If you believe that you need mental health in coping with all the everything that's going on, you can contact the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). If you have lost your job and are having trouble making ends meet, contact your state unemployment office immediately. There are also resources such as 2-1-1 to find places to financially help in your area. Feeding America, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are also available. You can also find out if there are any local food banks in your area.

I've been working on trying to get posts here finished. Some have been easier than others. I've barely written anything on my novel which kind of sucks but I hope to get started on them soon. There are a couple other book-related things I would like to get started on but they will probably have to wait until the summer when I don't have meetings every day. I know the meetings are only an hour a day but good lord they take a lot out of me. It's not just me. There has been research conducted. Who would've thought talking to a handful of kids over online video would be more tiring than standing for 7 hours a day among 550 students.

When I finish the short list of short stories I have planned I plan on focusing completely on my novels. I am also going to focus on local and regional history, especially the history of every settlement that ever existed in Shawnee County, Kansas and continuing my social media posts on cemeteries and gravestones. If you would like to check out my social media, I am on Twitter and Instagram. If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Zero Hour, Part 2

Let's get started on the second half of Zero Hour: Crisis In Time. Despite our heroes stopping the rift from encapsulating the 20th Century, a mysterious figures goes back in time to reopen the rift and continue the work that they started.

After Zero Hour #2 ends, the following story is Green Arrow #90 which is a very good story where, while chasing a low-level street thug, Green Arrow's timeline diverges and minute but important changes occur leading to two very different outcomes for Green Arrow. One where he is shot but is needed by Batman, and another where he is shot--repeatedly--and dies in the street. Except's for Batman's "We need you" there is no dialogue in this book. Kevin Dooley and Eduardo Barreto make a really interesting story.
Green Arrow #90, by Kevin Dooley and Eduardo Barreto
Not all the heroes are up for saving the universe though. Some heroes, most notably Guy Gardner and Batgirl, want to use this opportunity to rewrite history. Gardner wants to bring back Hal Jordan, who became a villain after his hometown of Coast City was destroyed during the Reign of the Supermen, and Batgirl just wants to exist. Instead of just the one rift, there are multiple rifts which perplexes Extant because he did not do that. Extant is then reminded who is in charge. With multiple fissures, more heroes are erased from the timestream including Batman. We are then brought up to speed on who is the true mastermind behind this crisis in time. Parallax. Hal Jordan. Green Lantern.
Zero Hour #1, by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway
Coast City, California, Hal Jordan's hometown, was destroyed by the Cyborg Superman and Mongul during the Reign of the Supermen in Superman #80. Jordan then decided to use his power ring to rebuild Coast City. Unfortunately the ring constructs are only temporary so they fade away. Jordan then decides that he needs more power and goes on a killing spree taking his fellow Green Lantern's power rings. After desolating the Green Lantern Corps and killing powerful villain Sinestro, Jordan absorbs all the power of the central power battery and became Parallax. Through Zero Hour, Jordan was going to create a new universe, or many new universes, however many it takes to make everybody happy. As we get further into the end of time, the pages fade to white.
Legion of Super-Heroes #61, by Mark Waid, Tom McGraw, Stuart Immonen, and Ron Boyd
As the end arrives, Robin meets a young Dick Grayson, Catwoman befriends a sabretooth tiger and caveman, and, in a short story, various villains attempt to help, and we learn that a new hero named Damage just might be the solution to all of this.
Damage #6, by Tom Joyner, Bill Marimon, and Don Hillsman
Parallax has brought Guy Gardner, Batgirl, Alpha-Centurion, and a hero named Triumph (more on him later) to the new start of the universe since they are the ones who want Parallax to start over the universe while Waverider has brought a handful of heroes--Superman, Green Lantern, Captain Atom, Hawkman, The Ray, The Atom, Donna Troy, Green Arrow, and Damage to Vanishing Point. All the other heroes have been erased. This then pits hero against hero--those who want the universe back the way it was and those who just want to exist. While Parallax is distracted by the Spectre, Waverider has Superman, Donna Troy, Captain Atom, and the Ray concentrate their powers on him who then channels it into Damage. Parallax notices this and tries to stop them. Batgirl distracts Parallax while Green Lantern holds him back. Green Arrow then launches an arrow at his former friend. Damage can no longer hold all the energy and, essentially, brings about a new big bang, restarting the universe.
Zero Hour #0, by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway
Time restarts and efforts are made to put everything back in order. After Zero Hour, titles used this time to retell their character's origins or introduce a new facet of the character. Included in the omnibus is Green Lantern #0, where Green Lantern and Parallax continue their fight on the dead planet Oa, where the Green Lantern Corps used to be based. After a lapse in judgement, Green Lantern returns the ring to Parallax who immediately begins to harvest more power so he can restart time again. Green Lantern overpowers him while he is distracted and takes the ring back, overloading the planet and destroying it, taking Parallax with it.
Green Lantern #0, by Ron Marz, Daryl Banks, Romeo Tanghal
But like all comic book stories, parts of Zero Hour would be changed, removed, or expanded upon. A lot of people would say that Zero Hour didn't actually do anything to change the problems created by Crisis On Infinite Earths and to a point, that is correct. It really wasn't meant to. It was to give correct a few issues but overall, the DC Universe would remain the same. The zero issues introduced new concepts, villains, storylines, teams, and even series to the DC lineup. Most would be quickly forgotten like Manhunter (13 issues, 1994-1995), Fate (23 issues, 1994-1996), and Primal Force (15 issues, 1994-1995) but one would go on to great acclaim, Starman (81 issues, 1994-2001).
Starman #0, by Tony Harris
Interior by James Robinson, Tony Harris, Wade Von Grawbadger
The superhero Triumph was introduced in Justice League America #92. In the issue, Triumph was a founding member of the Justice League with Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, The Flash, Black Canary, and Green Lantern. It was their very first mission and they were facing off against plasma-aliens mining Earth for fuel. It took months for Triumph to research the aliens, understand what they were doing, and which heroes he would need. Despite some mistakes from the newbie superheroes, Triumph's plan works until Aquaman and Flash go up to the ship in Earth's orbit. Aquaman is nearly knocked out while trying to start a dialogue with the aliens so Flash tries to save him which then gets him injured. Soon, only Triumph is left to fight the aliens after everyone else--even Superman--abandons the mission. Triumph uses his power of electromagnitivity to stop the ship. Unfortunately, it damages the ship's time/space throwing Triumph and the aliens into limbo and essentially erased Triumph from history.
Justice League America #92, by Christopher Priest, Luke Ross, Dennis
Cramer, Matt Banning, Wayne Faucher, Jose Marzan, Jr.
Due to the time rifts, Triumph is now back and so are the aliens so Triumph wants to get the old Justice League back together but, much to his dismay, now consists of third-tier heroes. After a brief fight between Triumph and the Justice League, they are attacked by Arion. When Martian Manhunter shows up, he reveals that he's never met anyone named Triumph and with the help of Fire, knocked unconscious into the bay. While Triumph is floating, the aliens begin to pull him under. With the Justice League looking on, Triumph defeats the aliens and earns the trust of the League and Martian Manhunter. Triumph suggests they all talk about where the Justice League goes from here but he and Martian Manhunter are soon blinked out of existence.
Justice League International #68, by Christopher Priest, Phil Jimenez, John Stokes
Triumph would survive Zero Hour though and become a member of Justice League Task Force. Part of the deal with Triumph was that he was an arrogant know-it-all. He could become insufferable at times which frustrated his more experienced teammates. He was fired from JLTF and was offered his lost decade back in exchange for his soul by Neron. A mix-up causes Triumph to accidentally lose his soul and he learns that everything remains the same with or without him existing. He became a villain for a short while and was frozen in ice by Spectre. Triumph was kept, frozen, in the JLA Watchtower until its destruction resulted in Triumph's death.

Art for the promotional booklet Zero Hour by Tom Grummett and Doug Hazelwood
The Zero Hour posts are dedicated to my father-in-law, Paul Goebel (1952-2019)

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.