Stephenson Tales

Reading the "Funnies"

In the 1920s and 1930s on the corner of Main Street and Madison Street - just four blocks from our house - was Kolander's Drug Store. Every Sunday morning Dad would give me a dime, and I would run down there, crossing Second, First, and Ashley Streets, to buy the Detroit Free Press Sunday paper. Then I would run home and lie on the living room floor and read the comic section: Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Gasoline Alley (with Skeezix and Uncle Walt), Bringing Up Father (with Maggie and Jiggs), Felix the Cat, Casper Milquetoast, Andy Gump.

Then I would go across Third and down two houses on Madison to where Mr. and Mrs. Maulbetch lived - just on the other side of Dorothy Sell, who lived on the corner across from us. My purpose was to read the comics in their paper: The Detroit News.

Often Dorothy Sell, who was a year older than I, would join me. She loved to torture me.

One Sunday, she joined me in my literary quest for high adventure. As we sat on the floor of the Maulbetch's living room, she kept putting her hand over what I was trying to read. I pushed her hands away about half a dozen times, and she got mad at me and slapped me. I reacted instantly and landed a flat slap on what Inny May used to call "up side o' de haid."

At that precise second, Mr. Maulbetch came in to see what the noise was about. "JIM BOB!" he yelled, "Don't hit a girl!"

I was speechless with indignation and tried to tell him how she had brought it on herself and...

"Go home! Right now!"

My eyes were filling with tears at the injustices of life. I lurched to the front door and started out. Always one to have the last word, I turned back and shouted at him, "You old hot potato crook!" and slammed the door.

I ran home and told mom about it, and when I got to my punch line she burst out laughing. She felt I should be admonished for calling Mr. Maulbetch such a foul name. "You must not call Mr. Maulbetch a..." and here she was laughing so hard she could hardly say, "a hot...potato...crook!"

Then she covered her face with her apron and kept on shrieking with laughter. Mom's laugh was always infectious, and in a moment through my tears I was laughing along with her at the absurdity of it all.

I never ever went back to the Maulbetch's to read The Detroit News, but rather switched my allegiance to Mrs. Schlimmer, who lived down the hill on the other side of Third Street. It paid off, too, because she almost always told me how much she enjoyed having me drop in - and frequently gave me a Clark bar to eat while I read the "funnies."

Thus continueth my education.

Composed 3 November 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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