Saturday, October 03, 2015

Buried Treasure at Penn State

Better to be at Penn State than at the State pen.

A lot of people go to Penn State. 50,000 of them may be attending classes at anytime unless it is a football day when they are all either in the stadium or praying at the house of worship of their choice for the home team. During my brief visit to give a lecture, football was not being played but the faint sounds of the marching band could be heard in the air.

Also in the air was the faint smell of fertilizer. “You get used to it,” one student told me, “After a while it doedn’t bodder you.” Hard to really believe a kid with a clothes pin clamped on his nose.

Plunked in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, as it is, Penn State has a big Agriculture Department. My host, Professor Joel Priddy, told me that he had met a student who was a Turfgrass Science Major. Who knew?! You may laugh, but I suspect that those graduating with this major are more likely than, say, poetry majors, to find employment in this golf course-crazy turf-mad country.

Prior to my lecture, the convivial Prof. Purdy (himself a cartoonist), suggested that we go over to the library to see a special collection that he had dimly heard about but had not yet visited. He was not really certain of the details, but it was some guy’s donated collection of old tabletops that cartoonists had drawn upon.

Well, it turns out that the guy who left the tabletops (some still attached to actual tables) attended Penn State and his name was Fred Waring. Not a lot of folks recall Fred Waring today, but in his heyday he was an important band leader who led a regional ensemble called “Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians.” In the 50’s he had a string of million-selling records. Waring was a great showman, businessman and promoter. While he did not himself invent the Waring Blendor (yes, with an “o”), he improved on the design, manufactured the thing, and named it after himself.

The Fred Waring Collection, officially and patriotically entitled, “Fred Waring’s America” but unofficially and less patriotically called (by me) “Fred Waring’s Cool Collection of Stuff”, takes up a few room in the Special Collections wing of the massive Penn State library.

The first room is the display room. Decorating the walls are posters of Fred, photos of Fred with Fred’s famous pals (Crosby, Sinatra, Reagan, f’rinstance), and, naturally, Fred’s fur jacket. Fred’s Steinway stands in a corner. Fred Waring ephemera everywhere.
Unbelievable raised lettering.

Golf clubs, Family Circle, and portable bar...need I say more?

An adjacent storage room is chockablock with shelves of sheet music and band arrangements. The librarian who patiently led us around pointed out that a structural engineer had ordered them to move the massive collection of vinyl 78s and LPs to a different location because their weight was causing the concrete floors to sag. Ironic, considering that Waring studied Architectural Engineering while at Penn.
Just photos here and lots of 'em.

One of several groaning shelves of band charts.

Fred Waring also loved comics and befriended many a cartoonist. He invited them up in busloads (literally) from Manhattan to spend time at his spread on Lake Shawnee, playing golf, drinking booze, and making merry. Some of the merry that they made were in the form of some original drawings inscribed to the generous bandleader.

Over 650 original drawings by those merrymakers are now crammed into a dozen flat files now held in the Special Collection of the Penn State library. All sorts of cartoonists came to party: Strip cartoonist: such as Hal Foster, Chester Gould, Bill Holman. Gag cartoonists, such as Chon Day, Barney Tobey, Reamer Keller. Comic book cartoonists! Sports Cartoonists! Animators!

Chet Gould brought the family once.


Hal Foster made numerous visits to Lake Shawnee

Superheroes allowed.
Wayne Boring drew a hell of a strange and thick Superman.

A Bob Kane drawing that was (presumably) actually drawn by Bob Kane.

Yup...Lots of round breasts in these flat files 
including this from James Montgomery Flagg.
...and the one below by Otto Soglow...

Captions are now being accepted.

One of the loveliest pieces in the place 
by Polly's pal, Cliff Sterrett.

I kid you not.

Scotch on the three rocks.

What I would give to have seen Boody Rogers meet Otto Soglow... 

Judging by their multiple offerings, certain fellas  (yes, all men, as far as I could tell) must have had their own bungalows: Milton Canniff, Russell Patterson, Otto Sogolow are all well represented.

..and, yes, stacked in a corner, one-of-a-kind cartoonists table tops.

Gus Edson

Mort Walker (surprised?)

Milton Caniff

Otto Soglow

Notary Sojak

I could not believe what I was seeing.

I wish that I had the chance to take more pix, but that structural engineer came bursting in and ordered me evicted. The weight of my drool was causing more floor sagging.

"Be on your toes tonight - or I'll be on yours tomorrow." 
- Fred Waring