Bob Jones column photo

Bob Jones

In a recent issue of this paper we were told that 75 years ago the Sebastopol Times, one of Sonoma West’s beloved parents, began publishing eight pages of colored comics. It was the only paper in the county to have colored comics at the time.

Seventy-five years ago puts us in the last months of World War II. Things were going well for our side, but there was still a lot of blood to spill, and some terrible bombs to be dropped.  Right then, the Sebastopol Times featured eight pages of colored comics. I wonder if anyone knows what comics those were. I would be glad to see a list of them.

My brother and I were tads in those days. Our father was too young for World War I and too old for World War II, so he was never in the military. But he was intensely patriotic. He volunteered to be our neighborhood air raid warden.  On nights when we were blacked out, he walked the dark streets of our town making sure no light could be seen in any house. We learned later that the blackouts were not so much to protect us from air raids, but to darken the way from Fort Ord to San Francisco where our soldiers, including my cousin Winfield, would board ships bound for the war in Pacific islands like Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Tens of thousands of those young men did not make it home.  Winfield, a medic, was wounded more than once

Dad was also chairman of the local War Bond Drive and made speeches to large crowds urging people to support our troops by buying bonds for $18.75 that would pay $25 in ten years. The bonds sold by the thousands in our little town and all over the land. The entire nation pulled together in the battle for freedom and peace.

All during this time, we had the “funny papers” in color from the San Francisco Chronicle and Call Bulletin every Sunday. And every Sunday evening, Dad gathered my brother and me onto the couch and read the funny papers to us. Because of this, I think I may know what some of the colored comics in the Sebastopol Times were those 75 years ago.

I’ll bet there was Henry, a completely bald kid who didn’t say much and hardly did anything, but for some reason my brother and I liked him a lot. And there was The Little King, a pompous bumbling monarch whose humor was mostly over our heads. Mutt and Jeff, a tall guy and a short guy walking side by side on city streets saying mostly inane things, were Dad’s favorites, but I can’t remember why. Prince Valiant with his “singing sword” and lovely lady were there. The good prince is still with us, I’m pleased to see.

Our favorite strip of all was the Katzenjammer Kids. These two little brats were always stealing Momma’s fresh baked pies from off the window sill where she’d set them to cool. Then Momma would come after them with a meat cleaver in her hand. (That’s right!) When she caught them, mercy prevailed, and she swatted their bottoms with her bare hand. I know that’s not condoned now, but back then we kids felt our bottoms deserved to be swatted when we did things like the Katzenjammer Kids did.  And yes, my brother and I did such things and got paddled with a ping-pong paddle, saving wear and tear on Mom’s good hands. 

I’m thinking that those eight pages of comics in the Sebastopol Times during the war were probably helpful to the general morale of local citizens. I know the funnies made our family feel like some things were still normal in the midst of the upheaval of that war. 

For sure, we need a similar feeling today. Eight pages of colored comics are out of the question, I suppose, but finding something to smile about can be a great help in anxious times.

I noticed in that same issue of Sonoma West there was Larry Shapiro in the Faces of West County feature.  When he was asked what was special about his Fijian caregiver David, Shapiro said, “He thinks he’s Jewish.  From the tribe of Benjamin.” I had to smile about that. And things felt more normal for a time.

Bob Jones is the former minister of the Guerneville and Monte Rio Community Church.

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