When I was a small boy, one of our biggest entertainment options was reading the funny papers. I liked Li’l Abner.
My folks told me the newspaper started running Al Capp’s Li’l Abner the year I was born, so when I found out Li’l Abner was created then, it became one of my favorite comics. There was Li’l Abner, all muscled up and strong as an ox; I, on the other hand, wore a 29 in pants. When I went into the Army, my chest wasn’t much bigger than my waist. I was 6-foot-1 and weighed less than 150 pounds.
Daisy was about the best-looking girl in the whole town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. We had a girl who reminded me of Daisy; she went to school with me and she was every boy’s dream. She has since died.
Li’l Abner didn’t pay Daisy much attention for years, but later on, they got married. The comic started in 1934 and went to 1977. That’s 43 years, and it took Li’l Abner 20 years to take notice.
A lot of things came out of that comic strip, like “shmoos.” They’re little animals that wanted to be used for the good of people. They tasted like chicken, pork or steak according to what you had a taste for.
One of the big things was the “Sadie Hawkins Day.” “Sadie Hawkins” caught on, and every school and college in the country observed it. The boys could grow a beard, but at that time I couldn’t even grow fuzz. Bobby Joe Meadows grew a big beard and made the rest of us jealous. Girls asked the boys for dates to the Sadie Hawkins dance. For some reason I don’t remember being asked. I don’t guess I had blossomed out yet.
The only thing I excelled at was their favorite foods. They had a diet of pork chops and turnip greens, and I love them both. As a matter of fact the first words Honest Abe spoke were pork chop (Honest Abe was Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae’s baby boy).A name that caught on and still used is Kick-a-Poo Juice, this was bootleg product made by Hairless Joe and Lonesome Polecat. They made the strongest, best drink in Dogpatch.
I remember the man that walked around with a dark cloud over his head. Sometimes I get the idea that I was him made over. His name was Joe Btfsplk and everyone avoided him, afraid his bad luck and spirit would rub off on them.
One of the prettiest girls in Dogpatch Holler was a girl named Moon Beam. Daisy was blonde, but Moon Beam was black headed, she’d rather be dirty and be around hogs than people. Marrying Sam was a preacher that rode around on a mule hunting someone to marry for $2.
This comic strip was so popular some of the spinoffs were known nationally. Fearless Fosdick was a copy of Dick Tracy another comic strip character, he had big holes in him caused by big bullets and he became so popular he advertised for Wildroot Cream Oil, a popular hair oil in the 1950’s. Every barbershop had a sign of Fearless Fosdick on it; I still have one.
Li’l Abner was on a sign eating Cream of Wheat, a morning cereal. Because Li’l Abner ate it, everybody else ought to eat it too — after all, he got Daisy Mae.
There were movies and Broadway shows about Dogpatch and Li’l Abner. Some Yankees still think all Southerners live like that, and we don’t mind, as long as they don’t come down here to find out. I didn’t get around to Mammy, Pappy, the pet pig Salomey, General Bullmoose or Nightime Alice the conjuring woman. Maybe next time!
Ronald Brantley is a Tallassee native and longtime weekly columnist for The Tribune.