|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|
|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.
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