Skip Navigation

April 20, 2008

Pettigrew for President

Timothy Pettigrew to be precise. I went to Catholic schools for grades 1 through 10 and during elementary school, subscribed to Treasure Chest, a “Catholic-oriented comic book series created by Dayton, Ohio publisher George A. Pflaum and distributed in parochial schools from 1946 to 1972” [Wikipedia]

I had a distinct memory of a story about the 1976 Presidential campaign with a surprise ending in which it was revealed on the last page of the final episode that the candidate Timothy Pettigrew was African-American. (For some reason, I didn’t think it was odd that you never saw Pettigrew’s face until the last page.) Some Googling filled in all the details.

From the NPR News Blog, I learned that the story ran in 1964 (I was 10 years old). Catholic University in Washington, DC has scans of most issues from 1946 through 1963. Unfortunately, the issues from 1964 forward are still under copyright. You can see a YouTube video of the comic, however.

1964 was a momentous year for other reasons than this footnote in comic-book history. Three civil-rights workers were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi (dramatized in Mississippi Burning and Murder in Mississippi) and shortly thereafter The Civil Rights Act, which had been introduced the year before, was finally signed into law by Lyndon Johnson. It only took another 44 years before an African-American would have a chance at the nomination.


Great post, Tony - not only a critique of your point but also the way you wove it together.

I also got a strange kick out of the YouTube video of the comic. Reminds me of similar literature I recall from my evangelical childhood - except I don't remember there being many messages about racial harmony in those.

You might be interested in knowing that my husband was the Berry Reece who wrote the original Pettigrew for President in 1964 for Treasure Chest. We are retired and living in Annapolis, Maryland. It is the front page story in this week's National Catholic Reporter. Also he is from the Mississippi Delta (Yazoo City) and he is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

Mary Jo, I am honored that you stopped by and delighted to learn the identity of the author behind this fascinating story. I enjoyed the article in the National Catholic Reporter as well. By the way, I was in Annapolis in May and had a nice meal at Ram's Head Tavern. Please take care and thanks for taking the time to say hello.

Unlike some websites I've seen, I have only fond memories of Treasure Chest Magazine, with "Pettigrew For President" one of the fondest. I do recall the obviously Catholic overtones (Hello! It's available only in CATHOLIC school!) Though I drifted away from the Church, I don't harbor any resentment towards TC. Mr. Reece was one super predictor. I'm sure that even Nostradamus didn't see Barack Obama. Mr. and Mrs, Reece, thank you for creating a story I remember long after DC and Marvel Comic stories of those years are now forgotten.

As a young Catholic boy going to Communion and then Confirmation classes every Saturday morning at our St. Patrick’s Church in Barbados (the most easterly and of course BEST island in the Caribbean) I used to buy Treasure Chest from the nuns who were our teachers. I can’t remember a thing that was in the magazine except “Pettigrew for President.” The story concept (not the details of course) stayed with me all through my adult life and I remember thinking in 1976 that while we didn’t get a black president at least we got a caring one in Jimmy Carter. I have been a journalist all my adult life and I would like to thank Mr. Berry Reece, whom I hope is still alive today, for that comic strip and inspiring story.

Thank you for posting this. Treasure Chest and 'Pettigrew for President' are some of the best memories of my childhood. I'm grateful for modern technology that enables connections with folks with similar memories and helps find what was lost.

April 15, 2008

Five Random Things and One Weird One

I was tagged for the “historical figure” meme by Antonella Pavese. Choose an historical figure and list five random/weird things about said figure. I’m interpreting “historical” loosely as anyone who has died, but not necessarily someone who is well-known.

I can’t say I have a favorite historical figure, but I have long been interested in art, so I first thought of picking a nineteenth-century European painter. For a time, I settled on Turner whom I have always admired, but I don't know much about him, other than what I remember from reading Ruskin’s Modern Painters.

Then, inspiration struck (ow!!). I chose Josef Hofmann, the pianist (1876–1957), someone who is not only an artist of the first rank, but who I knew had other accomplishments outside of music (although I had to do some research to find out the details). Of the pianists who were the first to be recorded at the beginning of the 20th century (at first using the acoustic and then later, electrical, processes), Hofmann is my favorite since being introduced to his playing about twenty years ago. Here, then, are five random things (and one weird one) about Hofmann:

  1. Hofmann was a child prodigy, but was so overworked (5 concerts a week during ten weeks of touring in America) that the tour was cancelled at the request of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
  2. The great pianist Anton Rubinstein had only one private student—Hofmann.
  3. Hofmann was instrumental in founding the Curtis Institute of Music here in Philadelphia and taught there when it was formed in 1924 and later was the Institute’s director for ten years.
  4. Hofmann had a phenomenal memory and musical ear and was able to learn pieces just from hearing them played once.
  5. Hofmann was a mechanical genius and had over 70 patents for various inventions, only one of which had anything to do with music. His most successful invention was a pneumatic shock absorber for vehicles.
  6. Reportedly, Hofmann preferred Geno’s cheesesteaks to Pat’s. Not sure where I read that.

There is some video on YouTube from a Bell Telephone Hour performance in the Forties, but Hofmann was at the end of his career, and he is not at his best.


It's possible that Hofmann had a Pat's steak sandwich, but not Geno's-- compare dates of when each shop was founded:

Oops, gag failure. Interesting read; I didn't realize that Joe Vento was the founder of Geno's or that Pat's was that old. I didn't even know there were cheesesteaks in Hofmann's time.

Cool! Interesting and extraordinary talented artist, Joseph Hofmann. Although sometimes I feel that people like him should apologize to humanity for the excessive amount of natural skills they have accumulated in a single life. ;-)

April 2, 2008

It’s Good to Hear Live Music

I was struck by a story that bassist Gerald Veasley told in the April Jazz Times about Joe Zawinul (of Weather Report):

We always teased Joe about his constant use of the phrase ‘it’s good to be...’ That was his way of being at peace with whatever the situation was. We’d be walking down the street in the pouring rain and he’d say, ‘You know, Gerald, it’s good to walk in the rain.’ Or you’d be complaining about riding all night from Venice to Copenhagen and he’d say, ‘It’s good to be tired.’ He had this strong-willed approach to life. Bring it on and he could not just deal with it, but embrace it.

I’ve got a long way to go before I can accept things that I can’t change with such equanimity. I’m better about coping with disappointment and frustration than I used to be, but can’t say I embrace them. I still prefer sunny days to rainy ones, but this glimpse into the mindset of an “it’s good to be alive” person is inspiring.

I almost posted this yesterday, but I’m glad I didn’t, because amazingly I saw Gerald Veasley last night at the Victor Wooten concert at the Keswick. Right near the end, he was spotted and brought up on stage to sit in with the band. That would have been the icing on the cake, but there was even more icing to come. Bernie Worrell was also in the audience, and he came up to do the Parliament classic “Give Up the Funk.” Derico Watson killed on drums, by the way. So much icing I was in sugar shock.


It's good to read a post about such positive attitude.