Thursday, September 24, 2009

Before the Internet, Old Folks

You have to remember this: Before we had the Internet, we had old people.

And old people are a great resource for "content," and I'm not just talking about the nutrients that Homer Simpson mentioned. I'm talking about all the great stuff that's in their minds. Sure, maybe it's a lot easier to sort through stuff we can find on the Internet, but we lose a lot of the personal contact interacting, let's face it, with a box on the desktop. (Yeah, yeah, some of you are mobile. So a tinier box in your palm. Same thing.)

Take Barnaby, for instance. Barnaby is a creation of Crockett Johnson, who drew this comic strip way back in the 1940s, when dinosaurs may as well have roamed the earth, as far as most of the young farts today are concerned.

I have Mr. Loertscher to thank for introducing me to Barnaby. Mr. Loertscher taught sixth grade at Iona Elementary. Like many teachers of the time -- I'm not sure if teachers still do this, let alone sixth-grade teachers -- he'd read to us, nearly every day, as we worked on some assignment. He chose to read us the Barnaby comic strips, which he had in book form (this is way before Peanuts and Garfield, but not before publications and mass merchandising). I remember particularly Mr. Loertscher reading the words of Mr. O'Malley with his best imitation of W.C. Feilds -- though I didn't know he was imitating Fields at the time.

What a time that was. We loved eharing about Barnaby, about Mr. O'Malley, and about the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder & Marching Society. Mr. Loertscher, by reading that book to us, started me, at least, ont he road of becoming curious about the literature of the era. From Barnaby, I became interested in the works of Sinclair Lewis, became familiar with the likes of Archy and Mehitabel. WHo knew a sixth-grade teacher would help me on that wobbly path towards cultural literacy, or at least as culturally literate as one can be wandering down one of the many strange and varied paths that mankind has forged through the wilderness of imagination?

Thanks, Mr. Loertscher.

It was fun to recall the marching society when I learned Richard Nixon organized such a society among freshman Republicans when he was elected in 1949.

We miss a lot not talking to old people. In this age of instant information, we tend to forget that information used to be stored in peoples' heads, not on some cloud computing platform off in the ethers. Maybe this is why I like to read so much. There's a lot more information out there than we think.

I'm done now. Get off my lawn.

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