There is a place so like the place where my heart and mind were born that I feel as if I have always lived there. That place is a cartoon panel that ran in newspapers throughout the country from 1913 to 1955 (a year before I was born in Mason City, Iowa). It was called Toonerville Folks and was centered around the famous Toonerville Trolley.
Fontaine Fox was born near Louisville Kentucky in 1884. Louisville, of course is one of the two cities that claims to be the inspiration for Toonerville. Apparently the old Brook Street Line Trolley in Louisville was always run-down, operating on balls of twine and bailing wire for repair parts. The people of Pelham, New York, however, point to a trolley ride Fox took in 1909 on Pelham’s rickety little trolley car with a highly enterprising and gossip-dealing old reprobate for a conductor. No matter which it was, Fox’s cartoon mastery took over and created Toonerville, where you find the famous trolley that “meets all trains”.
I didn’t learn of the comic strip’s existence until I was in college, but once I found it (yes, I am the type of idiot who researches old comics in university libraries), I couldn’t get enough of it. Characters like the Conductor, the Powerful (physically) Katrinka, and the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang can charm the neck hair off of any Midwestern farm-town boy who is too stupid to regret being born in the boring old rural Midwest.
I fancied myself to be just like the infamous Mickey (himself) McGuire. After all, we have the same first name… and I always lick any bully or boob who wants to put up a fight (at least in my daydreams).
So, this is my tribute to the cartoonist who probably did more to warp my personality and make me funny (well, at least easy to laugh at! ) than any other influence. All of the cartoons in this post can be credited to Fontaine Fox. And all the people in them can be blamed on Toonerville, the town I used to live in, though I never really knew it until far too late.