Churchy, a character from Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Pogo, was obsessed with Friday the thirteenth. Sometimes, on the thirteenth, I’ll quote him and observe that, “Friday the thirteenth falls on Wednesday this month.” That can provoke a quizzical look, occasionally a hesitant chuckle, but rarely a happy exclamation of recognition. Pogo debuted in 1948 and ran for over twenty-five years; somebody had to have been reading it. Why then, is it so rare to meet people who love Pogo the way the hoi polloi embrace Snoopy and the rest of Charlie Brown’s gang?
I grew up with Pogo. My dad was a huge fan and his fondness for Pogo was something he shared with his daughters. All three of us turned to Walt Kelly when it was time to choose quotes for our high school yearbook entries. My older sister used, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” which Pogo himself said. Two years later, I quoted pup dog, a character who never said anything until one day out popped, “Poltergeists are the principal form of spontaneous material manifestation” (which to my dismay appeared with a typo, causing it to read polergeists).
Wikipedia claims the actual quote is, “Poltergeists make up the principal type of spontaneous material manifestation.” Horrified that I may have made a mistake, I set out to prove them wrong. Unfortunately, I found Wikipedia’s version of the quote at several other sites. I now have a sinking feeling that I, gulp, may be the one who is… not right. But let’s keep that between us, okay? No need to tell the other 767 people in my graduating class.
Where was I? Oh yes, three years later, my younger sister chose, “I carry the hose,” which I remember as being said by Bun Rab, a self-important little rabbit who was bringing up the tail end of a parade with a fire truck. Now that Wikipedia has shaken my confidence though, I’m wondering if it wasn’t a parade at all, but rather an actual fire brigade. I could continue to search for clarity on the web, but the only way to know for sure is to go to the source material. I could spend the rest of the summer reading Pogo compilations. It would be fun to hang out with Churchy, Albert, Mam’selle Hepzibah and the rest of the crew.
Or I could take a page from one of my dad’s other favorites, Mad Magazine, and quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?” Lots of people would recognize that, wouldn’t they? After all, Mad Magazine is still going strong. Well, it’s going anyway. Even I still buy it once in a while, particularly if Father’s Day is looming and nothing else comes to mind. It works, too. Dad still lets out an appreciative guffaw when he sees the cover. That laugh is what the present is all about. The magazine itself is of less interest to him these days. It riffs on pop culture. I don’t remember the last time my dad went to a first run movie, and I’m pretty sure he’s never seen a reality TV show. Mad Magazine isn’t as much fun if you don’t get the jokes.
Maybe that’s why Pogo doesn’t have the staying power of Charlie Brown. He’s just too darn smart.