Bert Adams: Art and Humor in The Monthly News
Mother and “Tig” (Nell), her 13-year-younger sister, were from a large, Southern family. Perhaps the sisters’ sense of humor began with family names. Her father, a Baptist Minister, was married twice. By his first wife, he had three daughters named Bess, Evelyn, and Wadda. His second wife - my grandmother - died long before I was born. They had six children, Mamie Lou, Beulah Elimna, Perry Lynn, Lurie Nell, Albert, and Elmer. These were not so unusual for southern names, but their nicknames were. Beulah – my mother – was “Sister,” and Bert was “Brother.” The other three girls were called Lute, Penn, and Tig – or sometimes Nell.
When Will and I started The Monthly News in September, 1942, the U.S. was already involved in the Second World War. We decided that our Dad’s news analysis was not enough to keep people’s spirits up – since much of the early war news was anything but encouraging. So we asked 10-year-old Ann Beatty, next door, to do art work for us. And Will and I looked for jokes and cartoons to print. However, Ann moved away almost immediately, so we had to find a new art editor.
Will and I were aware that Aunt Tig was good at sketching. She lived in New Holland, Pa., about 40 miles west of Wayne – and she agreed to be our new Art Editor. Since there was no email, it required that we mail her our ideas, and she either mail back the finished product, or else come up with a concept of her own – which she often did.
It was surprising to Will and me that Tig always seemed able to come up with original ideas for cartoons. Her husband, June (for Junior), ran Espenshade’s funeral home in New Holland, and their oldest of three daughters, Isabelle, was brain-damaged at birth. They were a family that experienced many stresses - especially between June and Isabelle.
Tig’s regular cartoons were Private Smith and Mr. McDaffy. These are Tig’s “Private Smith’s” from September and November, 1942.
The cartoon showing shells flying is something of a “gallows” humor.
Mother, a stay-at-home mom, wrote features that ranged from mysteries to funny stories, and she also made up crossword puzzles. For 3 ½ years, the red-headed sisters – mother and Tig - came up with a steady stream of humor to lighten The Monthly News. In fact, mother’s supply of jokes, much of it original, seemed unending. For example, in November, 1942, TMN published the following:
Old Lady: “Aren’t you ashamed to ask for money?”
Tramp: “I got six months last time for taking it
“Well, Jones, how are you? How you have changed.”
“But my name isn’t Jones, sir.”
“What? You changed your name, too?
And there was the Scotsman who bought only one
spur. He figured that if one side of the horse
went the other side was sure to follow!
Teacher: “Give me a sentence with an object.”
Boy: “Teacher, you are very beautiful.”
Teacher: “What is the object?”
Boy: “A good grade.”
At that time, ethnic humor, such as the one about the Scotsman, was not yet considered in bad taste, or even politically incorrect.
On the first anniversary of TMN, in September, 1943, Will and I asked Tig if she would sketch the editors. The results were the following “portraits.”
And so The Monthly News, while edited by two young men in their early teens, drew on the talents and support of adult members of the family, and of those who chose to subscribe to, and write letters to, TMN.