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Short Pants

Note: for the next couple of weeks we'll be looking at a classic Crimebuster story written by Charles Biro and drawn by Norman Maurer. If you want to see the Crimebuster story The Case of the Lacrosse Rape Hoax, go on and click! Issue #2 will start up online in February 2017!

Again, not a lot happening on this page, but that's okay. Presumably this kind of "schmaltz" (as the Hebrews might say) wasn't as well known in 1946 as it is today. This here on this page is the decaying remnants from something that was known in the nineteenth century as "Sentimentalism". That's basically literature that focuses on the amplification of tender emotions, and which tries to evoke feelings rather than describe action. For example, if it was the 1850s and you were reading Jayne Eyre, you might read something like this:

But besides his frequent absences, there was another barrier to friendship with him: he seemed of a reserved, an abstracted, and even of a brooding nature. Zealous in his ministerial labours, blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy that mental serenity, that inward content, which should bet he reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist. Often, of an evening, when he sat at the window, his desk and papers before him, he would cease reading or writing, rest his chin on his hand, and deliver himself up to I know not what course of thought; but that it was perturbed and exciting might be seen in the frequent flash and changeful dilation of his eye.

Nowadays, of course, we've had our fill of feelings and sentiment, and such stuff as is on this comic page is openly mocked. This is the eternal ebb and flow of culture, and we alive today only get to see the middle of it. I guess that in the seventeenth century Sentimentalism burst onto the scene like a professional wrestler. No one had even imagined the like before, that printed novels might devote paragraphs to how emotional everything was! Wow, that's amazing! Let's write novels with characters named "Henrietta" and let's have them faint about whether the coxswain will pick a flower. Or something.

Sentimentalism drove the career of many a writer. It began to fall apart in the 20s and 30s, when there was the depression and people realized the limits of government, and men grew cynical and harsh. Then there was the end of world war II, and sentimentalism briefly came back to appear on this page.

Comic transcript

Crimebuster addresses the young crowd of male orphans before him from the stage at Bright Hills Orphanage. Some of the young orphans are wearing coats and ties. What the hell? Why are they dressed like that?

Crimebuster says, from the stage, "I'm afraid Squeeks is a better entertainer than I am, but I really am glad to have this opportunity to talk to you! I don't know whether you know it or not, but I'm an orphan, too!"

Crimebuster blinks at the memory of past pain, then goes on: "As an orphan you have to face a lot of problems alone, and it isn't easy! You've got to learn right from wrong by yourself and then be strong enough to resist what's bad even when it's hard to do! Success or failure depends on you and what you've got inside!"

Inspiration strikes Crimebuster. "To show you what I mean, I'd like to tell you a story about two brothers! They were orphans and once lived here at Bright Hills! Like to hear it?" The gathered orphans yell "You bet" and "We sure would" and "Tell us, Crimebuster!"

Crimebuster walks to the center of the stage, lit by a single spotlight, and solemnly raises two fingers on his left hand. "Well, back in 1930, there were two brothers at this orphanage! Tommy was ten and his brother, Joe, was eight! Tommy had just been adopted and was leaving that day!"

Crimebuster's words weave a brilliant picture around the stage. It's almost as if the children can see pictures of the two children, Tommy and Joe, talking to each other on a summer day, near green bushes, in front of Bright Hills Orphanage.

Tommy says "Well, Joe, I guess this is it! Mr. Nelson is waiting for me at the office! Too bad he couldn't adopt us both, but maybe I can come back and visit you some day?

Joe replies "Aw, that's all right, Tom! I understand, and anyhow we've kinda grown apart here! Being different ages, we live in separate dormitories and so I'm used to being away from you! Let me know how you make out, though."

The two young men stand up. Joe is wearing ridiculously short plaid pants. Tommy doesn't remark on them, but instead he says "Sure, I'll do that! You remember mom's locket? I broke it in two, and I want you to take this half! It's all we have left to remind us of our family, so take good care of it!" Joe says "Gee, thanks! I'll get a little chain and wear it around my neck! Well, so long, Tom, and lots of luck!"

Now Tommy's in an office, holding a valise. An old man with white hair, wearing a gray suit and tie, is smoking a pipe while the orphanage director looks on. Tommy says "I guess I'm ready to go, Mr. Nelson!" Mr. Nelson takes one last hit off the pipe and says "Now then, no more of that Mr Nelson business! From now on, it's Dad! All right, let's go! I borrowed a car from a neighbor and I don't like to keep it too long."

Mr. Nelson's borrowed car does not look like a 1930s model car, but anyway it drives out of the front gates while the remaining orphans cluster around it, yelling shit like "Goodbye, Tommy!" and "Come see us some day!"

Tommy couldn't be happier to leave that dump and says, waving his arm out the window, "So long, fellers!" Joe proudly stands, his hairless legs wide apart in his ridiculously short plaid pants, and says "Good luck, Tom!"

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