Fred Lasswell

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Lasswell Is Remembered As The Creator of `Snuffy Smith,' That Rogue Mountaineer That Teases That Mischievous Spirit In All Of Us

By Robert Latimer Hurst.


The days of summer seemed long at the latter part of World War II, and my comic book collection seemed to be piling up. So entrepreneur me --I decided to sell these worn and torn magazines--many originals --for ten cents in front of our house on Folks Street in Waycross. Today, I lash myself thoroughly when I see the price some of these classics would bring. But, then, it was a thrill to get the price of a Lyric or Ritz movie theater ticket for an afternoon matinee. And so my "Captain Midnight," "Batman and Robin," "Wonderwoman," "Superman" and "Spiderman" enjoyments, plus "Mutt and Jeff," "Felix the Cat," "The Katzenjammer Kids" and so many others went away with strangers, but I had the ten cents!

So it is with nostalgia (and some regret) that I view those "Stars" placed in cement of the old Waycross Depot passenger platform to honor those cartoonists who contributed so much to so many "youngsters" (no matter what the physical age). And a debt of gratitude goes to the Okefenokee Pogofest Association, Inc., and the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce for placing this location on the map with such an original and unique memorial. Now, all citizens and visitors can ruminate as they view the "Stars" who made us laugh, especially during this time of "I-Go-Pogo" in Ware County.  

Photo Courtesy of Robert L. Hurst.
   Star In Sidewalk, Waycross, Georgia
Click Thumbnail Photo to See a Larger Photo of the Star on the Walkway in Waycross.      

Walt Kelly and his family, of course, have become closely connected with Waycross and Ware County. His creations saw their first light of day as "critturs from Fort Mudge down on the Cowhouse." But some of the others have also become acquainted in various ways with this section of the country. I am thinking now of Fred Lasswell, who is known for the "Snuffy Smith" character. 

Not many can remember those first comic strips, the ones that told of the adventures of the "Yellow Kid," who captivated readers at the turn of the twentieth century. Some of us do recollect --and continue --our love for the Walt Disney creations, and some few will smile at the escapades of the Dogpatch crowd that surrounded "Lil Abner." Fred Lasswell, who was born in Kennett, Missouri, in 1916, but became a citizen of Gainesville, Florida, when he was 16, is another cartoonist many remember. Oh, the name might not register, but his "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith" certainly does.

After becoming sports cartoonist in Tampa Daily Times, he found that he needed to socialize more, and at this time he met a young lady named Rosemary Alonzo. And it was she who became his escort to the tea dances and school affairs of that era. Fred soon had the reputation of "everybody's big brother" and a "bees knees dancer." He also was known for his humor. He kept everyone laughing. 

While working in Tampa, he did a poster for a 1933 golf tournament at the nearby Palma Ceia Club; this design caught the eye of a roaming golfer, Billy DeBeck, who was already a cartoonist for the "Barney Google" strip. DeBeck needed a protege. He found him in Fred Lasswell. 

Lasswell, for the next nine years, until DeBeck's death in 1942, worked on "Barney Google," becoming a close companion and student of the older cartoonist. As styles and fads changed, so did the appeal for city-slicker "Barney Google," but Lasswell had added another character to the panels. "Snuffy Smith," that rogue mountaineer, seem to fit in perfectly with the times. 

World War II turned the artist into a flight radio operator, and this tour of duty brought about the major wartime comic strip, "Hashmark," which appeared in Leatherneck Magazine. Lasswell did not stop here; in a complete change of occupations, he designed and invented a citrus fruit harvester and, then, developed a technique so the blind could read comic strips. Billy Rose, the great showman, even capitalized on this cartoonists' creations with his hit song "Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes."

Oh, we must not forget Miss Alonzo, the tea-dance escort. She will be remembered as Mrs. L.F. Brabham of Waycross, Georgia. 

Copyright 2004 Robert L. Hurst  
All rights reserved!

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