Late Friday afternoon, I got out of my car in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot and hurried inside. The wind straight out of the North felt like it came off an iceberg hugging the Pacific side of Alaska. The first person that I saw in the store was the manager, Chad, and I said, “Wow, feels like we’re bound to wake up in Lower Slobovia!”
As sometimes happens when I talk to people, all I got was a blank stare in return. Smiling to myself, I hurried on, never taking the time to explain all about the place created by Al Capp in the comic strip, Li’l Abner. What was a running joke in my family, means nothing to those who likewise would not know who Joe Bfstpik, General Bullmoose, Lonesome Polecat, Hairless Joe, or Fearless Fosdick were. They probably never heard of Kickapoo Joy Juice, couldn’t draw a Shmoo, or tell me what was special about Sadie Hawkins Day.
Well, all you younger kids, know that, beginning in 1934, on the comic page, those folks lived in Dogpatch, a mythical place that sprang from the mind of a genius known as Al Capp. He called his comic strip, Li’l Abner and that good-looking hillbilly lived with the rest of the characters in Dogpatch, a desperately poor place where Joe Bfstplk was followed by his own bleak rain cloud and Evil Eye Fleegle had a double whammie that could melt skyscrapers. And just when things couldn’t get any worse in Dogpatch, Capp would take you to Lower Slobovia where everything was frostbitten, and frozen beyond belief. I grew up reading the funny page in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Li’l Abner was my favorite.
Dogpatch and the hillbillies who inhabited it along with the poverty stricken population of Lower Slobovia struck a nerve with those living out the depression and the comic strip became very popular. In fact, Al Capp’s genius with pen changed the culture. He introduced Sadie Hawkins Day in the strip, and made it acceptable on that day, for girls to ask boys on dates, picking them up and paying for the movie or dinner. This had never been done before but on this special day, the roles of pursued and pursuees were reversed. Dressing the part was important too and the general idea was to try to duplicate the clothing worn by the characters that inhabited mythical Dogpatch. Daisy Mae, a pretty little blonde, was dressed in very little, and she chased Li’l Abner, that smiling hunk, who was wearing huge brogans, ragged shirt and overalls with one shoulder strap. When they were married in the early 1950s, the event ran on the front page of papers across the country.
Al Capp created a world with pen and ink and he was considered by most as a brilliant writer as well. The people that came out of his mind to live in a world he fashioned for them, are an amazing set of extremes that never truly existed, but Lower Slobovia is a real place and that’s where we’ve been for the past week.