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Jim Weinzatl: Tomah's own Gasoline Alley turns 100

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A notable date is occurring this month that city of Tomah citizens should be aware of. It is the 100th Anniversary of the cartoon strip “Gasoline Alley."

On Nov. 24, 1918, Frank King (a Tomah native) debuted the strip while working for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. It is currently the longest-running comic strip in the United States and the second-longest strip of all time in the United States, after the Katzenjammer Kids. The cartoon has received several awards through the years. Frank King introduced real-time continuity by having the characters age over generations.

In the beginning it was one panel with characters Walt, Doc, Avery and Bill holding weekly conversations about automobiles. It gained popularity, but the Tribune wanted to attract women to the strip by introducing a baby. King avoided the problem by putting a baby on the doorstep of confirmed bachelor Walt Wallet. They named him Skeezix (cowboy slang for a motherless calf).

Skeezix grew up in the cartoon through the years, from a young boy to a teenager, to an adult − later a father himself, then a grandfather and great-grandfather. The generations continue on forward today.

When Frank King retired, his assistants Bill Perry and Dick Moores took over. In 1986 Jim Scancarelli became the fourth writer of the strip and continues today with the century-old saga.

The strip and King were recognized with the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Strip Award in 1957, 1973, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1985. King received the 1958 Society's Reuben Award, and Moores received it in 1974. Scancarelli received the Society's Story Comic Strip Award in 1988. The strip received an NCS plaque for the year's best story strip in 1981, 1982 and 1983.

For more information on Frank King and Gasoline Alley, visit the Tomah Area History Museum.

Jim Weinzatl,

Executive diretor,

Tomah Area Historical Society & Museum


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