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Comic Strip Rarities – The American Way

After the war that some called The Big One a lesser, more nuanced war began – a Cold War. While hot spots flared around the globe with the forces of Good and Evil vying for hegemony, our look here is about the propaganda part of the war between Capitalism and Communism.

Close to home there were innumerable wrong-headed Americans who were trying to lead the country astray. They were Un-American. So Tom Kay created a cartoon panel that showcased the error of their thinking and directed people to The American Way.

Above is the earliest I could find, numbered 2, and from the September 5, 1947 Hancock County News. The panel, which Tom never dated, was distributed to weekly rural newspapers. For the first years “Lefty” was the character of ill repute, while his opposite in the cartoon, the good guy who we all naturally identify with, would be labeled “Most of Us.”

While Lefty could be intentionally deceitful trying to lead Most of Us down the road to ruin,
he was as often shown to be an unsuspecting dupe of those rat-bastard Commies.

 

 

As the 1940s turned into the 1950s Lefty was joined by Political Planners,
whose policies did not seem to advocate what was best for most of us taxpayers.

 

 

 

With the election of Ike as President the origins of all our country’s problems could be
pinpointed to the Congress, still controlled by the Democratic Party.

 

By the late 1950s a new Boogeyman was seen as a major threat to American Capitalism.

 

But there are some institutions that continue to give us hope..

 

In 1962 The Four Feardoms – Lefties, Political Planners, Liberals, and Unions – remain the bane of Real Americans.

 

 

 

It was around the late 50s and early 60s that Tom Kay began the habit of including inspirational quotes once a month (or every four or five panels).

 

The panel comes to an end in 1964.

Success is in reach, if only…

The last of the never-dated series I find is #892 (above) and it was published in The New Haven Leader on September 17, 1964 giving the weekly political cartoon a healthy 17 year run. It was never advertised or listed in Editor & Publisher.

Ger Apeldoorn’s The Fabulous Fifties has a few more samples from around 1950 and 1951.

But what of Tom Kay?

Well, Tom Kay was a pen name for Wilford L. “Bill” Nos (November 30, 1913 – February 27, 2010). His real world job was a legislative analyst at General Motors for 37 years. An industrial political planner rather than a governmental political planner.

“Tom Kay” can be seen in the Michael Moore film “Roger and Me” (page 4):

We hear the latter as it is delivered first by Dan Rather in an excerpt from CBS Evening News (“Good evening. General Motors confirmed it today. It is going to close plants employing almost 30,000 workers”) and then by GM chairman Roger Smith (“Today we are announcing the closing of eleven of our older plants”). At this point, though Moore never raises his voice, his commentary starts to become increasingly sarcastic (“So this was GM chairman Roger Smith. He appeared to have a brilliant plan. First close eleven factories in the US, then open eleven in Mexico, where you pay the workers seventy cents an hour … Roger Smith was a true genius”).

Film of Roger Smith announcing the bad news is then succeeded by a brief sequence in which we see the last truck going down the line (Moore and his friends having posed “as a TV crew from Toledo” in order to get inside the factory and film it), which is in turn followed by groups of workers telling Moore what they think of Roger Smith. Not surprisingly, they think that he is the one who should be fired. But not everyone in Flint is of this opinion. Tom Kay, for example, the “spokesman and lobbyist for GM” whom we hear from next, is “sure that Roger Smith has a social conscience as strong as anyone else in the country.” Prompted by Moore (“Have you ever talked to Roger Smith?” “Sure.” “What kind of man do you find him to be?”), Kay says that he finds Smith “a very warm man.” And it is in response to this, around the ten minute mark, that Moore (feigning doubt: “A warm man? Did I have Roger Smith judged all wrong?”) declares his mission

In early 1964 Tom Kay received an award from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, Pa.
From The Holland Evening Sentinel of February 22, 1964:

All the above biographical information seems to indicate that Bill Nos used “Tom Kay” as an alias for his work with General Motors and that “The American Way” may have been a GM funded propaganda tool given away free to interested newspapers.

Below are excerpts from his obituary.

On February 27, 2010 after 96 glorious years, Wilford L. ”Bill” Nos left this world and headed home. He will be remembered for his optimistic nature and unflappable good will toward all. His positive outlook and generosity of spirit uplifted all who met him and sustained him through a long and happy life. Bill had natural talents for drawing, public speaking, music, and funny one-liners.

Born on November 30, 1913 in Pompeii, Michigan, he was the only child of George and Revah Nos. He grew up in Pompeii, attended Michigan State, then traveled with the General Motors Parade of Progress, through the US, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba.During his travels, he met Kathleen ”Kay” Jones, whom he married in 1940. They eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan, where Bill had a 37-year career as a legislative analyst for General Motors.

In the 1950’s, under the pseudonym ”Tom Kay,” Bill penned the ”The American Way,” a syndicated political cartoon.

After 32 years of marriage, Kay passed away in 1972 … Bill is survived by sons Tom Nos (Sandy) and Doug Nos (Nancy) of Sacramento.

Bill Nos was preceded in death by his wife Kay, and was survived by his son Tom.

Community Comments

#1 Mike Corrado
April/22/2021
@ 1:56 pm

We got stuff of this sort from GM, pushing capitalism, in our (Catholic) high school from time to time back in the fifties.

#2 Mary Ella
April/22/2021
@ 3:52 pm

So many labels! I can see where Kelly (of The Onion) gets his ideas.

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