CSotD: Comic Relief on a Holiday Weekend

Wallace the Brave (AMS) and his buddies are off for the summer, and the last day of school provided an example of why this comic strip stands out.

To begin with, Mrs. Macintosh likes her job, she likes the kids and the kids like her. The affection in that first panel is, if not entirely unique in the comics world, still a contrast to the norm.

But what stopped me in my tracks was her affection for Spud, and how it shows him not as a stereotypical comic strip doofus but as a real kid who thinks about things in a way that might not be genius level but which has its logic and deserves respect.

In the real world, Mrs. Macintosh would face some challenges, because Spud does take a little more attention, but she’s got to remember that, while Amelia and Rose will grasp the lessons more or less on their own, they are still kids and they both need and deserve her mentoring.

It’s easy to put kids like them on autopilot while you (A) nurture Spud and (B) try to keep a lid on Wallace, but you mustn’t do it.

There’s another challenge I don’t think she will face, since comic strip kids end up in the same classroom with the same teacher again every fall, and, besides, I’m not sure Snug Harbor is large enough to have more than one classroom in each grade level.

But I remember a conversation with a fourth grade teacher in a school with three classrooms for each grade, about the agonizing challenge each spring of assigning who goes where. The proposition was that you could look ahead and see three teachers: One a gifted genius, one average and one who was genuinely toxic.

You’ve got two other teachers on your grade level, so you each need to divide your kiddos into three and parcel them out into the next set of classrooms.

How do you decide which ones go where?

Granted, Rose and Amelia will likely thrive anywhere, but, while they could survive toxicity and get through mediocrity, what marvels they might reach in the hands of a truly great teacher!

And you absolutely can’t put Wallace in with the toxic teacher, because his antics would drive her to continually punish him and possibly break any chance of turning him into a scholar.

And then there’s Spud.

He’ll never make the honor roll, but he deserves someone who will reassure him about Continental Drift and help him do the best he can.

My guess is that Mrs. Macintosh would give him the genius teacher, but, as that teacher I was talking to admitted, there is a temptation to sacrifice the kids who won’t be headed for the Ivy League anyway, and let them be the victims of the toxic teacher.

She resisted it, but she was the gifted genius teacher in her grade level.

Still, she said, there was no right answer.

I hope Spud appreciates living in a loop where he’ll have Mrs. Macintosh every year for the rest of his life.

I hope they all do. Lucky kids!


Going back to a less fraught aspect of childhood, we had an electric train set as kids, but, even before there were video games, we viewed it with the same lack of enthusiasm as the kids in Mr. Boffo.

I think the people who enjoy electric trains have, at the very least, a semipermanent set up on a table in the basement, because when we’d assemble it on the living room carpet, we spent most of the time tracking down short circuits and fixing derailments.

For those who really got into it, the fun was in creating all the buildings and cars and people and crossings and such, which is a craft, not a game, and similar to people who mold and paint entire regiments of authentically-depicted Napoleonic soldiers.

I did hear some bad news recently: Roadside America/Indoor Miniature Village, a legendary tourist attraction in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, has closed its doors. This was 8,000 square feet of meticulously crafted landscape with multiple trains running through it, which I remember visiting as a very small lad.

At that level, electric trains were absolutely awesome.



We’ll jump ahead in my life several decades to an age where I can relate to this Alex.

The strip is set among bankers, stock traders and other financiers who describe their clothing as “bespoke” with no sense of irony or pretention. Or at least they used to.

Even at a far lower paygrade, I wore ties and pressed shirts five days a week, though with a tweed jacket, khakis and loafers, the rule being that, if you met with the public, the tie and jacket were mandatory. It was no little consolation that, while I might not have earned as much as Woodward and Bernstein, at least I could dress like them.

As a business writer, I met often with people whose suits would have cost me several weeks’ salary, but it could have been worse. City streets were full of 20-something popinjays strutting around in affordable suits from the mall, aspiring to the day when they’d buy their clothes from Gervase.

As for bespoke shirts and silk ties, I’m guessing even working from home didn’t slow sales down all that much, since you had to preserve the look from the waist up for Zoom meetings.

But, as Gervase says, you’ve got to look sharp top-to-toe when you’re hoping to get hired, and so he’s apt to see business start to pick up.

It is an ill wind, indeed, that blows no good.


Finally, Pardon My Planet (KFS) asks the question “How deep is your love?” and that’s only one possible musical number with which to close today. I might have chosen (speaking of cheap suits) Mission Bell, with “Say that you love me,” which fits the dialogue, while Love Will Keep Us Together seems antithetical to Vic Lee’s point about DIY marriage-tests.

But then I looked at the calendar and it reminded me that I never hung wallpaper nor wore bespoke suits nor sought women who’d have wanted me to.


5 thoughts on “CSotD: Comic Relief on a Holiday Weekend

  1. I think there are collector ‘genes’ that some people have and some don’t. Model trains appeal to people with a strong set of such genes, and surplus cash as well.

  2. With any luck the toxic teacher will get his/her Master’s and become Assistant Superintendent somewhere else.

  3. Never happens, Mary. In NYS, at least, they all need to have a masters to get their license. But going further would take an effort and ambition. The bare minimum is the upper limit.

    They settle in and stay until retirement, using the exact same lesson plans year after year, no matter how outdated and inappropriate those plans may have become over time. In teacher training assemblies, they sit in the back and ignore what’s being said, signing off to prove they were physically present. I’ve seen them knit rather than take notes.

  4. Wallace the Brave brings back memories of my grade school years. Like you suggested, our school system divided each year’s class into three groups: Overachievers, average, and, er, slow. Except that someone had the idea of moving a couple of the overachievers into the slow class to provide inspiration. Which is why I ended up with the slow kids.

    I still remember coming home crying, “Mom, they put me in with the dumb kids!”

    A combination of an awful teacher and my way overly-controlling parents handling this situation horribly, and then having it repeated in the sixth grade did something of a number on me. Six years later I barely graduated from high school while showing motivation in all sorts of area that had nothing to do with day to day schooling. A situation that didn’t finally resolve itself until my sophomore year of college when I was faced with the reality of failing, losing my student deferment, and Vietnam.

  5. FYI, Spud more than likely is genius level. He gets A+ on his tests. He’s quirky because he sees the world differently from everyone else. Luckily, Wallace doesn’t even see any flaws in the square-headed guy. Wallace, who’s Mr. Popular, just loves Spud for who he is.

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