CSotD: The Good, and not so good, Old Days

There’s an interesting collision going on between routine Back to School comic strips and political cartoons marking the current teacher shortage crisis, in the midst of which Baby Blues (AMS) offers a funny/not funny piece.

I’ve seen this scenario play out both ways, one in which the elder sib was hell on wheels and younger was an honor student who had to convince teachers to back off and give him a chance, and the other in which the firstborn set standards the second couldn’t hope to match.

I’ll chalk up the dialogue in that last panel as a case of comic strip compression, because a good teacher would never say it out loud and difficult kids aren’t trying to be difficult.

But, as a parent in one case and a Significant Other in the second, it sure made for an interesting way to separate the good teachers from the not-so-goods.

I’ve been impressed with the way modern educators recognize things like ADHD and dyslexia, and can differentiate between learning disabilities and emotional disabilities and adjust accordingly. In my day, there were “good kids” and “bad kids” and bad kids needed to be punished.

I got through it, but I remember sitting in a diner with a friend, trying to talk him out of dropping out of school but having very few persuasive arguments. He had plenty of street smarts, but, first of all, he was no scholar, and, second, his last name was such that our teachers assumed the worst before he’d walked into their classrooms.

By the time we had that conversation, I was a senior and he was two years behind, so a job at the Kodak factory in Rochester, even without a high school diploma, sounded like a better idea than sticking around to get flunked some more.

Next time I saw him, I was home from college and he was home from Vietnam, where a satchel charge had, as the phrase goes, “blowed him up real good.” But in between, he’d done damn well for himself: Nobody in the Marines had recognized his last name and they just saw him as a good, tough kid with common sense.

Thank god we’ve got better trained, more compassionate, insightful and professional teachers today.

For the moment.

Because good teachers are leaving the profession, and I’m afraid that the incompetent meddlers who are driving them out won’t realize what they’re losing, or what their ignorant interference is going to do to the kids who will never become scholars by being yelled at and punished by unskilled amateurs.

We’re turning the calendar back nearly a century to a time when only the scholars stayed in school past eighth grade, but, back then, we had jobs for uneducated people.

I have no idea what we’ll do with them now.

So I chuckled at Baby Blues, but it wasn’t funny.


On a far lighter note, Crabgrass (AMS) is finding its feet, and this episode was a strong signal that the strip is set in the 80s, as you can see by the phone in the second panel.

Tauhid Bondia should play that nostalgia card more, because he strikes here at a bygone era in which kids could entertain themselves with prank calls. Thanks to modern phones and Caller-ID, that’s as foreign to modern kids as the notion of long-distance calls that cost more the longer you spoke.

Now I don’t think poor Prince Albert is ever gonna get out of that can.


Nostalgia sure ain’t what it used to be, and Lola (AMS) is not easily fooled. It’s a good pun, but the Dead have been more forthcoming than other bands about their existence or nonexistence.

I went to a concert in 1969 that was supposed to feature Linda Ronstadt, Tim Buckley and the Byrds, but by then “the Byrds” meant Roger McGuinn and whoever he found to play with that week.

As it turned out, he didn’t find anyone, so they swapped in Dr. John at his gris-gris height, which wasn’t compatible with the other two acts but made for a far better concert than McGuinn & the Backups.

YouTube is full of old guys doing covers of themselves as young guys, and, even when the cast is somewhat the same, the moment has sure passed. It’s like that agonizing sequence in Annie Hall when Alvy tries to recreate the spontaneous lobster scene with a new girlfriend.


Just as you’re not supposed to cite Woody Allen anymore, you’re also not supposed to point out that cats are an invasive species with a lethal impact on birds, so kudos to Harry Bliss for going there anyway.

The Oatmeal dealt with the issue far more graphically some years ago, but, being an alternative comic, I’m not sure how much impact it had on people who let their cats wander.

I like cats, mind you. But I also like reptiles, and I think Burmese pythons and cats both belong secure in their owners’ homes, not running around the neighborhood wreaking havoc on native species.


And Candorville (WPWG) brings up another thing that, like aged rock bands and invasive species, should perhaps be put out of our misery.

The invasive species part being that, rather than killing off what is already there, zombie strips stifle new growth. The real estate in newspapers is not simply limited but shrinking, and new voices barely stand a chance.

Meanwhile, like those aged rock bands, zombie strips simply recycle their greatest hits, without recapturing the vitality and creative energy of the moment that once made them great.


Mind you, I like old strips, and about half the daily strips on my Comics Kingdom page are Vintage, including Buz Sawyer, who is just starting a new adventure. Roy Crane was perhaps a little too friendly with the Pentagon, who often fed him politically charged storylines, but his art and storytelling make the strip well worth following, in its creative first life.

On line. Not in print.

In this 1959 episode, Buz is getting first crack at a plane that would, within a year or two, become a workhorse for the military up through the Gulf War.

And thus, I’m sure, a font of nostalgia for a whole lot of former aviators.


6 thoughts on “CSotD: The Good, and not so good, Old Days

  1. I saw the Byrds twice in NYC in 1970-71, and they were first-rate. The Carnegie Hall show was particularly strong, with the audience refusing to leave until they played extra encores. They were also headliners during the closing run at the Fillmore East, with a very solid, if shorter set. If I remember right, the 1969 version of the group melted down, leading to the cancellation of a batch of shows, and McGuinn reorganized them into an operation fronted by himself and the late Clarence White, which was pretty formidable for a year or two, and more successful than the ill fated 1973 reunion.

  2. And in other Florida news, “Sarasota County School District has frozen all donations and purchases of books for school libraries and classrooms until at least the beginning of 2023. Book fairs, in some cases, are also on hold.” (Source: https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/verify/sarasota-teachers-cant-buy-books-florida-law)

    Rumor has it that there are other restrictions as well, but I haven’t found a reliable source yet.

    I went through Florida schools from the early 1960s to 1978 and emerged fairly well educated. I’m not sure that would happen today.

  3. In my neighborhood, the advisability of keeping housecats in-house is self-enforcing. Those that do wander eventually wind up being eaten by much larger cats.

  4. My wife grew up wayyyyy up north in New Hampshire and she told me a story about a kid who lived in the next small town over (this would be the early 1970s). Apparently, the kid had what now we’d call ADD. Whenever he’d get restless in class and couldn’t concentrate his teacher would give him a note to “take home to his mother” or some other such errand. The kid would ride his bike furiously on his errand, then hurry back. At that point, he’d used up his excess energy and could sit and concentrate on his lessons.

  5. Of course, habitat loss, pesticides and pollutants don’t kill songbirds…only cats do that. Maybe the pythons can be t rained to eat small pets.

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