Tunes and ‘Toons at Penn State

Above: Me holding forth this Monday in Penn State’s Foster Auditorium.

I was briefly a grad student at Penn State University forty years ago. My stay at PSU in the fall of 1968 was funded by a Shubert Playwriting Fellowship, and a couple of my short plays (one of which can be found on this very web site) even made it onstage as part of the theatre department’s Five O’clock Theatre student workshop series.

Personal issues quickly derailed my attempt to be a Very Good Fellow that fall, unfortunately, and I fled to New York over the Christmas holidays before making much of a dent in my Shubert money.

Despite the inauspiciousness of my grad school career, though, I had a mostly good time at Penn State during my brief stay, the odd depression and panic attack aside. I forged several enduring friendships, helped paint the set for a main stage production of O’Neill’s Ah Wilderness, and even made good grades somehow in the courses I took.

So despite the fact that so much time has passed since then that not a single inch of the campus I encountered looked remotely familiar, I nevertheless felt a definite twinge of nostalgia when I returned to PSU last weekend at the invitation of Eileen Akin, coordinator of PSU Special Collections Library’s Audio-Visual Collections and Fred Waring archives, who asked me to give a talk as part of the Graphic Novel Speakers Series she spearheads.

Below: Eileen and I commune with cartooning greats in the Waring collection’s Cartoon Room

Music fans whose tastes include works that pre-date Buddy Holly will hear the name Fred Waring and think of the smooth orchestral and choral sounds that emanated from America’s radios, televisions, phonographs, and concert stages thanks to Waring’s legendary conducting skills and the voices of his touring choral colleagues, the Pennsylvanians. What I had forgotten about until I walked into Eileen’s office was Waring’s similarly legendary devotion to the cartoon art form and its practitioners.

An honorary member of the National Cartoonists Society and the host of annual NCS golfing retreats at his Shawnee-on-the-Delaware home base, Waring was the regular recipient of thank-you art from his legion of grateful ‘tooner friends.

Hence the "Cartoon Room" at Penn State, because of which the PSU library’s Waring archive is as notable for its walls full of framed cartoon originals that almost nobody has ever seen as for its long shelves of Waring choral arrangements and displays of fascinating memorabilia from the decades during which Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians graced music-lovers with their unforgettable performances and broadcasts.

Below: Just one of the reasons why Eileen Akin’s lair at PSU is a feast for any cartoon-lover’s eyes.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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2 Responses to Tunes and ‘Toons at Penn State

  1. John Meier says:

    Sorry I missed you, but I will be sure to watch the video!

  2. Pingback: STWALLSKULL » Interesting Links: April 24, 2008