NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 27, 2009

Al Capp was here

Legendary local cartoonist was born 100 years ago today

1If there are autographed black and white photos of the L'il Abner comic strip creator, radio talk show host and political commentator hamming it up with local politicians or cavorting at a local bar with some of his New York friends, they're likely tucked away in the private collections of residents who knew the family well. There are no streets named after Capp's famous comic-strip characters Daisy Mae, Shmoo or Sadie Hawkins, to name a few. In fact, the only public monument to his memory is his family's unmarked homestead on Whitehall Road and Capp's gravesite at Mount Prospect Cemetery.

Today on what would mark Al Capp's 100th birthday, there is no festival planned to honor the occasion. But there are many in town who still remember Capp's downtown art studio, his friendly in-laws and the memory of Capp sitting on the porch of his picturesque home on the banks of the Powow River, where he and his family lived from 1940 until his death in 1979.

According to his daughter, Julie Cairol, 75, who still lives in the Capp family home, the quick-witted cartoon satirist whose comic strip was once viewed by 60 million readers, cherished his down time in this small town.

"I was born in Amesbury," said Cairol. "My father bought this house for my mother (Catherine Wingate Cameron) when we were children because he didn't want us living in the city. I grew up here until I went away to school."

Cairol was born shortly after Capp first pitched his L'il Abner cartoon strip to United Features Syndicate, setting out on his own after ghosting for cartoonist Ham Fisher on the popular boxing strip series Joe Palooka. His fictitious Dogpatch, home to L'il Abner, and love interest Daisy Mae, Mammy and Pappy Yokum, Fearless Fostick and the ever unfortunate Joe Btfsplk, struck a chord with Americans suffering through the Great Depression.

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