If you grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and '80s, there are a number of cultural elements that suddenly take you back to your overall-, Keds-, and bowl cut-wearing days. There's Bits & Pieces
, James Gabbert repeatedly turning his back to the camera while hosting KOFY TV 20 Dance Party
, "The Play
" (which induced a fit of joyous shouting from my father that scared the hell out of your youthful humble narrator) and, of course, Wee Pals
If you hail from elsewhere -- or don't regularly read the funny pages of the Oakland Tribune
or other BANG papers -- Wee Pals
is a Peanuts
-inspired comic strip featuring a minority-heavy cast of characters living in Oakland and drawn by Oakland's own Morrie Turner.
While Wee Pals
is very much a local comic strip these days, in its heyday it was big -- the strip was syndicated into hundreds of papers across the nation and there was even a short-lived TV show in 1972. My Oakland Kindergarten class entered some kids into a Wee Pals
look-alike contest (we had a little boy who was a dead ringer for Nipper, the character with the Union Civil War cap and Turner's alter-ego).
So if this is a source of pleasant nostalgia for you (or if you wish to borrow some of mine), be sure to stop by the San Francisco Public Library's main branch. Starting over the weekend and extending to October, the third floor African American center will host a 45-year retrospective of Turner's comic art.
Thirty years after the Wee Pals look-alike contest, in one of those "I'm glad I got to be a journalist" moments, I interviewed Turner and his longtime friend and "inker" Sid Shaffer for this article.
Afterwards, the two sent me a hand-drawn (and inked!) card featuring yours truly pinning Shaffer and Turner to the ground while snapping their photos with a large box camera.
Finally, a Wee Pals character I can win a look-alike contest for!