Monday, 23 November 2015

The War of 1620

Tex Avery’s Jerky Turkey may have been set in 1620 during the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock as they fled religious persecution but because it was released in 1945, there are some decidedly un-1620 references in it. America was at war, you know.

If you’ve seen enough animated cartoons from that period, you should get all the dated references. If not, allow us to help you along with the assistance of E.O. Costello and his Warner Brother Cartoon Companion, at one time a go-to source on the internet.

Kiser? C? Mr. Costello writes:

KAISER, HENRY J. (1882-1967)
Industrialist who reached prominence in World War II for his ability to mass-produce ships, cutting the time for building Liberty cargo ships down to one day. His shipyards launched 1,490 vessels by the end of the war. Hence the joke at the end of The Weakly Reporter (Jones, 1944) in which a sign on his office door at a shipyard reads “Out to Launch - Back in 10 Minutes”.

During the Second World War, a government-imposed gasoline rationing program was implemented in the United States. Rationing was especially strict for those living in the eastern seaboard states, because at the time, most petroleum was carried by tanker -- an impractical mode of transport with enemy U-Boats operating off the US coast. Until the “Big Inch” pipeline was finished, gas supplies in the East were generally considered “tight”. Depending on need, citizens were issued one of a number of different “gas cards”, entitling them to a certain quantity of gasoline each week. (One had to present a ration book as well when purchasing gas. Ration book coupons were valid for only a set period of time; so you could not save them up for rainy -- or sunny -- days.)
To get a classification and the necessary rationing stamps, you had to appear before a local board, often comprised of your neighbours, who would likely know something of your actual need for gasoline. You had to certify that you needed gas and that you owned no more than five tires; any in excess of five were confiscated by the government to alleviate rubber shortages. The rubber shortage was, in fact, a major reason for rationing, since the government wanted to keep driving, and thus the demand for tires, as low as possible.
An A card would have had the lowest priority in the rationing system, entitling the holder to around 3 gallons per week. (Some sources say 4, apparently reflecting varied rations depending both on the stage of the war and the geographic location of the rationee.) B cards were issued to persons essential to the war effort, including industrial war workers, and therefore entitled the holder to more gas: most sources say around 8 gallons per week. C cards were granted to those who were deemed vital to the war effort, such as doctors and railroad workers. X cards entitled the holder to unlimited supplies and was the highest priority in the system. Clergy, police, volunteer firemen, and civil defense workers all fell into this category. (Something of a scandal erupted when 200 Congressmen received X cards.) T rations were available for truckers.

It would appear the Mayflower is part of one of the American fleets.

Land ho! The spyglass reveals a pun and pans over to a war reference. Mr. Costello informs us:

Slogan often seen during World War II in an effort to convince people to save gas. See entry for Gasoline Rationing.

Military draft classification gags. E.O. informs us:

Draft rating indicating that one was physically unfit for military service. The Wacky Worm warns the audience in Greetings Bait (Freleng, 1943) that those with weak stomachs and 4-F constitutions should not watch his fight with a crab. In Holiday for Shoestrings (Freleng, 1945), a shoe with a fallen arch which is labeled 4-F has its arch fixed, and its classification changed to 1-A, the rating indicating “physically fit for military service”. The horse in The Draft Horse (Jones, 1942) is rejected by the U.S. Army and is classified as 44-F. Bugs, after surviving a near-death experience in Falling Hare (Clampett, 1943), has a heart pounding in his chest which is labeled 4F. In the Blue Danube sequence of A Corny Concerto (Clampett, 1943) the buzzard rejects the little version of Daffy Duck by applying a big 4F sign to his rump.

Quasi war references: people bought stuff on the Black Market that they couldn’t get due to war rationing, while longshoremen were told to “use no hooks” on cargo being removed from ships so it wouldn’t be damaged.

And Tex and writer Heck Allen made a rare political comment on a war that never seems to end.


  1. I'm delighted to see someone remembers my work.

    The WBCC was put together in a pre-Wiki/wikia era. Boy, I'd do things differently if I had those tools back then!

    1. It was a great resource, Eric, and is still useful as you can see.
      And I'd take it over those Wikis any day, even though a few entries are outdated thanks to new things that have been learned in the last dozen or so years.

    2. The advent of a lot of Keith Scott's scholarship in voice acting has proven in particular to be a resource. I don't have any wiki, myself -- the WBCC was last updated, I think, something like 15 years ago plus -- but I'm sure that a lot of folks have absorbed some of the knowledge that was in the WBCC.

      I think the one bit of truly startling original research I did back in the days when I wrote extensively on WB cartoon history was finding out that Harry Truman had been Bugs Hardaway's commanding officer in World War I, and the two remained friends for decades afterward. There's a whole file on Hardaway at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO.

    3. I recall contributing to the WBCC early on. I think it may have been about the references to Mr. Anthony (John J. Anthony, the Dr. Phil of the '40s).

      And I remember the Harry Truman caricature in "Ant Pasted," though I think Hardaway had left WB long before then.

    4. Hardaway actually made a very brief return to WB in the late 1940s, when the Lantz studio went on hiatus. One of the things in the Hardaway file is his C.V.; he was looking for a government job right about then, and it lists his career history up until that point. I believe that Bugs did get one credit for a story for Freleng at that time.

  2. Also, the 4-F joke in "Holiday For Shoestrings" actually goes the full reference. 4-F meant rejected for service, and in many instances it was due to 'flat feet' syndrome (soldiers with this affliction would not be able to march for long distances without developing stress fractures of the metatarsil). Daffy also refers that "even the Army don't want me" in "A Coy Decoy" by describing one of his symptoms as "flat feet".