Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Other Side of Jay Ward

A real estate agent isn’t exactly the kind of person you’d think would make a good cartoon producer. But Jay Ward was. He surrounded himself with incredibly creative people who made him laugh and produced some of the funniest TV cartoons ever. And, by all accounts, his own sense of humour was off-the-wall and inventive, so he fit in with his staff perfectly.

Keith Scott’s wonderful book “The Moose That Roared” goes into great detail about Ward’s life and foibles. But I found a story that Keith didn’t include and it shows a facet to Ward that doesn’t get a lot of light in the book. This is from a front page column in the Abilene Reporter-News, November 30, 1962.

By Katharyn Duff

BAIRD—Jay Ward is a very funny man who lives in California. He is a producer of the Bullwinkle show and, as a side stunt, the promoter of “statehood for Moosylvania,” a mythical land he would make the “52d state.”
He’s the sort who gives people the lock to the city—since others give the key. He has stickers, buttons and songs about Moosylvania.
(Sample, to the obvious tune; “How are things in Moosylvania? Does the fetish swamp still fester there? Does it still give off the pungent smell of Muscatel and sweaty grizzly bear? . . .”)
Jay Ward is a very funny man, a busy showman. He is also a very warm and gentle man.
This is about a quiet visit he paid last week to a little Baird girl.
* * *
Linda Dill is a senior in Baird High School. She fell in love with the Bullwinkle nonsense when it came along, and since she has marked artistic talent, she made some tiny dolls to represent the characters, wrote a script for them and let them “perform” for various Baird classes.
One day, she bundled up her Bullwinkle dolls and mailed them to Jay Ward.
That started a friendship-by-mail. Jay wrote that the dolls were on exhibit in his Hollywood studio. He sent Linda a Bullwinkle clock and a battery-operated Bullwinkle figure. Linda, in turn, got up a “petition” in Baird seeking statehood for Moosylvania.
Then it developed that Jay Ward would be in Dallas for a show in mid-November and he wrote an invitation to Linda to drop by if she could. Linda would have but six-weeks exams conflicted and she had to decline the invitation.
* * *
On Wednesday evening last week a long distance call came to Baird from Jay Ward at Dallas. He asked to speak to Linda. Then he learned.
Linda is deaf, her mother told Jay, so the message would have to be relayed.
That was the first Jay knew that his young friend is not as others. Spinal meningitis when she was 6 left her with handicaps. She is deaf, has speech impairment and is confined to a wheelchair.
* * *
Jay Ward’s call to Linda came on a Wednesday evening.
Jay Ward himself came on Thursday—came in all the glory of his “Bullwinkle Wagon,” a panel car painted to resemble a circus wagon, came complete with all sorts of gifts and gadgets from “Bullwinkle.”
He came to talk with Linda, via her family, and to visit.
He set off an assortment of devices to make music for the little girl. “Linda may not hear it, but let’s wind it all up for her anyway,” he said.
Jay Ward put on a very special show for Linda.
Then he bent and kissed Linda’s hand and got in his Bullwinkle Wagon and drove back to Dallas.
He left behind a little girl “orbiting a rainbow,” her mother says.
He left behind, too, his offer to send Linda through any college she might choose—and offer her family thinks it cannot accept.
* * *
“I don’t know Jay Ward’s height,” Linda’s mother says, “but he was ten feel tall when he bent and kissed Linda’s hand. . .I don’t know, either, when the Department of Health will get us for I don’t think that hand has been washed since. . . .
“There’s something pretty wonderful about a person who will take the time to make a little girl happy, isn’t there?”
And, except for the noisemakers, it was all done quietly. No publicity.
Jay Ward, Linda’s family learned, is more than just a very funny man.

I wish I had a happier answer to the question “Whatever happened to Linda?” Linda Dill died December 9, 1968, age 23. But it’s nice to learn her life was made a little brighter by a man with a nutty sense of humour who also had a serious, caring side, too.


  1. Jay Ward was truly a class act.

  2. Good point,Anonym.,even if Jay didn't come off that way or want to..:)Steve C.

  3. What a great story. What a fine gentleman.