Sunday, 15 July 2018

Cartoonist Pinto on the Radio

What’s the big radio station in San Francisco these days? It’s not KDN, that’s for sure. But it was in March of 1922, just as KYJ and KOG were the main stations in Los Angeles, all forgotten except by diehard niche radio historians.

Those of you who remember the days of BBS on the internet know how a new dial-in board seemed to appear every day. Radio was the same way. It exploded in the U.S. in 1922, when the government began handing out licenses for broadcasting stations—some of which had been on the air for some time—and there was a huge rush to apply for them.

The West Coast, in particular, was a proverbial hotbed for radio. Several newspapers in Los Angeles had radio connections; the three papers in Vancouver, B.C. had stations by March 1922. Other papers jumped on the fad and gave radio fans special columns or pages in their daily editions.

One was the San Francisco Chronicle, with its first special radio page on March 19, 1922. Besides listings of the stations that existed in northern California, news, and photos, it engaged a 29-year-old former musician to draw a radio cartoon. You may not recognise names of the stations we mentioned above, but you probably recognise his name. He was later the voice of Goofy, Pinto Colvig.

Here are 12 of the first 14 cartoons that Pinto drew. The other two are too faded; one involves a cat’s whisker pun where you, unfortunately, can’t make out his cat drawing. In early 1922, radio wasn’t necessarily a matter of plugging the set into the wall. People built them from scratch; the Chronicle has an article on a boy who made one using a cigar box. Adolescents and young men were the ones who were generally into radio, something that proved to be a puzzle to some adults. Radios were mostly battery-powered, required an aerial and a ground, and headphones to hear, though some could be fitted with a huge Magnavox horn so everyone in the room could listen.

No, Colvig didn’t invent Amos ‘n’ Andy in the April 6th comic, but there’s the usual Southern dialect and stereotypes about gin and craps. Incidentally, the comic contained the version of the “n” word popular in rap today. I’ve censored it because someone may stumble on the picture doing a web search and get offended instead of focusing on Pinto’s fine drawing style.

You can click on any of the comics to make them bigger and your mouse should activate a box with the comic’s date.

I haven’t looked into when Colvig stopped drawing the cartoon, but it didn’t last long. By late July, it had turned into a soap opera. By August, the Chronicle had reduced its radio coverage to a list of the hours a station was on the air, and a question box. The aforementioned KDN was obsolete and off the air in 1923. Pinto Colvig moved on to bigger things in the animation, recording and TV industries in Hollywood.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea Colvig drew cartoons. You really can learn something new everyday.Great blog!