Thursday, September 04, 2008
News of Yore 1922: A Day With Tillie's Creator
Tillie's Home Sweet Home
By Dan Carey (Circulation magazine, September 1922)
Russ Westover doesn't work in a studio, he has a home.
When I went to the Westovers in New Rochelle it was with the intention of securing material for a funny story. Surely the creator of Tillie The Toiler, the dainty little stenographic ingenue who makes us all happy daily with his comic strip, would furnish a series of laughs during a day at his home. I might as well try to write a funny story about the Fifth Symphony as about Russ Westover's home life. It simply isn't there.
The pretty village of New Rochelle is not "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway" at all. I felt weeks and weeks away from the noise and grime and tinsel of that glamorous thoroughfare which frightens so many of us.
Mr. Westover has a regular house and lot with conifers, Japanese maples, deutzias, forsythia and coleus in the front yard, with salvias banked against the side while ferns and woodbine grow next to the house in the rear. Fruit trees are on the lawn of the back yard between the house and the garage. All the family speak of "home." I didn't hear "studio " once.
What a welcome the visitor receives, even from Tim, the Irish terrier, who comes nosing and wagging with his ears cocked and his eyes bright with joy. Tim is a regular dog.
So are the boys regular boys. Alden DeLancey, bearing his mother's name and who has the accumulated wisdom of five years, climbs and hugs and plays at gymnastic stunts and teases just as you want a healthy, normal five year old to do, while Russell Channing Westover, Jr. has the manly, unaffected air of a well bred boy of twelve. For a time I thought I would be disappointed by these boys, but they corrected that impression wonderfully after lunch when Chan captured the pot in which the chocolate icing had been made and Alden expressed utter dissatisfaction with the division of the loot. Mother and Daddy sat as an arbitration board while I was a "best mind" and engaged in the process of "watchful waiting." The boys had made good with me.
Mrs. Westover is just exactly the mother you would expect two such boys to have and is just exactly the hostess you would expect to find in such a home. I can't think of any greater compliment that could be paid her.
I didn't interview Russ Westover. I meant to but he started me talking about myself (a thing I am rather good at anyway), and he learned a lot more about me than I did about him. Everytime I made an effort to have him talk about Tillie The Toiler he would begin to speak of California, his native state, and once when I pressed him particularly he brought out a book of beautiful pictures to reinforce his description of the scenery of the west.
Russ Westover likes me. I know it because he offered to help me get a job in California any time I wanted to go. That is the greatest compliment a Californian can pay anyone. When he invites you to settle in his native state he means about the same thing an Easterner means when he offers you a card to his club or suggests that you sign an application for membership in his secret society.
Californians arc admirable. There is a charm, a graciousness and an affability about the women of that state and a manliness and a breadth of mind about the men which appeal very much to me.
After lunch the boys went to a magic lantern show in the neighborhood while Mr. and Mrs. Westover took me for a stroll through the beautiful, deep woods, opposite their home, where we talked of the trees and shrubs and flowers, and where Mrs. Westover gave us a little of the knowledge she has of such things.
It was all over much too soon. It was so delightful to find an artist who loves the simple, quiet life of a dignified home, where the air of refined domesticity is everywhere, where there is evidence of Mother's touch and Mother's loving care in every nook and corner of the place, and where everything frankly and unaffectedly revolves around the desires of Daddy on his weekly day of rest.
I was determined to find out something about how the creator of Tillie The Toiler works, so while we sat at lunch, "To what do you attribute your unquestioned success in turning out so delightful a series as Tillie The Toiler?"
"My wife is due the credit," he replied. " I never submit an idea for a drawing without first discussing it with her and obtaining the benefit of her criticism."
So now you have the account of how I went for a funny story about Russ Westover which I did not find and sought an interview which I failed to get.
Labels: News of Yore