Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Rocky Rhodes of Hart's Location

Today we focus on one of Cole Johnson's favorite obscurities, a local strip of Manchester, New Hampshire, the old Johnson family stomping grounds. Rocky Rhodes of Hart's Location predates by just a tad Cole's direct memories, but who knows but that those bewhiskered folks in the Johnson family album were once big fans of the strip.

Johnson sent me the above samples of the strip, which ran weekly in the Manchester Union from April 2 to May 23 1923. Given that the story seems to start in mid-flight we can safely assume that the strip lasted longer than this, perhaps starting in February or March based on this article that was printed in the Union on April 16:

Rocky Rhodes Lands in Queen City Via Air

"Rocky" Rhodes hit Manchester last night. He hit the city a terrific wallop.

"Rocky" didn't exactly plan to stop off in the Queen City. He was headed for his home, up in Hart's Location. But circumstances -- said circumstances being the sudden collapse of the balloon in which he was traveling from Akron, Ohio, to New Hampshire -- forced him to drop in unexpectedly on Manchester.

"Rocky" and Specky, his steed, chose a soft spot on the side o]f Uncanoonuc mountain on which to land. Then "Rocky", astride Specky's back, sought Manchester and the Union Leader office.

"I'm here," he announced as he reached the editorial rooms of the newspaper. "And I'm rarin' to go."

On questioning, Rocky told interviewers that he plans to make Manchester his home.

"Will you play baseball?" he was asked.

"Most certainly," the pride of Hart's Location replied. "I'm open to offers from any team in the City league. And I might be prevailed upon to use some of my spare time filling in with a team in the Concord Twilight circuit."

Which indicates that Rhodes will be found regularly this summer with one of the local clubs.

Rhodes is a right fielder by nature. He has a record that extends back into the early days of 1923 when he first learned to play the national game through a correspondence course. Diploma in hand, "Rocky" accompanied the Red Sox south on their spring training trip where he met with an accident that placed him in the hospital for a fortnight. His layup cost him a contract with the Sox.

Until next spring, when "Rocky" plans to make another venture into the big league game, he will be found in this city, he says. He may enter one of New Hampshire's colleges next fall as he says he is an excellent football player.
The creator of the strip, one H. Thebodeau, was, according to Cole, the sports cartoonist for both the Manchester Union and its sister paper, the evening Leader in 1922-23. On a recent pilgrimage to Manchester Cole tried to do some research on the strip but was stopped in his tracks -- the local library only had the Leader on microfilm, and Rocky Rhodes was only printed in the morning paper.

Hart's Location is a real place, a tiny town that today boasts a population of 37. It's claim to fame is that it's one of two towns in New Hampshire that votes at midnight of election day on federal elections. It operates in the shadow of Dixville Notch, though, which is the town that always garners the media attention for the same practice.

Cole tells me that the Amoskeag Mill, referenced and shown in one strip, was also a real place, in fact they were the biggest employer in Manchester in those days, and boasted of being the largest producer of socks and blankets in the world. The Great Depression and unionization put an end to that -- the factory closed in December 1936.

On a personal note, I'd like to add that this strip gets the laurels for the most lovingly drawn horse's sphincter in the history of newspaper comics -- see strip #2 (or better yet, don't).


Sorry to disappoint, but that's not the horse's sphincter: it's just a straight-on shot of his scrubby tail.
Sure that's not "W. T. Thebodeau"?
Maybe Wilfred T. Thebodeau?
Hi Joecab -- disappointed ... um, no I don't think that would be the term if it's just the tail. Relieved? Yeah, I think that does the job.

DD -- I took the 'H' from Cole's note to me regarding the strip. I could see H.T. as another possibility. I kind of assumed that Cole, having seen Mr. T's sports cartoons, knew better than I. As J. Wellington would say, let's you and him fight.
Hello, dddeg--Mr. Thebodeau made an odd pitch in the line crossing the "H", and I guess this confused my ability to properly garner the true nature and aspect of this noble and useful member of the alphabet community.----Cole J.
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