Monday, January 16, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Switchboard Sally


Hard to believe that King Features would offer a third-rate strip like Switchboard Sally*, the theoretically humorous tale of a hotsy-totsy, smart-mouthed hotel telephone operator. In the 1920s the Hearst organization had the Premier Syndicate imprint in which to throw this sort of junk up against the wall to see if it might stick, and why this did not get flung there I dunno. 

Even junk like this can be interesting, though, and in this instance it is the creators who are memorable. The author of Switchboard Sally was H.C. Witwer, who must have been dashing off this tripe purely for the quick buck. Witwer was a popular and prolific writer who made a name for himself with humorous novels, magazine stories and movie screenplays. He was obviously engaged to write the strip purely for the name recognition. Apparently Witwer didn't care much about the potential damage to his reputation. 

The artist is the notorious Wesley Morse, who would later win everlasting infamy as the king of the Tijuana Bibles, those x-rated eight-pagers sold under the counter at the corner store in the 1930s-50s. Switchboard Sally gives him ample opportunity to work on his female figure drawing, for which I must admit he had a knack. It's everything else in the strip that he seems to not have an interest in fleshing out; the strip mainly features blank backgrounds and the most minimal props necessary. 

Switchboard Sally seems to have debuted on June 15 1925**, and was pretty much a gag-a-day affair. Since the gags weren't very good, there were also some half-baked storylines that went nowhere, so if you disliked the gags you could also be annoyed by the ill-conceived continuity. The latest I can find the strip running is January 2 1926 in the San Francisco Examiner, where daily strips came and went as quickly as mayflies -- can anyone supply a later end date?

One minor footnote is that the strip was advertised as being by Russ Westover in the 1925 E&P listings; obviously this was a typo.

* At least one paper ran it as "Sally of the Switchboard"

** Source: Philadelphia Daily News


I never made the connection that Morse was one of the "Tijuana Bibles" artists, but looking at the drawings I can see the resemblance. One of the more wholesome creations Morse was involved in were those "Bazooka Joe" comics that came with the bubble gums.
"It drives me nuts when artists/letterers put quotation marks around dialogue in balloons."
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