What became of ALFALFA?

Who wouldn't like this little boy with one eye larger than the other, missing tooth, slicked down hair, and country boy overalls? I found him in a box at an estate sale. Nothing written on the back. He reminded me of someone, someone once famous. Do you see it? Even a little bit? I'm thinking of Alfalfa from the Our Gang series.

Our Gang, also known as The Little Rascals or Hal Roach's Rascals, was a series of American comedy short films about a group of poor neighborhood children and the adventures they had together. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, Our Gang was produced at the Roach studio starting in 1922 as a silent short subject series. Roach changed distributors from Pathé to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1927, went to sound in 1929 and continued production until 1938, when he sold the series to MGM. MGM in turn continued producing the comedies until 1944. A total of 220 shorts and one feature film, General Spanky, were eventually produced, featuring over forty-one child actors. In the mid-1950s, the 80 Roach-produced shorts with sound were syndicated for television under the title The Little Rascals, as MGM retained the rights to the Our Gang trademark.
The series is noted for showing children behaving in a relatively natural way. While child actors are often groomed to imitate adult acting styles, steal scenes, or deliver "cute" performances, Hal Roach and original director Robert F. McGowan worked to film the unaffected, raw nuances apparent in regular kids. Our Gang also notably put boys, girls, whites and blacks together in a group as equals, something that "broke new ground," according to film historian Leonard Maltin. Such a thing had never been done before in cinema but was commonplace after the success of Our Gang. (Source: Wikipedia)
Alfalfa, played by Carl Dean Switzer, was one of the most popular characters in the series. He had a cowlick that stood straight up on the back of his head and was known for his off-key singing. He was my favorite. I had forgotten how his life ended tragically in 1959. The following is from Wikipedia:
Carl Dean "Alfalfa" Switzer (August 7, 1927 – January 21, 1959) was an American child actor, professional dog breeder and hunting guide, most notable for appearing in the Our Gang short subjects series as Alfalfa, one of the series' most popular and best-remembered characters.

Switzer was born in Paris, Illinois, the second son, fourth and last child of Gladys C. Shanks (née Doerr) and G. Frederick Switzer. He was named Carl after the Switzer family and Dean after many relatives on his grandmother's family. He and his older brother, Harold Frederick Switzer, became famous around their hometown for their musical talent and performances; both sang and played a number of instruments.

The Switzers took a trip to California in 1934 to visit with family members. While sightseeing they eventually wound up at Hal Roach Studios. Following a public tour of the facility, 8-year-old Harold and 6-year-old Carl entered into the Hal Roach Studio's open-to-the-public cafeteria, the Our Gang Café, and began an impromptu performance. Producer Hal Roach was present at the commissary that day and was impressed by the performance. He signed both Switzers to appear in Our Gang. Harold was given two nicknames, "Slim" and "Deadpan," and Carl was dubbed "Alfalfa."

The Switzer brothers first appeared in the 1935 Our Gang short, Beginner's Luck. By the end of the year, Alfalfa was one of the main characters in the series, while Harold had more or less been relegated to the role of a background player.

Although Carl Switzer was an experienced singer and musician, his character Alfalfa was often called upon to sing off-key renditions of pop standards and contemporary hits, most often those of Bing Crosby. Alfalfa also sported one of the most famous cowlicks in pop culture history.

Switzer's country-boy sense of earthy humor could often be cruel. He enjoyed playing tricks on his fellow cast and crew members. One incident occurred when he put fishing hooks in the pants of Our Gang co-star George "Spanky" McFarland, and McFarland suffered severe cuts that resulted in his receiving stitches. Switzer tricked co-star Darla Hood into putting her hand in his pocket, telling her he had a ring for her, but in reality it was a switchblade knife. Hood almost lost her fingers from that incident.

By the end of 1937, Alfalfa Switzer had supplanted Spanky McFarland, the series' nominal star, in popularity. While the two boys managed to get along (save for Switzer's pranks), their fathers fought and argued constantly over their sons' screen time and salaries. Ironically, Switzer's best friend among the Our Gang kids was Tommy Bond, who played his on-screen nemesis "Butch". In Bond's words, he and Switzer became good friends because "neither of us could replace the other since we played opposites."

After Hal Roach sold Our Gang to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in 1938, the now-adolescent Switzer's behavior was even more extreme, and he often sabotaged the production of the Our Gang films. Once, during a break in filming, Switzer urinated on the set's lights. When filming resumed, the lights heated up and filled the set with such a stench that filming had to be halted for the rest of the day. On another occasion, intending to get back at a rude cameraman, Switzer forced the other kids to chew as much gum as they could, and stuffed wads of spent chewing gum inside the camera. Switzer's attitude towards authority impressed one of his younger Our Gang co-stars, Robert Blake, who, as an adult, became known for his disposition as an iconoclast.

The tenure of both Switzers in Our Gang ended in 1940, when Carl was twelve. Carl continued to appear in movies in various supporting roles, including I Love You Again, Going My Way, Courage of Lassie, and It's a Wonderful Life and starred in the John Wayne film Island in the Sky where he coined the phrase "Whatever's customary," about the only line he spoke throughout the film, but one he repeated several times in it.

Switzer's last starring roles were in a brief series of imitation-Bowery Boys movies; he reprised his "Alfalfa" characterization, complete with comically sour vocals, in PRC's Gas House Kids comedies of 1946-1947. He returned to supporting roles, including a short stint as B-western sidekick "Alfalfa Johnson." Switzer preferred not to recall his Our Gang work; in his 1946 resume he referred to the gang films generically as "M-G-M short product."

Switzer had a fleeting cameo in the 1954 musical film White Christmas where his picture was used to depict an Army buddy (named "Freckle-Faced Haynes") of lead characters (Wallace and Davis) played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and also the brother of the female leads (the Haynes Sisters) played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. He also did some acting for television.

His final film role was in 1958's The Defiant Ones and on the television series The Roy Rogers Show, where he was called upon to reprise his off-key "Alfalfa-like" singing. Switzer's difficult reputation and his typecasting as "Alfalfa" made it difficult for him to find quality work.

Prior to a hunting guide job, Switzer had borrowed a hunting dog from Moses "Bud" Stiltz. When the dog was lost, Switzer offered a $50 reward for the dog's return. A man found the dog a few days later and brought it to the bar where Switzer was working. Switzer paid the man $35 and bought him $15 worth of drinks from the bar. Several days later on January 21, 1959, Switzer and his friend Jack Piott decided that Stiltz owed Switzer the $50 paid to the man who found the dog. The pair allegedly arrived drunk at Stiltz's home in Mission Hills to collect the money Stiltz "owed" him.

He banged on Stiltz's front door, demanding, "Let me in, or I'll kick in the door." Once Switzer was inside the home, he and Stiltz got into an argument. Switzer informed Stiltz that he wanted the money owed him, saying "I want that 50 bucks you owe me now, and I mean now." When Stiltz refused to hand over the money, the two engaged in a physical fight. Piott allegedly struck Stiltz in the head with a glass-domed clock, which caused him to bleed from his left eye. Stiltz retreated to his bedroom and returned holding a .38-caliber revolver, but Switzer immediately grabbed the gun away from him, resulting in a shot being fired that hit the ceiling. Switzer then forced Stiltz into a closet, despite Stiltz having gotten his hands back on the gun. Switzer then allegedly pulled a switchblade knife and screamed, "I'm going to kill you" and was attempting to stab him with it, but just as Switzer was about to charge Stiltz, Stiltz raised the gun and shot Switzer in the groin. Switzer died of massive internal bleeding and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Jack Piott gave a second version of events to investigators. According to Piott, he and Switzer went to collect a debt from Stiltz, when an argument broke out. Piott said a brief struggle ensued and Stiltz brandished a gun and shot Switzer, who was unarmed at the time, in the groin. Then, according to police reports, only by begging was Piott able to save his own life.

The killing was held to be a justifiable homicide. Switzer had allegedly pulled a knife; therefore, the shooting was judged to be self-defense. During the inquest regarding Switzer's death, it was revealed that what was originally reported as a "hunting knife" was in fact merely a penknife. It had been found by crime scene investigators under his body, but with no blade exposed.

On January 25, 2001, a third witness came forward and gave his version of the events of January 21, 1959. The witness, 56-year-old Tom Corrigan, son of Western movie star Ray "Crash" Corrigan and stepson of Moses Stiltz, was present the night Switzer was killed.

"It was more like murder," Corrigan told reporters. He said he heard the knock on the front door and heard Switzer say "Western Union for Bud Stiltz". Corrigan's mother, Rita Corrigan, opened the door to find a drunk and demanding Switzer complaining about a perceived, months-old debt. Switzer entered the house followed by Jack Piott and stated that he was going to beat Stiltz. Stiltz greeted Switzer with a .38-caliber revolver in his hand. Tom Corrigan claimed to witness Switzer grab the revolver and the two began struggling to gain control over it. Piott broke a glass-domed clock over Stiltz's head whose eye swelled shut. During the struggle the gun fired into the ceiling and Tom Corrigan was struck in the leg by a piece of shrapnel. After the initial shot, his two younger sisters ran to a neighbor's house to call for help. "Well, we shot Tommy, enough of this," he remembers Switzer saying before Switzer and Piott started to retreat. Corrigan had just stepped out the front door when he heard a second shot go off behind him. He did not see his stepfather shoot Switzer, but when he turned around he saw Switzer sliding down the wall with a surprised look on his face — shot in the groin. Corrigan said he spotted a closed penknife at Switzer's side which he presumed fell out of his pocket or his hand. He then witnessed his stepfather back Piott into the kitchen counter and threaten to kill him, but as the man begged for his life, they heard emergency sirens which is why Corrigan believed Stiltz didn't shoot him again. Corrigan recalled that his stepfather, Bud Stiltz, lied in his account of the event to the authorities.

Following the shooting, Corrigan claims a now-deceased Los Angeles Police Department detective, Pat Pow, interviewed him and asked him if he would testify before a judge. Corrigan claims to have agreed, although for unknown reasons he was never called before the coroner's jury. "He didn't have to kill him," Corrigan said.

Carl Switzer is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. His death went virtually unnoticed in the media, as Switzer died on the same day as Cecil B. DeMille. Switzer received only minor footnotes in most newspapers, while DeMille's obituary dominated the columns. (Source: Wikipedia)
Of course, the little boy in the photo above is NOT Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer. He's an unknown country boy with a striking resemblance.

The big question I have is before the photo was shot, who combed his hair? Did the teacher comb it? This is most likely a school photo. I can't imagine this little fellow staying this clean and crisp all day, but then when I look at him I think of Alfalfa. He makes me smile. I hope this fellow had a better life than Alfalfa.


Possible MAMMY YOKUM photo?

And what could this granny be giving the young 'uns? Something sweet from her garden? Something easily chewed? I have no idea. I've never been able to figure it out. She has something in her hat that the kids seem to want. She reminds me of Mammy Yokum from the Lil Abner comic strip. Don't remember Lil Abner? You're saying that just to make me feel old. Well, you just need to educate yourself and click on over to the official Lil Abner web site and then tell me if she doesn't look like Mammy.

granny with kids_tatteredandlost
Go ahead, click on it to see it larger and you tell me if you can figure out what she's handing out.

The following "biography" about Mammy Yokum is from Wikipedia:
Mammy Yokum: Born Pansy Hunks, Mammy was the scrawny, highly principled "sassiety" leader and bare knuckle "champeen" of the town of Dogpatch. She married the inconsequential Pappy Yokum in 1902; they produced two strapping sons twice their own size. Mammy dominated the Yokum clan through the force of her personality, and dominated everyone else with her fearsome right uppercut, (sometimes known as her "Goodnight, Irene" punch) which helped her uphold law, order and decency- as she saw them. She was consistently the toughest character throughout Li'l Abner. A superhuman dynamo, Mammy did all the household chores - and provided her charges with no less than 8 meals a day of "po'k chops" and "tarnips", (as well as local Dogpatch delicacies like "candied catfish eyeballs" and "trashbean soup"). Her authority was unquestioned, and her characteristic phrase, "Ah has spoken! ", signaled the end of all further discussion. Her most famous phrase, however, was "Good is better than evil becuz it's nicer." (Upon his retirement in 1977, Capp declared Mammy to be his personal favorite of all his characters.)
To read more about the Dogpatch clan click here. And to read about the man who created it, Al Capp (he also created Sadie Hawkins Day), click here.

And I promise, this is the last odd grandma photo.

New book NOW available on Amazon.
Tattered and Lost: Forgotten Dolls

This one is for those who love dolls!

Snapshots from the last 100+ years of children and adults with dolls. Okay, there are a couple of dogs too.

Perfect stocking stuffer for the doll collector on your list!



grandma and baby_tatteredandlost

It's a lovely shot. A grandmother gleefully chasing her granddaughter in the backyard on a warm day. Joyful laughter can be heard.

I bought this as a negative at a flea market. A stack of negs that I could only hold up to the sun and take a guess. It was thrilling when I scanned it and found what I had. I was reveling in the joy of the moment, the scene of domestic happiness. And then I saw it. "IT" drew me in. Oh no. It can't be! The whole scene changed. Run baby, run. Grandma's got a knife!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the story is all in the details.



car accident_tatteredandlost

"I'm tellin' ya, it could have been worse. Don't look at me like that! You mailed in the insurance payment. We're covered. You did mail in the payment...right? Oh geez, please tell me you mailed in the payment. Ohhhhh...I don't feel so good."


A RUMPUS ROOM it's not

So, where do you go when the weather is bad, you've been shut in for days, but you can't leave the house? You just want a different perspective. You want to get away. Well, for many people it's going down to the basement. I don't have a basement, but I remember basements. The best was in our house in Maryland. My folks turned it into a wonderful room with alcoves, including one just for me with a built in toy chest. All the walls were done in knotty pine. Another section had a bar with stools, table and chairs, fridge. It really was a place to escape to and where I had all my birthday parties.

Then there was my grandmother's basement, or as she called it "the cellar." There was a special room she called the cold cellar where she kept all the things she'd canned. Then of course the washer and dryer were always down there.

I miss having a basement. Few houses in California have them. People who have houses built on sides of hills sometimes have a downstairs that they call the basement, but they're nothing like a real basement. Some old houses have basements, but they're pretty rare.

This basement is from an unknown home, February 1957. It has a ummmm...a certain...what shall we call it...ambience. Actually it reminds me of a meeting area in a prison cell block. I like the use of the drying rack. Magazine stand. Clever. They have mostly the Saturday Evening Post with at least one issue of Time and one of House Beautiful.

basement 1957_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger. I mean you really want to get a better look at the decorating tips. Note placement of license plate.

Written on the back, the one on the left:
Our basement which I have fixed up for entertaining (?)
Note, they put the question mark, I didn't. This was not an editorial comment.

On the back of the one on the right:
More of basement.
I think that about sums it up.

Needing something to do in your basement this weekend? Have I got a game for you! Just check out today's post at Tattered and Lost Ephemera.


A HAT or a contraption?

Hats have always sort of confused me. Some look more like elaborate contraptions than a functional piece of clothing. If a hat is hard to keep on your head it seems to be the only function it has is fashion. Same with shoes. If you can't run in them when necessary they're just fashion, not function. Why is it we choose to put such contraptions at the top and the bottom of our body? Not sure there's an answer.

lady in salad hat_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

The young lady on this RPPC is wearing a funny hat. Well, to me it's funny. It looks a bit like a salad bowl with the salad on the outside. She looks lovely enough, but what happened when she bent over? How many pins did she have sticking through her hair and hat to hold this on? Ever seen a hairpin? I imagine most young people have never seen those weapons of mass destruction. Some of them are lovely, but when I think of sticking a bunch of them on the top of my head I have to say a resounding "No!" This hat is perched. A perched hat.


RIDE THE DUCKS™, but keep your hands, purses, and toupees inside the vehicle at all times

I've been waiting to be inspired by this photograph for quite awhile. Then today Robert at Surface of the Moon blessed me with inspiration. He has such a lovely photo posted of people in a boat all decked out in big hats, lilly pads floating in the water. It looks so peaceful and romantic. Consider mine the counterpoint.

Ride the Ducks™, 1986, Branson, Missouri. I will not comment other than to say I once spent a year in Branson one afternoon. I couldn't get out of the traffic and honky tonk fast enough. Not my style.

Branson_Ride the Ducks_cover_tatteredanlost

Branson_Ride the Ducks_tatteredandlost
Click on images to see them larger.

Apparently Ride the Ducks™ is a company still in existence with rides available in Branson, Philadelphia, Stone Mountain Park, Seattle, Newport (KY), and San Francisco. I'm sure it's quite an adventure, especially in Philly where it seems, from their site photo, that Ben Franklin might just be your guide. Sort of taking the Disney jungle ride to the extreme, if that's possible.

The company is actually owned by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation which also is co-owner of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. Another honky tonk place. Sorry, but when I'm driving into town and I see waterslides I run the other way. There are more than enough people who love this sort of entertainment to make up for the dust I've left behind me as I head out of town.

What really gets me about this souvenir photo is how tacky the actual photo is. I'm not complaining about the shot. It's the technology they used to produce it. It's like a cheesy velox made with really old chemicals. I used to run the stat camera at a publisher and one of my duties was to come in each morning and empty the chemicals and put fresh in. Everything had to be shipshape by 8 am. If you didn't clean it you got brown sludge and or the shot would come out okay but within days looked like brown sludge. So I'm asking, what were these people charged for these poorly done shots? I hope it wasn't much. I hope they at least got home before it turned brown. This thing should have lasted longer than 24 years. This sort of stuff irks me because it's corner cutting without being honest to the customer. Either provide a decent product or don't provide anything.

Alas, the one Robert shows, produced in the beginning of the 20th-Century, still looks lovely. The thing from Branson in 1986...not so much.

Beware of quickie tourist shots. A fool and their money...


Storefronts and the BOO HOO BRIDE

Owning a "shop" isn't necessarily bricks and mortar anymore. eBay proved that years ago, as does CafePress. To the left you'll see an example of the latest goofy gift item I've been working on available at my CafePress shop. It's the Boo Hoo Bride. Go take a look at the poor thing. She could use a consoling visitor.

The couple below is a whole different era. You either needed a wagon to haul your goods from place to place or you set up shop in good ol' brick and mortar. What this couple sold? No indication. Then again, maybe this is their home. Could be, I hadn't given that much thought.

Click on image to see it larger.

Whatever the circumstances, they just don't look friendly. They have a look that makes you think you're bothering them. Move on. Nothing to see here. There's also the odd fact that the place looks like it's riddled with bullet holes. It's not, it's ink spattered across the photo, but it does add a sort of shooting gallery feel to the image. "Stand still folks while I take your picture" and then rat-a-tat-tat. No wonder they look unhappy.

storefront couple_tatteredandlost

But what you really have to look at are the details. Specifically the midsection on both of them. He apparently is like most middle-age men, a little loose with the buttons around the middle.
But her? What is that protruding from her skirt? What is that strange shape under her blouse? It's a handle and ummmm...an outline of a sea serpent? I don't know. It's just...odd. I'll leave it at that. There's probably a logical explanation for these shapes and someday someone will find this post and inform me exactly what was going on.

And no, I have no idea where this was taken. No information on the back.



There's a storm coming, actually a series of storms. If they're as bad as they say...and really, I rarely trust weather reports...I will probably lose my internet connection via satellite most of the week. So I'm rushing around trying to get work done, uploads, downloads, whatever load I can bear. And one of my priorities is getting items into my CafePress shop. So that's why I haven't been posting fun new odd items the past few days. I've started speaking like Dick and Jane, "Hurry! Hurry! Fast! Fast!"

I introduce to you the most recent item for sale at Tattered and Lost Ephemera Gift Shop. This is my take on a vintage early 20th-Century mechanical Valentine, originally made in Germany. Those who've been around here before might have seen this same cat posted last year as an animated file. The little cat rolls its eyes and sticks out its tongue. This year I've put it on a piece of lace that belonged to my grandmother.

The next items for sale will be a lot less romantic and a lot more snarky. Stay tuned.


VALENTINES with Eddie Elephant!

I know, we just got past Christmas, but I'm trying to keep on my toes and off the streets. I've designed a Valentine utilizing an image from Eddie Elephant by Johnny Gruelle.

Eddie's such a sweet happy little fellow that he lends himself quiet easily to Valentine's Day.

So take a look at my CafePress shop for all sorts of Eddie Elephant Valentine gift items.

Choose Eddie with hearts and candy or choose the design that includes "Be My Valentine!"



The other day I came across a vernacular photography site I'd somehow missed, Lost Gallery. I've put a link to it in my list on the left "Other sites, Other Worlds". There's so much to see there that I personally haven't even made a small dent. You're going to enjoy yourself browsing through all the categories.


HOPPY, Gene, and Roy

Hoppy, Gene, and Roy were the one name heros for many of us. I don't think the boys cared about Dale and Annie, but the girls did. I had an official Dale Evans cowgirl outfit. And I had an Annie Oakley outfit given to me by the neighbors when their daughter, Cecila, outgrew it. For years it was too big for me so my mother always had to pin it. It was black with white plastic fringe. Dale's was a series of rust colors and yellow. I loved both of those outfits and would run all over my neighborhood in Maryland. I imagine I even wore them when I went up and down the sidewalk wearing my skates. A tiny blond cowgirl on skates, must have been a site to behold.

I give you one little boys portrait in his Hop-a-long Cassidy outfit. He was surely proud to be Hoppy for a day. Now it's just an old faded yellowed photograph. The glory days of Hoppy are gone.

Hop-a-long Cassidy_tatteredandlost



I've had this photograph for over 30 years. I don't remember where I bought it. I used to have it stuck up on my wall with that blue clay like stuff because there's still blue clay like stuff on the back in the four corners. What a mess.

This is the last in my horse/pony series for now. Wish I knew the story behind this one. Little rich girl with horse and servant? Who knows.

girl on horse_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.


For all the DALE EVANS and ANNIE OAKLEY's out there

I'm not forgetting the girls. Oh no I'm not!

This little lady had the nickname Lolly and she married a man in a uniform.

Lolly on a pony_tatteredandlost
Real Photo Postcard


...and we have the first vernacular photograph in the NEW CATEGORY!

I don't know, maybe it's because I was nice to the arthritic old man at Costco the other day who was having trouble getting his cart with groceries to his car. I walked with him then put all of his purchases in his back seat. Okay, I actually put the Vodka on the floor between a bag of frozen chicken and paper towels, but I did a nice thing and now it's returned in kind.

Robert, from the always amazing Live from the Surface of the Moon, has gifted me with the little bronco buster below. Yee haw! Ride 'em little dude as long as your nickel lasts! I now officially have a new category. Little dudes and dudettes on dime store horses. Oh, I must have done something good in a pervious life.

Boy on Royal Mustang_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

Thank you Robert.

THIS is what made Seinfeld angry

I think maybe it's kids like this that annoyed Seinfeld. The ones whose doting parents bought them the whole get-up. They had the perfect hat and chaps and pony to sit on. Yeah, I can remember being jealous of kids who supposedly had ponies. I was also jealous of kids who had ponies show up just for their birthday party. I never went to one of those parties. I only heard about them through the 6 year old tin can grapevine. I can't imagine what kids feel these days with some parents doing all but renting Cirque de Soleil for their oh so special little ones. It's really gotten out of hand.

little cowpoke_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

Do you think when this little buckaroo was off the horse he would take a half step forward and then BAM! right down on his face? I mean, the chaps are too long little dude? They have to be a good 6 inches too long. Not a dignified way for a cowboy to walk. Perhaps he had to hold them up like the hem of a dress. Of course his folks said "He'll grow into them", but by then was he out of the whole cowboy infatuation? Did he sell them to get parts for a 56 Chevy?

For those interested in collecting vernacular photography I'm tellin' ya this is a category. Kids on horses. Kids on live horses. Or maybe kids on dime store stationary horses. That might be interesting to collect. Don't think I've ever come across a snapshot of a kid on a dime store horse. NOTE TO SELF...new category.

And to end today's buckaroo post I give you Ragtime Cowboy Joe done as only Lucy could do it. Here's to the 1950s kids who loved cowboys and cowgirls!



Resigned to his fate, the Little Snowman went to sleep for a long winter's nap.