Press-Republican

April 29, 2012

Hung up on hanger collection

GORDIE LITTLE, Small Talk
Press-Republican

---- — Sid Couchey was a friend and an idol. I still haven't fully processed the fact that he no longer sits at his drawing board, creating some of the most whimsical and wonderful drawings and paintings we've come to cherish and love.

Many years ago, he and his wonderful wife, Ruth, sat with Dr. Nancy Church and me at a table to celebrate the publication of her marketing book with his illustrations and a smidgen of my work on radio commercials. I asked where Sid and Ruth had courted, and they smiled, certain I had never heard of a summer resort known as Requa Lake in Rockland County. Of course I had. It was constructed and owned by my uncle Glode Requa, my mother's brother. My full name is Gordon Requa Little. Small world, isn't it? I really miss Sid, and if you aren't familiar with his huge body of work over many decades, starting with the "Richie Rich" comic books, it would behoove you to check it out.

Sid had a fabulous sense of humor, and it was my pleasure to laugh with him many times. Bud Blake also had a wonderful view of life, and his comic strip "Tiger," still published in this paper long after his death, makes us laugh heartily every day.

Apparently, Blake and I shared at least one hang-up. In the strip published last Monday, Punkinhead tries to be helpful by going to fetch a wire hanger from the closet. He retrieves a tangled mess of hangers, all jumbled together, and his punch line is classic. Check it out.

It was a great way to start my day and engendered a great deal of thought in my old brain, as I conjured up memories of hangers past and present. Those who know me are aware that I have many collections of "stuff." Some collections were completely inadvertent. Hangers, for example. How and why do any of us have so darn many? Never mind that part. Let us just scan the hanger horizon for a moment. Chances are my great-great-grandparents never owned a single hanger. Usable wire hangers weren't even known until the early 20th century. My ancestors and yours probably hung their coats on hooks. In the very early days, they didn't bathe much and wore the same duds until they disintegrated.

I love wooden hangers — especially those with advertising. Kaye was preparing to work at the polls when I started writing this on Tuesday. I asked her if we had any. She looked at me funny and headed to our many closets, returning with an armful. Sometimes I marvel at her tolerance for my off-the-wall requests.

The first one she handed me reads, "Merkel's Store of Cheerful Service MENS RED CARPET SHOP Plattsburgh, NY." Next was "WHITEFACE INN ON LAKE PLACID WHITEFACE, N.Y." A beautiful hinged wooden hanger reads "CLOTHING AND HATS — AUSTIN'S TOGGERY-FURNISHINGS AND LUGGAGE." What the heck is "toggery"? Next was "HOTEL BONAVENTURE MONTREAL, QUE." I hope I didn't steal that one.

In perusing the Little closets in our six bedrooms, I realized there are literally dozens of hanger styles. It's just something I hadn't thought of before. They are made of metal, plastic, wood, cloth, and who knows what else? They are large and small and of myriad designs. I checked patent records, and there are hundreds on file. Kaye has taught me well how to hang my shirts and pants and even how to fold my sweaters. I'm a hard-headed student sometimes.

By the way, how many uses have you found for wire coat hangers? Around here, I have listed at least two dozen — from clearing clogged drains, to reaching under things to retrieve stuff, to holding up our plants in the garden, to unlocking car doors, to using them for welding rods, to making wings for kids' angel costumes and, yes, to scratching our backs when we couldn't reach an itch.

Oh, "toggery"? It just means clothing, as in "togs."

Thanks to Blake and Couchey for their inspiration. I'll wager they're drawing pictures of you and me on a cloud up there.

Have a great day, and please drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the "Our Little Corner" television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at gordandk@aol.com.