Can-Do Attitude

October 14, 1989


The older material I’ve been showing you the past few weeks appeared in newspapers long prior to 1993, when digital archives became a reality. It hasn’t been available to the public at large since it was printed on newsprint. However, all or most of it was reprinted in the book collection “Beaucoup Arlo & Janis” or it perhaps appeared here on this Web site. I haven’t had time this week, but next week I’m going to dig into my own analog stash and scan some material that hasn’t been seen in decades by anyone but silverfish—as I said I would do. It should be interesting.


72 thoughts on “Can-Do Attitude”

    • Well, they’ve been at it for 35 years, so it’s difficult to pinpoint, but we’ll give it a go. Let’s say they were in their mid-to-late 20s when the strip began. That would place them today somewhere in their 60s. However, given the strange flexibility of comic-strip time, you could say late 40s. I’d go with 50s, though.

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  1. When I was a kid (along with Betty White) we picked up glass soda bottles out of the ditches and turned them in at the country store for cash.

    Our family farm had two miles of highway passing through it and we worked both sides of the road. A fairly profitable gig and kept our ditches clean

    It just occurred to me no one threw beer bottles away. Surely if soda was in bottles wouldn’t beer have been too?

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      • Not too likely, Texas didn’t outlaw drivers drinking until 1987. At that time (according to the New York Times) there were 26 states that allowed anyone in a vehicle to drink alcoholic beverages. Currently, there are still 10 US states that allow open alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles– seven have no restrictions at all, though all 50 states now outlaw drunk (may be defined differently).

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      • Jackie’s home state would have been the same as Texas during her childhood (Louisianna’s open container law still doesn’t meet federal standards for open-container laws).

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        • A surprising number of states permit drive-through liquor stores. I am sure that not everyone buying that six-pack of Bud at the drive-through is waiting to get home before they partake..

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    • Beer sellers started using cans as early as the 30s, with post WWII seeing a sharp increase in cans and non-reusable bottles. I would suspect that some of the difference depended on the retailer– possibly beer stores preferred non-returnables since they didn’t want to manage refunds. The grocery stores I grew up around didn’t sell beer, so they wouldn’t have paid deposit refunds for beer anyway. Finally, mostly growing up I lived in “dry” counties, so the only beer bottles in the ditch would be from out of town. 🙂

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    • Early 70’s my friends and I tried to redeem brown beer bottles (collected in the El Paso desserts) no one would give us anything for them. We thought we had hit the mother load!

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  2. Memories, the first soda machine that spit out aluminum soda cans instead of glass soda bottles. My friend showing us this radical beast was unhappy, his family bottled soda and much of their income came from bottling patents.

    He correctly anticipated that the cans could make glass bottles obsolete. Sadly the sodas bottled in aluminum cans and plastic bottles taste nothing like the ice cold goodness those glass bottles held.

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    • One of the simple pleasure we had growing up was polishing off a glass bottle of Coca-Cola and then looking at the bottom of the bottle to see where the bottle came from. It was a thrill finding a bottle from such far-off place like Waco, Yuma, and Sacramento!

      Our bottler would also feature bottle caps with pictures of local professional athletes. Quite the thrill peeling off the cork from the cap to see if you had a star player! They even offered cardboard displays to encourage you to collect the whole set.

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      • My seventeenth summer I worked at a small local airport. We routinely got calls asking seemingly weird questions like, “Which is further, Memphis, Tennessee, or Jacksonville, Florida?” These were from workers in the mills, on break. They would sit in the “smokers,” designated break areas, where they’d drink Co’-Colas and bet on whose bottle came from farthest away. This was long, long before Google. At least we had a map.

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    • You’re right there, Jackie! The only container that doesn’t alter the taste is the good old glass bottle. And the closest thing to the the Coke of my childhood is the Mexican kind that has real sugar and comes in a glass bottle. But now that I’m diabetic, that is right out.

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  3. Between my junior and senior years of HS, I took an elective course in summer school. I’m not sure after all these years, but the subject may have been slide rule operation. How’s that for dating oneself?
    And speaking of dating, my current girlfriend (we’ll call her Jane) also enrolled in the class and suggested that we collect soft drink bottles and redeem them to pay our tuition fees. What? Spend my mornings in class with her, then spend the afternoons wandering through the countryside together? Well, awright! (Yes, Jane was a cutie.)
    I think we got 5 cents per bottle, and our fees were like $15 dollars each. So, many bottles were collected, and many pleasant hours were spent collecting them.

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      • I started college at the dawn of the hand-held calculator. I was enrolled as an Engineer and being afraid that we couldn’t use calculators in class, taught myself how to use a slide rule the summer before Freshman year. Never used one in class, but is was still a nice skill set to have.

        I never had to worry about my kids using my slide rule for a sword fight; mine was circular. I don’t think I ever came across another one.

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        • Highly doubtful I could still figure out how to use a slide rule. However, I’m reasonably sure I could still use an E6B Flight Computer. Which is sort of a circular slide rule, I guess.
          My first “electronic calculator” was a small portable Texas Instruments SR-10, which TI described as an “electronic slide rule calculator”. (Thus the “SR” in the model number.) I bought it in 1972 from Monkey Ward’s for $99. (That’s $600+ in today’s dollars, believe it or not.) A TI-30XIIS Scientific Calculator, which does many more calculations, can be had for less than $15 today.

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  4. In my ’50s college days, mom sent me a wonderful wooden Keuffel & Esser (well, “K&E”, anyway) slip stick. It did the job and was nice looking, too. Never used it after soph year, but I still have it. Later, in grad school, I acquired a circular one in/on a plastic card; intriguing, but unused. For any hairy calculations, I used an electric – not electronic – Monroe machine which could handle about 18 digits. It did a lot of my chi-square work over several years. Had I been doing this in the mid-1980s, I could have simply entered the raw data and pressed a button on a hand-held calculator, but, as this was 20+ years earlier, I first had to make columns of data in my notebook and then plug the respective totals into the chi-square formula.

    The reactions being studied were not very rapid, and my “runs” began between 7 and 8 a.m. and lasted until 1 or 2 the next a.m. Thus, the long calculations were done in the wee hours of the morning, and I always slept well if my results were commensurate with earlier results.

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    • Interesting factoids:
      Andrew Jackson “Slipstick” Libby was a character in some of Robert A. Heinlein’s stories.
      The Cracker Barrel in Gulf Shores, AL, has a giant slip stick hanging on the wall of one of their dining rooms. (The ones used by instructors, including in the class I took.)

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  5. I used to know a couple of boys that used to turn in drink bottles for a penny. They happened up on the area where the store had left the gate open in back and there was the return bottles. Seems like the enterprising young boys took 6 bottles each into the store and got a cola each and a penny for candy. Sadly, the next day, the store owner started locking the gate.

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  6. First beer cans had a top shaped similar to a bottle so glass bottle filling machines could be used.
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    Ghost: that $99.00 dollars is closer to $1000 today.
    .
    When we had a debate in the office (40+YA) I called the Reference Desk at the Library.
    My wife was a librarian.(Main Desk) She got a Good Neighbor award from WCCO radio when she retired.

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  7. Who besides me used a giant heavy table top computer/calculator that you entered the data into and pulled a heavy lever on side to enter? Every single time you made an entry! Hundreds of times!!!

    This first working in a bank in posting department reconciling your entries to balance? Next working for State of Louisiana and then for Federal government?

    The other option was a yellow lead pencil to calculate, then verified and reconciled by the one payroll clerk with an electric calculator!!

    Echos of Marley! And Bob Crachett!

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    • Before handheld calculators, my parents had a slim little device that did simple adding and subtracting via a mechanical process similar to an abacus. The thing fascinated me and I would sit and play with it for hours.

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  8. Memories of bottles and cans. Who could remove soda and beer caps without a church key? Remember all the sharp objects you improvised with?

    Who remembers cans before pop tops? Everyone carried openers back then. When did it change?

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    • One could catch a soda cap edge on the edge of a drawer and give the cap a swift downward hit. The jolt removed the cap virtually all the time. Can’t say it did the drawer much good….

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  9. I’m so old I can remember when beer can pop-tops came off the can when popped, rather than (usually) staying attached as they do now. I think I amazed Jackie by explaining those tabs served a useful purpose in beer bars. Open can; drop tab into can; when can was empty, shake it to rattle the tab inside the can, signaling the server that one needed a full can.

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    • We used the beer can tab to slice our “Mexican” limes! Iced, cold, Tecate was cheap and tasty, the small thin skinned lime could be cut with the tab.
      Instructions: First swallow, no lime, then squeeze some lime, gentle swirl and enjoy!

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  10. Ghost Many a foot was cut on a pop top – a bane on the smallish beach I had to clean
    at least once a day because of them.
    .
    I remember those posting machines – the bookkeeper had her own alcove –
    today she would be mandated to wear hearing protection. Remember the incandescent
    numbers on the first electric adding machines?

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  11. So, the “new sofa” is a slightly different color than the “old sofa”, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
    Or is this going to be like Arlo’s corrective lenses? Or is the reason he no longer wears them is that he traded them in for contact lenses?
    Or the missing schooner? Btw, my latest theory is that Arlo named it “The Flying Dutchman”; it slipped its moorings; and it has since drifted all over the Gulf, being seen only occasionally from a distance when hurricanes threaten. Well, that would make it a Ghost” ship, right?

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    • I don’t think it’s drifting around the Gulf, Ghost. Instead it has drifted off into that gray area where cartoonist’s unused gags hang out till they are needed again. It’s the place where Janis’ doppelganger Robin waits patiently for her next appearance, along with Gene and his family and Gus. Gasoline Alley has the Cartoon Retirement Home, but surely there is a giant cartoonist’s Green Room where all the seldom-used but still existing characters and objects wait.

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  12. One of my more bizarre hobbies when younger was collecting and searching for antique bottles and jars. Into my 20s and 30s

    I tried to get my mother to reveal original outhouse location of our plantation. She refused but did reveal where a deep 20 foot wide underground brick cistern was located. A test hole brought up intact bottle from 1800s and the archeologists began digging.

    We reached near bottom where we found an entire automobile before my grandmother declared the house was sliding into our excavation and made us refill it.

    We turned up several intact soda bottles and many liquour bottles. Don’t recall beer bottles? These dated to late 1800s, early 1900s.

    Our soda bottles came from early days bottling when bottles had round bottoms like flask jars and smooth sides. A metal flange arm held another glass top onto the bottle.

    Vicksburg, MS originated the bottling of Coca Cola and other sodas that were sold and delivered into the surrounding Mississippi Delta area.

    Yes, I am older than dirt.

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  13. I have to say, I am so glad to have discovered this community == my age cohort, judging by the memories! I was beginning to think no one else had used a slide rule for years and years (even once calculators came out, at first they were crazy expensive), or that no one else remembered collecting dirt-encrusted bottles to redeem or the pop-tops that came completely off and were tossed down to be stepped on by the poor barefooted soul to come along next. You’ve all made my day. And that’s saying something, as our little town (in a rural area a good bit south of the Black Hills) had a lightning-caused fire yesterday that gave firefighters quite the tussle just 3 miles from town. Town is small enough that’s 3 miles from everyone’s doorstep. I think it’s under control this morning though the air still smells smokey. Point being: for a little while here, just now, I was back on the dirt roads between the cotton fields of childhood, laying against the roots of an old giant cottonwood rattling its leaves in the wind over my head, a paper sack of dirty bottles in my bike basket, thinking about the comic book and cold Coke I’d buy at the soda fountain when I went to the drugstore after cashing in the bottles at the grocery store. Way better than wildfires and a nasty virus and the current state of the world in general. I might just spend the rest of the day lazing under that cottonwood in memory!

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  14. Dawn welcome to the Village, a place of tranquility and harmonius friends. We are glad to have you.

    If you’d like another place where small town life, humor, peace and laughter prevail you can join me in Eufaula Friends-A Good Small Town on Facebook. A lot of the Village belong, you don’t have to actually be from our town.

    Actually people from Eufaula, Alabama often join accidently and end up staying@

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    • Thanks for the welcome, Jackie, and the invite! I have somehow never taken to Facebook, though I tried several times. I guess I’m missing a key genetic trait or something. 🙂 But I think I’ll be stopping in here fairly regularly.

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  15. Hi, Dawn, and welcome to the Village. I don’t do Facebook Facebook either, but I have been known to post here on occasion. 🙂 Stop by (and post) whenever you can.

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  16. A rather shapely and physically fit lady came into the boutique today. She was wearing a pair of shorts with “Paddle Hard” on the seat of them. I started to ask her if she were a canoer or kayaker. Then I wondered about the propriety of starting a conversation with a woman based on something emblazoned on her butt. Then, of course, I wondered if the message might be related to something entirely other than boating, and I decided to let them entire thing drop.

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  17. Continuing the experimental research on cobblers, fresh pineapple with oatmeal crumble crust is at top of list now. There is a package of frozen mango in freezer I can use or fresh frozen black berries which will it be?

    I need some liquor having found cobblers with rum, brandy and bourbon i doubt we have any, we discovered lots of missing and empty bottles. Seems some of our previous “help” drank.

    Made a biscuit topping, ok until cold, then inedible. The blogger did say to eat while warm. They ALWAYS say to add a scoop of homestyle vanilla icecream.

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    • Jackie, I found several sugar free ice creams under the Hiland name. I have some Mint Chocolate Chip that is very good. And I know there is at least one variety of vanilla.

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  18. Welcome Dawn
    .
    A few of us have met face to face – others communicate personally elsewhere.
    And two individuals became a happy pair.
    .
    Bring that Cotton Wood (Mine’s a Maple) and yarn a bit.

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  19. Thanks for the welcoming words! Where’s the maple, Old Bear? The cottonwoods of my childhood, the ones that grew along canals between the cotton fields, were in Arizona. Now they are on the creeks of the northern Nebraska panhandle. So we have almost traded parts of the country, Nancy! You’re in Arizona now and I’m kinda sorta near Kansas.

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  20. Re 8-30-20 real-time cartoon: One of the pluses of retirement was that when I visited my former all-female staff at my former office, hugs could no longer be considered inappropriate. Turns out they were all enthusiastic huggers. (Ha! Take that, HR!)

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  21. Gene is back! I’m taking it as something hopeful. Here is something I posted over on the “dark side” at GoComics:
    .
    Didn’t everyone notice Gene was talking from a picnic table bench? He also clearly specified “indoor” dining… Since we all want something good for Gene and Mary Lou (and the Squirt) you know (hope?) they are having terrific success with socially distanced Outdoor dining. There’s no reason the gardens aren’t growing, local meat and seafood are likely still well available and people REALLY want to get out. After all, comics are for an escape– humor and hope!

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  22. As I mentioned recently, I subscribe to the electronic edition of My Little Town’s 3-days-per-week newspaper. One of the oddities of this is that the electronic version apparently gets posted at the same time the dead-tree version goes to press…for example, the 9-1-20 edition goes on-line on 8-31-20. Which means I am now looking at tomorrow’s A&J cartoon. Which means I know what’s going on with Gene, ML, and The Shrimp, and very few of you do (yet). Neener-neener. 😀

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  23. Dawn,
    Welcome: emb stands for emeritus MN biologist. I’m 90. “curmudgeonly ex-professor” [c x-p] above, is some years younger, also a scientist, both of us from NYC, he from Queens nr it’s border w/ Brooklyn [the most populous borough], I from Manhattan [the most expensive borough]’ from what most New Yorkers mean when they say “The Village,” Greenwich Village, now often called “the West Village,” to differentiate it from the “East Village,” east of Broadway. When my parents moved there from N Manhattan in ’32, they did so because, in the early years of the Great Depression, they could +/- afford the rent. Financially, am now comfortable. Could not afford rent in The Village now, or almost anywhere else in Manhattan.
    As others here can testify, I could go on forever, but won’t. Have a thank-you email to write to my wonderful kids, spice, and 1 granddaughter + hubby for a splendid family reunion. Among other things, they are all good cooks; dare not get on the bathroom scale. Owe some of that to Elaine [d. 2010], who shared lots of skills & recipes, who may know all about the weekend already.
    Peace,

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