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Vol. LXIV, No. 14
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
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Princeton Historical Society Program Offers “Fools and Funnies” Event for Children

Ellen Gilbert

“How has humor changed over the years?” asked the Princeton Historical Society’s (PHS) invitation to its “Fools and Funnies” program last week.

One of several drop-in craft days, this particular program took its cues from both April Fool’s Day and Easter, offering children a chance to color-in or draw their own cartoons or holiday greetings, and talk about what is — and isn’t — funny.

“Why is this funny?” asked Education Curator Jennifer L. Jang pointing to a copy of an old Blondie cartoon in which Dagwood contemplates — and then consumes — a huge sandwich. “The sandwich is a beauty and he’s the beholder,” said nine-year-old Abby Santizo, accurately describing the cartoon’s last frame, in which Dagwood announces that “beauty is now in the stomach of the beholder.”

Her seven-year-old brother, Moses, exuberantly colored in a “Happy Underwear Day” picture and declared that Sponge Bob is his favorite cartoon character.

“Whatever happened to the funnies?” mused Ms. Jang. Both she and Moses and Abby’s mom, Marta Santizo, recalled reaching for the comics section when, as young children, they wanted to emulate the newspaper-reading adults around them. “To be able to draw and visualize your ideas is still a great thing,” Ms. Jang observed.

In addition to golden oldies like Blondie, handouts at last week’s event included copies of jokes about Princeton. In one illustration that takes place within view of the campus, an easy going boy lounges on the ground holding a kite string while a bespectacled young man clutches a clipboard and peers at the sky through binoculars. “I’m flyin’ a kite, but Tom’s investigating the subsonic turbulent boundary layer characteristics of a laminar flow tethered aerodynamic body,” reports the lie-about to a passer-by.

In another image, 1937 alumni greet each other at a reunion with “Good to see you again … written any good books lately?”

Some subjects seem to be timeless, said Ms. Jang, who reported finding old Township-Borough jokes about parking and consolidation, and other university-specific cartoons depicting “publish or perish” anxieties.

Grandma and Grandpa

Six-year old Niklas Austermann was the first to arrive at the event, accompanied by his grandparents, Hans and Riet Schuessler, who were on a holiday visit from their native Germany. “He writes and reads without help,” said Mr. Schuessler, proudly. Niklas is bilingual, although he speaks more English than German, Mr. Schuessler reported with some sadness.

Abby’s smooth execution of a free-hand drawing was a testament, her mother said, to the cartoon illustration class she’d taken at the Princeton Arts Council with instructor Charles David Viera. “She wants to keep going,” said Ms. Santizo.

Abby and her mother helped each other recount a recent get-together, where family members complained that Abby was showing them drawings they had already seen. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Abby quickly produced a new strip illustrating the family complaining about her “old news.”

“When I’m famous they’re going to say ‘we’re related to her,’” reported Abby.

Fathers and children take note: the next drop-in crafts program at the PHS will be for making Mother’s Day gifts on Saturday, May 8. The event will include a food drive to benefit the Crisis Ministry.

For more information on the Princeton Historical Society and its programs visit

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