Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 9, 2020

ADVENTURES OF THE BIG BOY #126 (1967 promotional giveaway comic)

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big boy 1

ADVENTURES OF THE BIG BOY #126 (1967 promotional giveaway comic)

I’ve never lived in an area with Big Boy restaurants, so I can’t tell you much about the persona of their corporate mascot. The first drawing of the Big Boy character came in the late 1930’s, a few years after the burger chain’s founding, although the character as we know it today (and at the time of this comic) dates from the 1950’s. Evidently, the Big Boy burger concept was operated under different names in different parts of the country (and one of these eventually was spun off to become Shoney’s!), and there was even an East Coast Big Boy mascot and a different West Coast one. According to Wikipedia, in 1979 there were 1000 (!!!!) Big Boy restaurants in the US and Canada. You may have seen one of the massive Big Boy statues in front of one of them in your travels, as I have. The California-based Bob’s Big Boy is perhaps the best-known franchise using the Big Boy moniker (Johnny Carson used to joke about it on the Tonight Show, as I remember), but there were dozens of other regional variations, including the Pittsburgh-based EAT’N’PARK which was Big Boy-related from 1949-1974.

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This particular comic (regular in size but only 14 pages) belongs to that taken-for-granted part of the comics industry, the giveaway (and one would also assume throwaway) comic given to children or with a kid’s meal. These are still given out today at various restaurants, though often they include a coloring book section and some crayons. I’d guess 95% of them are thrown out within a few days of acquisition….or get food stains on them during the meal and are discarded with the burger wrappings and paper soda cups before the family leaves the restaurant.

big boy logo

This particular issue, dating from 1967 (and one of 466 issues published over decades), hails from the Knoxville, Tennessee area, where I’m guessing Fritch’s was the operator of the Big Boy restaurants, though that’s not stated anywhere on the comic. The only regional identifier on this is a big ad for Channel 10 in Knoxville, which proudly lists its Saturday children’s programming, including Tom and Jerry, the Road Runner, the Lone Ranger, Space Ghost, Underdog, Superman, Mighty Mouse, and Leave it to Beaver! Boy, if that is not a KSE-approved TV lineup, I don’t know what is (all that’s missing is a Bowery Boys film).

big boy short

Besides the comic stories, there are of course word games, puzzles, and the like, as well as letters from juvenile fans of previous issues (or, more likely, their parents).

I think you can imagine what the Big Boy character is like. He’s a grinning, amiable guy, a kind of man-child with an “aw shucks” manner, and I can almost imagine him saying “gee whiz!” and calling to some adult, “hey, mister!”

There are only two multi-page stories in this–one before the word games and puzzles in the middle section, one after. The first one, “Facing The Deadly Monster,” has Big Boy heading to Florida to find his older cousin who has sent a cryptic letter. Turns out Big Boy mis-interpreted the letter, and the cousin is doing just fine, a scientist investigating mosquitoes (I’m not worrying about spoilers here as I doubt any of you will ever read this). In the second one, “The Miraculous Cape,” Big Boy sees someone with a Bat cape and buys it from him….only to discover anyone over a few pounds cannot fly in it. Oh, well!

There’s also a “State Of The Union” section, where Big Boy tells us about different states. This issue features Mississippi (and we’re told the next month’s state will be Rhode Island).

The Big Boy crew also includes his female friend Dolly (who in the last month or so here in 2020 has become the temporary mascot of the chain to promote their new chicken sandwich, meaning perhaps that Big Boy himself is associated primarily with beef…) and the dog Nugget.

I often find giveaway children’s comics from previous decades mixed in with old Archie comics and unwanted yellowed magazines in junk stores and flea markets. This one was slipped in free with some Abbott and Costello comic books I purchased–I’m glad it made it through all these years. One wonders if there were also Big Boy comic paper placemats put under the kid’s meal back in 1967 Tennessee. Now THAT would be a collectible….though for whom, I don’t know.

The most interesting thing about this giveaway comic is that except for some minor aspects of the artwork and some of the wording of the dialogue and the letters section, this could be given out today.

Frankly, when I take my grandsons out somewhere for a kid’s meal, I’m often more interested in the giveaway booklet or comic than they are!

big boy sauce

Silent film fans (which I hope means pretty much everyone reading this) also know that there was a juvenile comedy actor named Malcolm “Big Boy” Sebastian, who made a number of shorts at Educational Pictures. He was a child who wore over-sized adult clothing (see pic). Grapevine Video issued a collection of these shorts, and one of them also appears on Volume 2 of Ben Model’s excellent ACCIDENTALLY PRESERVED series. Other than the name, however, the restaurant character doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the silent film comedian (or for that matter, with western star and character actor and great Texan, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams).

big boy poster

There are still a number of Big Boy outlets, and on their website, you can even buy items such as their special sauce (pictured above). Next time I’m in an area with Big Boys, I’ll order a kid’s meal and let you know what if any comic booklet I get with it.

big boy phantom

March 15, 2020

John Gilbert’s recipe for Clam Chowder (1927)

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john gilbert 2

Taking a break from work, I was catching up on a silent film discussion list where someone posted John Gilbert’s recipe for clam chowder from the 1927 PHOTOPLAY COOK BOOK, which featured recipes of the stars (there is also a 1929 volume, which I’ve seen). I did a little online sleuthing and found a scan of the entire book from a Canadian library.

John Gilbert is my favorite silent-film leading man, and he went on to do fine work in the early sound era too, up through his final film, the bizarre but totally entertaining 1934 ensemble cast feature THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA.

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I love clam chowder and can attest that this is a good solid recipe. You could always add a small amount of something of your own, but Gilbert has got the basic recipe down with the small touches like bacon and pepper and parsley and real butter. You can easily buy canned chopped clams (instead of the two dozen clams he mentions), which would make the job a lot easier and would not really hurt the end result any….and the clam juice (or liquor, as Gilbert calls it) in the can is perfect for chowder. You could also pick up a bottle of clam juice at most supermarkets, to make your recipe even richer and more flavorful, as it is available for mixed drinks. I will often use a bottle when I’m making rice to make a kind of clam rice. Anyway, here is Gilbert’s recipe, copied and pasted from the book….

Clam Chowder 


2 doz. clams 
1 cup water 
3 large potatoes 
2 slices bacon 
1 onion 
1 quart milk 
2 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons flour 
1 teaspoon parsley 
1 teaspoon salt 

Fry diced bacon and chopped onion together. Add clam liquor, 
water and diced potatoes. Cook until tender. Add clams and milk. 
Thicken with butter and flour creamed together. Pour chowder over 
crackers and sprinkle with chopped parsley. 

Sponsored by Mr, Gilbert, clam chowder is due for a big revival 
in popularity. And it's good, too. 

You would certainly want whole milk for this, not 2% or skim, and if you don’t have to worry about calories or cholesterol, you could use half and half instead! Talk about rich!


john gilbert

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert


trailer for Gilbert’s 1933 feature FAST WORKERS, with Robert Armstrong (same year as RA starred in King Kong!)




Many of John Gilbert’s best-known films from the 1920’s, including the ones where he is paired with his friend and companion Greta Garbo, were made for MGM and are not available for free online….however, they ARE available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive. However, here is one in its entirety, Erich Von Stroheim’s THE MERRY WIDOW from 1925, starring Mae Murray and Gilbert, the film Von Stroheim made after GREED. It’s 137 minutes long, so make a cup of coffee and settle back in a comfortable chair….



Kino (before they were merged into Kino-Lorber) did a wonderful release of two Gilbert classics on DVD many years ago, BARDLEYS THE MAGNIFICENT (1926, directed by King Vidor) and MONTE CRISTO (1922), and the set also includes a documentary on Gilbert, featuring a number of comments from his daughter, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. It’s highly recommended!


note: when I was a child, my mother used to make something not unlike Margaret Livingston’s SALMON LOAF, which is on the page after Gilbert’s chowder in the Photoplay cookbook.

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